Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Oct. 31, 2005

Same time, same place, same friends

Barring a family, or work, emergency, Friday morning I’ll load up my truck, hop in, and head up north to Cross Lake.

I’ll have the same gun, the same blaze orange jacket, the same knife, I’ll take the same road, and make the same stops, I’ll end up in the same place and I’ll meet up with the same friends and family members.

When Saturday morning arrives I’ll probably be in the same spot in the woods and have fought the same old battle of getting my nephew Aaron, first out of bed, second out the truck, and then finally into the woods.

Except for a few years of deer hunting on the north shore near Tofte, MN, it will be near the same deer hunting experience I’ve had since I was a 13-year old kid some 25 years ago.

We’ve lost a few members of the hunting party in the last few years, added some new ones and, of course, the battle of dragging my nephew out of bed didn’t start until about 10 years ago.

Aside from that, just about everything else is the same and in this case, and when it comes to deer hunting, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s tradition, a part of our heritage, and one of the reasons so many of us hunt deer in Minnesota.

The one and only thing that I hope is different is that I return home with a nice buck.

Regarding that, deer hunting, especially in the forested and transition zones of Minnesota, has never been better. Deer numbers are high, expectations are high, and hunter success should be excellent.

Finally, many hunters are questioning why the DNR has added more managed deer areas. These are areas where a hunter may harvest more than one deer. This year, one of our local permit areas was classified as a managed deer area.

The total number of deer is the biggest reason for managed deer areas. Another reason is hunter access. In areas like our’s and the one I hunt in near Cross Lake, hunters have less and less access to prime or even good hunting areas. At one time, several hunters may have harvested deer out of a quarter section of good habitat.

Today, access, due to many reasons, may be or is limited to just one hunter or one hunting party, and less deer are harvested.

To managed the deer herd the DNR will allow fewer hunters to harvest more deer in that area by turning the area into a managed deer area.

Good luck deer hunting and I hope the same old same old is as good for you as it is for me.

Pheasants galore

Not to get into great detail, and even with acres of standing corn, the pheasant hunting has been great so far this year, probably the best in my lifetime.

Locally, birds are there but not in great numbers or even good numbers. But if you head just a hair west the numbers get better fast. Near Ortonville, on the Minnesota pheasant hunting opener, bird numbers were super, competition was heavy, and hunting was good.

In fact, on opening day I watched 75 or more pheasants pile into cover not more than 50 yards away from our hill-top parking spot. Just after sunrise the birds were moving from their roosting spots to a cornfield on the other side of the road where we were parked.

With shooting hours not starting until 9 a.m., I actually spent about an hour that morning posting or slowly walking along the road near the truck so all those birds wouldn’t sneak across the road and into the corn before we could start hunting.

Needless to say the strategy paid off and we bagged a few birds just after the season opened at 9 a.m.

In 2002, pheasant hunting in Minnesota’s range, especially in the west and southwest, was excellent.

In 2003, it was even better, but in 2004 bird numbers plummeted and now in 2005 it seems the birds are back again.
I

n comparison, 2005 could be the best pheasant hunting season in parts of Minnesota that many Minnesota hunters have ever experienced.
For the best bird numbers, kind of draw a line at Willmar and head northwest, west, and southwest from there.

Moving on, I’ve also had the opportunity to pheasant hunt in parts of North Dakota and South Dakota this year and the hunting has been excellent.

In South Dakota bird numbers are tremendous and the hunting, especially on the state’s vast public hunting lands, will only get better as more crops come off the field.

A week ago in east central South Dakota well more than 50 percent of the corn crop was still in the field.

For more information on pheasant hunting in the Dakota’s head the outdoors page at www.herald-journal.com.

Locally, it seems DNR roadside counts were right. Close to home, bird numbers are down a bit and roosters can be hard to find.

Also, hunters have been out there in droves and don’t expect to be the only hunter in public area. Good luck and watch the corn harvest close.

Steak and shrimp dinner Saturday

Prairie Archers will host a steak and shrimp dinner Saturday, Nov. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie.

Menu choices include: steak and shrimp combo, $10, steak, $8, and six shrimp, $8.

Reserve your meal before 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 by calling (320) 395-2721 or (320) 395-2877.

