Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Dec. 27, 2004

Two lunkers of a lifetime

Reflecting on a year gone by of hunting, fishing, and other outdoor adventures is something that many of us do.

Questions like: Were there ducks in the air? Were pheasant numbers up or down? Will bother-in-law Jack ever live down that northern Minnesota fishing episode, or will anyone ever forget it? Boy, Grandpa made it through another year of deer hunting, I wonder if he’ll make it next year?

We ask ourselves those questions, and many more at this time every year.

For me, personally, it was a great year in the outdoors. Sure, there were a few things, like horribly low duck numbers, and not getting my six-year-old daughter out hunting with me, that could have been much better.

But, in general, especially in July, the year of 2004 created many memories.

July was the month of months. I landed two big lunkers, one a monster two-pound, four-ounce sunfish on Diamond Lake near Atwater, and the second was the keeper of a life time, a nine pound, six ounce baby boy named Eathan.

Ethan was landed July 21 at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia.

I only netted him; my wife Amy was the one who hooked him, and fought the battle.

I’m getting the sunfish mounted, and put on the wall, and as Ethan grows, I’ll have plenty to help me remember the year of 2004 in the great outdoors.

I hope your past year in the great outdoors was even better.

Six and 1/2 inches and making more

As of Dec. 22, the ice on area lakes was good for foot traffic, and small fish houses.

Chiseling a hole on Howard Lake revealed 6 and 1/2 inches of good solid ice on the west side of the lake near Memorial Park.

The ice thickness could vary easily from location to location. Some areas may have only four inches, other may have eight or more.

Anglers were reporting similar ice thickness on several other lakes in the area.

The big question, at this time, is will the ice be ready to drive on during the holiday week, or next week?

Typically, the last week of December is the busiest week of the ice fishing season, and the ability to get bigger houses out, and driving 1/2-ton trucks on the ice has a lot to do with that.

It takes 12 to 15 inches of good solid ice for a medium-sized pick up.

On Dec. 22, there simply was not enough ice for vehicle travel.

If the weather stays cold like it has been, there may be enough ice for bigger fish houses, and driving sometime next week.

The best bet, and really the only way to find out, is to check the ice yourself before you drive out.

Regarding fish, right now, the average ice anglers’ lips are buttoned tighter then a parka in a 60-below-zero windchill.

Give Howard a shot for crappie and walleye on Judd’s Bar.

Head to Waconia and Henry for sunfish action, drop a sucker minnow in on Dog for northern pike, and hit Winsted for crappie and northern pike.

Then, when you catch a few, button up your lips, or you’ll have all kinds of new fishing buddies.

Snowmobile safety training

Youth or young adult, ages 12 or older, may take part in snowmobile safety training sponsored by the Lester Prairie Sportsmen Club.

Tentative dates have been set, beginning with registration Wednesday, Jan. 5 from 6 to 6:30 p.m.

Classes will be, Wednesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 5, 12, and 19, with testing Saturday, Jan. 22.

Cost of materials and mailings is $6 per person. A parent or guardian’s signature is required.

All residents of Minnesota born after Dec. 31, 1976 must have a snowmobile safety certificate to operate a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota.

For more information, call Sheldon Ehrke at (320) 395-2344.

2004 deer harvest second highest

From the DNR

The deer harvest in northeastern Minnesota in 2004, is the second highest on record.

This year’s harvest was 13 percent lower than last year’s all-time record, but 11 percent above the five-year average.

The large harvest is due to a large deer population. Past mild winters and good habitat conditions allowed the deer populations to increase from low numbers in the mid 1990s.

Hunters in most of northeastern Minnesota had the opportunity to harvest more than one deer. “One reason for the decrease over last year may have been the weather,” said Tom Rusch, Tower area wildlife manager. “Deer movement on the opening weekend was not as good as last year because of the warm weather. Both does and larger bucks were less active, according to many hunters. About 60 percent of the harvest occurs in the first three days of the season, so what happens on opening weekend plays a big part in the final harvest.”

“Despite increased opportunities to take antlerless deer, the percentage of antlerless deer in the harvest in the Grand Rapids area was down from 54 percent in 2003, to 50 percent in 2004,” said Perry Loegering, Grand Rapids area wildlife manager. This was the trend in many areas.

“With virtually every hunter being eligible to take antlerless deer and with all the bonus permits available, it is a bit ironic that the percent of antlerless deer in the harvest the last two years was less than in 1991 and 1992, at least in northeast Minnesota,” said David Dickey, Aitkin area wildlife manager.

“The antlerless harvest was 51 percent in 2003 and 2004, while in 1991 and 1992 it was over 60 percent. In the 1990s, hunters ‘won’ an antlerless permit in the lottery and because of that, they apparently were more willing to take an antlerless deer. Now, with either sex licenses it’s not a big deal,” said Dickey. “It may be, too, that with higher populations, we now have more bucks out there.”

“Another reason may be that hunters felt they had too much venison last year, and were more selective in their harvest this year. When hunters become selective, they tend to choose bucks over antlerless deer,” said Frank Swendsen, International Falls area wildlife manager.

Wildlife managers agreed that 2004 was a successful and safe deer season.

There were excellent hunting opportunities throughout the northeast region. Most hunters were pleased with the season - the weather was nice and they saw lots of deer.

For more information, contact: Jeff Lightfoot, Northeast Region Wildlife Manager, 218-327-4413, or Jean Goad, Northeast Region Public Affairs Officer, 218-327-4262

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