Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Dec. 13, 2004

Will the ice fishing season ever get here this year?

A year ago Dec. 15, local ice anglers were boasting of good ice fishing, and a solid four to six inches of good ice on our area lakes.

This year, it feels like that solid ice may not come for some time yet.

Rain, warm evening temperatures in the mid 30s, and day time temps in the upper 30s, just haven’t been near the conditions we need for making ice.

In the past week, conditions for making ice have actually gotten worse.

What we really need is an extended period of time, four to five days of calm, cold weather, with day time temps in the low 20s, and evening temps in the low teens. Colder temps than that would even be better.

On Howard Lake, the earliest ice over date recorded at Joe’s Sport Shop and Hardware happened Nov. 7, 1991, the latest ice over date, which we could beat this year, happened Dec. 28, 1998.

With two daughters old enough, as well as ready and willing, to go ice fishing, I’m chomping at the bit for the season to get going.

Sorry to say, all we can do is wait, and spend a little more time getting all of our gear ready to go.

In our area, look for Howard to produce some good crappie action. The lake is due again for a big winter.

Expect Silver Lake and Buffalo to produce some good early ice action on walleye, and look for a good sunfish bite on Waconia.

On a final note, please remember that it takes four to six inches of good, solid ice for fishing, and 12 to 14 inches for vehicle travel.

More on coyotes

Last week’s column on the coyote population expanding in our area led to many phone calls, and e-mails from readers last week.

First of all, in this week’s column, you’ll notice two photos of coyotes harvested locally, one by Gerry Stibal and the other by Bob Mochinski.

Other points of coyote interest coming from readers included the concern of several people that the expanding coyote population maybe affecting the local wild turkey population.

Some readers just simply noted they are seeing more coyotes than they did a few years ago, and fewer turkeys.

Coyotes are probably not affecting the adult turkey population in our area, but in the spring, when young turkeys are vulnerable, and coyotes have pups to feed, coyotes may be preying on the young turkeys.

About 10 years ago, when turkeys were transplanted, and introduced to our area, coyotes were not prevalent, and predation by coyotes was not a concern, and probably had no effect on the local turkey population.

The most interesting story came from an area dairy farmer who also noted a large increase in the number of coyotes on his property.

A few weeks ago the farmer, who didn’t want to be mentioned, saw a coyote carrying a opossum across his cow yard, only a few yards behind his barn door.

Oddly enough, the opossum population seems to also be increasing in our area.

Currently in Minnesota, coyotes are unprotected and are not subject to season length limits or harvest limits.

Hunting continues to get safer in Minnesota

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported a perfect hunter safety record in 2004.

For the second time in six years, there were no fatalities during small game, big game, waterfowl, wild turkey and prairie chicken hunting seasons in the state.

Only a dozen non-fatal hunting-related accidents occurred this year, a 50 percent reduction compared with last year.

A DNR official says safety is very important to Minnesota hunters.

“Hunting is one of the most valued traditions in Minnesota and is safer than ever, thanks in large part to the DNR’s hunter education programs,” said Captain Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement education program coordinator.

Through these programs, 3,500 volunteer instructors have taught nearly one million hunters how to properly handle a firearm, outdoor survival skills and Minnesota’s basic hunting safety laws.

Those safety laws require all hunters born after Dec. 31, 1979 to take a DNR firearm safety training class, emphasize the importance of wearing blaze orange and prohibit hunters from having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle.

As a result of these laws and others, the number of hunting accidents has decreased considerably since firearm safety training was mandated in 1955.

In the 1960s, for example, Minnesota averaged 14 hunting fatalities per year and 110 non-fatal accidents. In the past 10 years, hunting accidents dropped to two fatalities and 35 non-fatal accidents annually.

The DNR sold more than 500,000 hunting licenses in 2004, resulting in millions of hunter recreation days across the state.

Conservation officers said fewer and fewer hunting incidents occur each year, which is a strong indication that the state’s hunter education programs, including youth firearms safety, advanced hunter education, Minnesota bowhunter education, as well as bear, turkey and deer hunting clinics, are working.

“While we hate to see any incidents at all, when you compare the number of hunters and the amount of time they spend in the field with no fatalities and a dozen non-fatal incidents, it tells us that we are getting through to hunters with our safety message,” said DNR Chief Conservation Officer Mike Hamm. “Because of the quality of our programs and commitment of our volunteer instructors, we are confident that the trend of fewer incidents will continue into the future.”

The DNR is always looking for experienced hunters to pass on the tradition of hunting safety and responsibility to the next generation.

If you are interested in joining DNR in this rewarding volunteer activity, call 1-800-366-8917 for information on becoming an instructor, or visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us

“These people dedicate their personal time to teach the skills of safe and responsible hunting to help make the sport safer,” Hamm said.

As a result of hunter education courses, hunting today is safer than many outdoor activities.

Based on the number of people seeking emergency-room treatment for sports injuries,

The National Safety Council reports that hunting has fewer injuries per 100,000 people participating than football, baseball, cycling, volleyball, swimming, golf, tennis, fishing, bowling, badminton, billiards and ping-pong.

Outdoor notes

• Remember that no ice, especially early ice, is ever completely safe.

• The pheasant hunting season in Minnesota continues until Friday, Dec. 31.

• Several readers have reported more sights of opossum in our area. In next week’s column look for information on the opossum.

• The archery deer hunting season in Minnesota ends Friday, Dec. 31.

• Silver Lake was hot this fall. Reports from several readers indicated that Silver Lake didn’t freeze out last winter, and that fishing for small walleyes was pretty good this fall.

• Hunters and anglers like nothing better than a Christmas gift that is associated with their favorite outdoor endeavor.

• Make sure your dog is ready to go for another long winter, and that the dog gets good, fresh water every day. Snow and ice as a source of water don’t cut it.

• Start an outdoor journal, and work hard at keeping your outdoor traditions alive.

• We only have few days left until the nights start getting shorter, and the days start getting longer.

• Winter officially starts Tuesday, Dec. 21.

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