Check rules before putting up deer stands or clearing shooting lanes

From the DNR

Rules vary on where and what type of deer stands hunters can put up and whether they can clear shooting lanes depending on where a person is hunting.

Rules on state land are different than those on federal land, and some counties have ordinances that regulate the use of deer stands and the clearing of shooting lanes.

On state forest land, the DNR recommends the use of portable stands. Permanent deer stands are allowed, but they cannot have walls and a roof.

An unoccupied permanent deer stand is considered state property, and not the property of the person who erected it. Therefore, any hunter may use an unoccupied permanent stand on state forest land.

The cutting of trees of larger than four inches in diameter at four and one-half feet above the ground for shooting lanes is prohibited on state forest land.

In state parks and state wildlife management areas that allow hunting, permanent stands are not allowed.

Portable stands are allowed but may not be left overnight. No deer stands (permanent or portable) are allowed in Scientific and Natural Areas.

Clearing of shooting lanes is prohibited in state parks, state Wildlife Management Areas, and Scientific and Natural Areas

On national forest lands, only portable tree stands that do not damage trees and that are removed at the end of the hunting season are permitted.

Portable stand anchor devices, screw-in steps, and minimal limbing of lateral branches to aid stand placement are allowed. The clearing of shooting lanes is prohibited on national forest lands.

In federal wildlife refuges, hunters may not use nails, wire, screws, or bolts to attach a deer stand, and portable stands must be removed each day.

In the last several years, some counties have enacted new laws on deer stand construction and the cutting of shooting lanes. Contact the county where you will be hunting before building stands or cutting trees.

For more information, please refer to the 2005 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook or check the web at www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/hunting or contact: Jeff Lightfoot, Regional Wildlife Manager (218) 999-7938

New laws affect off-highway vehicle operators

From the DNR

A number of changes enacted by the 2005 Minnesota Legislature regulating off-highway vehicles (including all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles and 4x4 trucks) will affect those who own or operate them in Minnesota.

It is important that riders take a moment to review these changes before heading out, according to the Department of Natural Resources officials, because many of these new provisions went into effect July 1.

WETLANDS

The 2005 law increases penalties for persons who cause damage in wetlands.

Peace officers may now file criminal charges and issue a civil citation in addition to restitution for damages to public or privately owned wetlands.

Civil penalties are $100, $500 and $1,000 for the first, second and subsequent offenses, respectively.

These penalty amounts can be doubled if the violator’s vehicle is equipped with a snorkel device. Snorkels are now prohibited in Minnesota, except within designated off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation areas.

VEHICLE REGISTRATION AND SAFETY TRAINING

All OHVs must be properly registered in Minnesota in order to operate on public lands or designated trails, including grant-in-aid trails.

Unregistered off-road vehicles (e.g., 4x4 trucks) will, however, be allowed to operate within the Iron Range OHV Recreation Area at Gilbert, the third Saturday of May each year, beginning in 2006.

The new law also creates a voluntary safety education and training program for jeep and truck operators beginning in summer 2006.

Effective Jan. 1, 2006, ATV operators born after July 1, 1987, and who are at least 16 years old, must complete the ATV safety training independent study course before riding on public lands.

Persons convicted of violating any state OHV laws must retake and successfully complete required safety training courses before resuming legal operation of their OHV.

OPERATING RULES

Adult ATV operators may now carry one passenger. Passengers younger than age 18 must wear a helmet.

Youthful ATV operators may not carry passengers and must be able to properly reach the handle bars and foot pegs while sitting upright on the ATV.

They must also wear a helmet when operating on public lands. Children ages 10-11 may operate an ATV with an engine capacity of up to 90cc on public land if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
ATV safety certificates, required for those ages 12-15, are valid only after successful completion of both the ATV independent study course and the rider (hands-on) safety training components.

Off-highway motorcycles (OHMs) must now display a DNR registration decal attached to the side of the bike if operated on public land. OHMs being used for racing events or exclusively on private property need not display their registration sticker.

Effective July 1, 2006, all OHMs must also be equipped with mufflers that produce no more than 96 decibels of sound at the tailpipe. Vehicles manufactured prior to 1998 may emit no more than 99 decibels.

