Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Nov. 8, 2004

Couger print found north of Winsted

Winsted resident Mike Navratil made an interesting discovery while bow hunting about 1.5 miles north of Winsted last week.

Navratil came accross a print of an adult couger, which the plaster cast indicated that the print was five-inches wide.

The DNR noted that cougers are expanding their area, and travel widely in a particular area.

It should be noted that cougers have been sited in areas north of Dassel and Cokato.

In next week’s column look for a full report on the opening weekend of the firearms’ deer season.

Hunt smart, hunt safe

From Whitetails Unlimited

If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of hunters who take to the woods in pursuit of whitetail deer this fall, take a few minutes to review some basic safety information from Whitetails Unlimited that will insure that everyone enjoys the hunt safely.

• Handle all firearms as if they were loaded, at all times.

Every year there are news stories of accidents where someone thought they were handling an unloaded firearm, and it fires and injures or kills someone.

If you always consider a weapon to be loaded, and treat it accordingly, this won’t happen.

• Watch where you point the muzzle of every firearm.

This takes diligence and awareness, but it is a skill that can be quickly developed.

Always be aware of where other people are in relation to your muzzle, and let your hunting partners know if they are not being as careful as you are.

It is easy to loose concentration when everyone is uncasing their guns at the back of the pickup, or when you are tired at the end of the day. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

• Don’t rely on your firearm’s safety.

A safety is a mechanical device, and it could fail at any time.

Use it religiously except when you are ready to fire, but never assume that because the safety is on, you are 100 percent safe.

Unload the firearm when not in use, and leave the action open, if possible.

Also, after you shoot, put the safety on before you take your first step.

• Be sure of your target, and what is in front and behind your target.

It is easy to get excited when you see that big buck, but first make sure that is really a deer, and if it is safe to shoot.

Make sure there are no buildings, people or roads behind the deer that would be in danger if you miss or the bullet passes through the animal.

If you are not 100 percent sure of where your hunting companions are, or if there isn’t enough light or a clear sight line to the target, pass up the shot.

You will get another chance at a deer, but sending a bullet out of your barrel without being sure of your target and background is an invitation to disaster.

• Take care of your firearms and ammunition, and treat them with respect.

Don’t just grab a gun and some ammo that have been stored for months as you leave the house the morning of your hunt.

Spend some time to make sure your equipment is in good shape.

Take it out before the hunt to check the sights or scope. Make sure the barrel is not obstructed and that the action works properly. Make sure the ammunition matches the firearm.

Never horseplay with firearms, and never climb a fence, ladder, tree or tree stand, or cross difficult or slippery terrain with a loaded firearm.

Also remember that you can set the example for everyone in your group, especially for younger hunters.

• Be safe if you are using a tree stand.

Never climb into the stand carrying your weapon. Unload your weapon and use a line to pull your gun or bow up after you have fastened your safety harness (remember to reload after you are settled).

Reverse the process when you leave the tree stand. Always unload the weapon, and always use a safety harness or belt.

• Control your emotions.

After you shoot that 10-pointer, don’t turn with your loaded firearm, with the safety off, toward your friends.

Don’t run to the downed animal, or chase off into someone else’s firing lane.

Rehearse in your mind what safe actions will be, and always be aware of your surroundings. Show some discipline and restraint, and don’t take poor shots that may be unsafe.

• Be aware of any other circumstances that may affect safety.

If the landowner tells you to stay out of an area, respect his directions.

Rain, fog, snow or sleet may reduce visibility or create hazardous conditions. Use common sense, and remember that a tragic accident can be the result of taking chances.

• Never mix alcohol or drugs with firearms.

The first drink of the day is the end of the hunting day, no matter what time it is.

Forget the eye-opener, the flask “to keep you warm,” or the pick-me-up with lunch, and don’t tolerate drinking (or drugs) from anyone you hunt or shoot with.

Alcohol and guns are a deadly combination. Before you have that beer with dinner at night, make sure all firearms are already unloaded, cleaned and cased.

In addition, if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications that may affect your judgment, or make you drowsy, anxious or otherwise impaired, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if there is an alternative.

• Safety does not end when you leave the woods.

Even if you are tired, cold and hungry when you get home, safety is still the first priority.

Before anything else, store your firearms and ammunition in a safe place, separate from each other and out of the reach of children. Then call your friends to come see your deer, take a hot shower and get a decent meal. You’ve earned it.

Remember that hunting is a process, not a destination. No deer is worth risking your or someone else’s life.

There are friends, family and other people in the woods with you, and a successful hunt is not really measured in points and pounds, but in fellowship and appreciation of our natural world.

Hunting opportunities abound in Minnesota

From the DNR

Finding a great place to hunt is often as challenging as the actual hunting itself.

Minnesota hunters are fortunate that the search is not nearly as difficult as it is in many states, where public land is rare.

The most commonly hunted public lands in Minnesota are state wildlife management areas (WMA), state forests, national forests and federal waterfowl production areas (WPAs).

Wildlife management areas (WMAs): Minnesota has more than 1,300 WMAs that are wetlands, uplands, or woods owned and managed for wildlife by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Hunting is open to the public during regular seasons.

State forests: The three million acres encompassed by Minnesota’s 56 state forests hold game such as moose, deer, bear, and ruffed grouse. Except in a few portions, these areas are entirely open to public hunting.

Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs): Most of these federally managed wetlands and surrounding uplands are open to hunting. Exact locations are shown on the Minnesota Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM maps).

National wildlife refuges: Portions of Minnesota’s eight national wildlife refuges are open to hunting. Restrictions are noted in the back section of the DNR Hunting Regulations Handbook. For hunting maps and regulations, write to: Regional Director, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056.

National forests: The Chippewa and Superior national forests in northern Minnesota are open to public hunting. For more information about these areas check the Web sites: Chippewa National Forest (http://www. fs. fed. us/r9/chippewa/) or Superior National Forest (http://www. superiornationalforest. org/.)

County land: Many northern counties manage state tax-forfeited lands. Mainly forested, these lands provide some excellent hunting opportunities. Check with your local county land department to see if it has a map of county lands open to hunting.

Private property: All this public land notwithstanding, most of Minnesota is private property. And most hunters hunt on private land. Minnesota’s trespass laws have been written to protect human life, livestock, and the rights of landowners.

These laws, summarized in the DNR Hunting Regulations Handbook, require hunters to get permission to hunt agricultural land.

Also, hunters can’t hunt any posted private land unless without permission, and they can’t hunt land if they’ve been told by the landowner to leave. To find out if unmarked land is private, inquire at the county auditor’s office.

Maps: The easiest way to find out if land is public or private is to look on a detailed map. As important to hunting as ammunition, maps can tell who owns what parcels, where property lines begin and end, and sometimes the land topography.

Among the most useful:

• DNR Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) show the boundaries of state and national forests, WPAs, and WMAs.

• DNR Recreation Compass - Use the recreation compass to find lakes and rivers, national forests, national wildlife refuges, public water accesses, state canoe routes, state forests, state parks, scientific and natural areas, and wildlife management areas. (

• USGS National Map viewer - They don’t indicate property boundaries, but they do show practically everything else--including hill contours and even tiny streams. Available in atlas form in some bookstores or individually from the Minnesota Geological Survey in St. Paul. Call (612) 627-4782.

• County plat books - These show who owns all parcels of land in each of the state’s 87 counties. Available from county courthouses and some land abstracting firms. The cost varies from county to county.

• Shooting preserves - One type of land all hunters are welcome on is a private shooting preserve, where you pay a fee to hunt game.

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