ATV USE EXCEPTIONS

The 2005 bill allows licensed big game hunters and trappers to use ATVs off-trail in limited or managed forests, except in the R. J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest in southeastern Minnesota, during September for retrieving big game, and during October - December for hunting, transporting or constructing big game hunting stands, tending furbearer traps, or when engaged in commercial minnow trapping.

Highway licensed vehicles may use undesignated trails in “managed” or “limited” forests subject to the same seasonal and licensing restrictions.

The DNR commissioner may designate areas within state forests where these hunting and trapping exceptions do not apply, following public notice and a comment period. OHV operation by licensed hunters, their employees and family members, without firearms, is now allowed on private property during the firearms deer season for occupational purposes.

U.S. HIGHWAY 2

The 2005 law retains the ‘managed’ forest classification north of U.S. Highway 2, which allows OHVs to operate on most state forest roads and trails, unless posted “closed”.

In “limited” forests, and south of U.S. Highway 2, OHVs may operate only on signed and designated roads and trails. U.S. Highway 2 runs east-west across the state from Grand Forks, N. D. to Duluth.

For more information on OHV rules and regulations, or to find places to ride, visit www.findthetrails.com.

DNR to increase emphasis on road-side habitat

From the DNR

Minnesota’s roadsides will soon get more attention from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR has hired Tom Keefe to head up the agency’s newly funded Roadsides for Wildlife program.

The program aims to increase habitat, especially in the pheasant range, through partnerships and outreach with public and private landowners.

“The program will focus on two primary objectives,” said Keefe. “The first is to increase the use of native grasses in right-of-ways. The second is to decrease mowing, especially during those times when a delay can be helpful to pheasant and songbird populations.”

The new focus on roadsides is the result of action from the 2004 and 2005 legislative sessions.

In 2004, the Minnesota Legislature directed the DNR, Department of Transportation and others to recommend ways to promote and improve wildlife habitat within the right-of-way of public roads.

In 2005, the Legislature appropriated $200,000 to implement those recommendations, which include an emphasis on highway safety.

“We intend to use a variety of tools to improve habitat,” said Keefe. “They include cost-sharing, integrated training for roadside managers, developing new partnerships, and simply reaching out to those who have an interest in conservation and reducing the costs of annual roadside maintenance.”

Heading up the roadside program represents a new challenge for Keefe, a 26-year DNR employee, who spent the past nine years developing and implementing the DNR’s Electronic Licensing System.

A biologist, he has also served for 17 years in a variety of wildlife field and program coordinator positions.

“I’m looking forward to this job,” said Keefe. “Though the DNR has not focused on roadsides in recent years because of higher priorities, their habitat value is obvious. It is encouraging to see a renewed interest in capturing this potential.”

Outdoor notes

• Will Herald Journal sports editor Aaron Schultz get a deer this year?
Will he get out of bed and out of the truck without a major effort from his outdoor writing uncle this year?

• Make sure you take the time to get familiar with your firearms before the deer hunting season starts.
Clean it, sight it in, practice safe use, and please review the basic rules of firearms safety with all members of your hunting party.

• Always ask, and get permission, before you enter private land.

• Watch for deer on the roadways, especially at dawn and dusk.

• Give your hunting dog a check over, inspect the dogs eyes, ears, pads, and underside for cuts, abrasions, and anything that may require care.

• When you hit the field or the woods in search of deer this season, don’t over do it. Know your physical limitations and don’t put yourself in a position you shouldn’t be in.

• The fish are biting, anglers are landing some nice walleyes and northern pike on several lakes in our area, and on both forks of the Crow River.
Right now is the best time of year to wader fish at night, so strap on your waders, hook on a Rapala, and fish shallow water areas with a gravel or rock bottom.
When it gets good and cold what I usually do is carry two rod and real set ups.
When one begins to ice up from the cold water I stick it back inside my waders to melt the ice and grab the other one. It’s better than continually knocking ice from your rod tip or spool.

• Be cautious, courteous, and not competitive when you’re in the field this fall.

• Take a kid hunting or fishing, he or she will have fun and so will you. My five-year old daughter Emily had her first duck and pheasant hunting experience last week and she loved it.
She carried a toy popgun with her, we had lots of snacks, kept the adventure short, and had a great time in the field.

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