Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Nov. 28, 2005

Local deer hunt was excellent around the area

Although the total firearms deer harvest for 2005 in Minnesota won’t meet expectations and many more hunters then expected, especially in the northern-forested regions, went home empty-handed, deer hunting in our neck of the woods was excellent this year.

In our area, there was a story of an 18-point buck, lots of deer in the woods, swamps, and fields and now a new registration record at Joe’s Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake.

At Joe’s, a total of 140 deer were registered during the first weekend or season of hunting in our area.

During the second season, which lasts four days, and ended Tuesday, Nov. 15, a total of 106 deer were registered. That brought the total number of deer registered at Joe’s for the 2005 season to 246 deer.

That’s nine more than the previous record of 237 set in 1992.

In 2003, Minnesota set a new firearms deer harvest record of 290,525 deer. That year, Joe’s registered a total of 209 deer.

There were also several reports of local deer hunting groups filling all their tags, and seeing far more deer than expected.

With the total deer harvest in Minnesota down, and it seems numbers up locally, one factor that may add to the total number of deer harvested in our area is the ability of local hunters to purchase a license option that allows them to hunt both local seasons.

I have a feeling many local hunters did that this year and that simply put more hunters in the field for more hours which, in general, would add up to a greater number of deer harvested in our area.

In northern Minnesota, many deer hunting parties experienced what my hunting party did, fewer deer.

Hunting near Cross Lake, my party of approximately 11 hunters had become accustomed to harvesting several deer during the first two days of the season.

The last four to five years, deer numbers were high and hunting was good. With the DNR talking about record deer numbers in the state and high numbers in the Cross Lake area, we had those same expectations for this year.

Then, after two days of hunting or more for most members of our party, the deer just weren’t there or weren’t moving. An average of seven to eight deer harvested by our party fell to two deer this year.

With the northern Minnesota season past, that seems to be the common story from many northern Minnesota deer hunting parties. Right now, the DNR isn’t quite sure why, and total harvest numbers won’t be available for a few weeks yet.

The archery deer season across most of Minnesota continues through Dec. 31. The muzzleloader deer hunting season opened Saturday and continues through Dec. 11.

Duck hunting seasons ends

The duck hunting season in Minnesota ends Tuesday, Nov. 29.

By most accounts, the early part of the season was better then expected, and the late season hunt for northern migrants was poor again.

It seems the late season migrants, especially the big mallards, ride one big storm front and move through the state so fast we don’t even get a chance to hunt them.

Here’s an example: I spent my last morning of duck hunting in Minnesota Nov. 12, in the Clara City area.

There were no divers in the sky, a few big mallards, and to my surprise, hundreds of teal.

Typically, teal would be long gone from the state by November. The next week, hunting in southeastern North Dakota Nov. 17, there was hardly a duck in the area and most of the water was ice-covered.

Riding a storm front, the area filled up with northern mallards Friday afternoon, Nov. 17, and even with ample food in the area and the ice melting, all of those ducks were gone by Sunday and the area was empty of ducks again.

In Minnesota, most hunters reported never getting a crack at or even seeing flocks of migrating ducks. Good luck next year.

Thin ice and open water on Winsted Lake beginning Dec. 15

An aeration system, creating open water and thin ice, will begin operation on Winsted Lake, McLeod County, Township 117N, Range 27W, Section 2, 11, and 12 beginning Thursday, Dec. 15, under permit DNR F0564071.

Weather conditions may cause the area of thin ice and open water to fluctuate greatly.

Stay clear of the marked area.

Motorized vehicles on aerated lakes are restricted inside the zone marked “thin ice.”

For more information regarding this warning, call Brent Mareck, City of Winsted administrator, at (320) 485-2366.

Crow River DU Banquet

The Crow River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its annual banquet Friday, Dec. 2, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted.

Chicken and prime rib are on the menu. For more information call (320) 543-3372.

DNR issues ice danger warning for parents
From the DNR

Ice is beginning to form over some of the smaller ponds in Minnesota, and it worries state water safety officials.

“With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, parents need to strongly warn their children to stay off any frozen bodies of water, especially when there is no adult present,” said Tim Smalley, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) water safety specialist. “There is a saying among water safety professionals that ‘when your child is near the water, you should be near your child.’ That saying holds just as true for ice.”

The DNR recommends a minimum of four inches of new, clear ice for walking and small group activities on the ice. “There is no way that any ice in Minnesota is near being walkable at this point,” Smalley said. “With the unusual fall weather we have had, it’s hard to predict when folks can go out without taking a risk.”

The DNR recommends people call a local bait shop or resort to check on conditions before heading out on the ice.

Over the last 10 years, 62 people died in Minnesota ice-related accidents; 12 of the victims were children age eight or younger. The highest number of fatal ice accidents on record occurred during the winter of 1982-83, when 22 people died.

The DNR has free ice safety publications including brochures titled “Danger Thin Ice” and “Hypothermia the Cold Facts,’ a wallet-size card listing recommended ice thicknesses, a 12-inch by 18-inch poster that graphically illustrates recommended ice thicknesses, and plans to make a set of ice self-rescue picks.

To get this information, call the DNR at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367). People can also order information from the DNR at info@dnr.state.mn.us by requesting the ice safety information

Snowmobilers need new sticker when riding trails
From the DNR

As people prepare for snow and winter recreation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds snowmobilers of a new sticker requirement.

Anyone planning to ride on a state or Grant-in-Aid snowmobile trail in Minnesota this winter must purchase a Minnesota Snowmobile State Trail sticker for their snowmobile.

Generally, if people ride on groomed trails, they will need the sticker. Those who ride only on private land or on lakes would not need to purchase the sticker.

The trail sticker price is $16 for an annual permit or $31 for a three-year permit. This sticker fee is in addition to the snowmobile vehicle registration fee of $48.50 for three years. The annual trail sticker permit is valid only from Nov. 1 through April 30.

Revenue generated from the sale of the snowmobile state trail stickers will go to the Grant-in-Aid program to fund trail maintenance and trail acquisition. Local snowmobile clubs receive funding through the Grant-in-Aid program.

There are several ways to purchase the Minnesota Snowmobile State Trail stickers.

Annual permits can be purchased from a deputy registrar or any of the 1,800 electronic licensing agents throughout Minnesota, by telephone at 1-888-665-4236, or through the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us

Three-year stickers may only be purchased when registering a snowmobile or renewing a registration. Registration can be made through a deputy registrar’s office, by mail to the DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155, or with an online renewal at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

A $3.50 convenience fee will be added to stickers purchased by telephone or online. Violation of the snowmobile state trail law will require the purchase of an annual permit at the price of the three-year permit, $31.

State legislators passed this sticker law during the 2005 session. The law went into effect Oct. 1.

Snowmobilers need the sticker to ride Minnesota’s 20,385 miles of snowmobile trails. More than 18,000 of those miles are managed and maintained by local snowmobile clubs through the Grant-in-Aid program.

For more information on this and other snowmobile laws, see the 2005/2006 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules and Regulations book or the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Outdoor notes

• The application deadline for the 2006 Minnesota spring turkey hunt is Friday, Dec. 2.

• Pheasant hunting in much of Minnesota’s range and in areas of North and South Dakota continues to be good.

Most hunters are reporting good success and some of the best hunting they have ever experienced.

• Please remember to wear blaze orange when you’re in the outdoors. Blaze orange is required during the muzzleloader deer hunting season which began Saturday and ends Dec. 11.

• Remember that no ice, especially ice at this time of year, is ever completely safe.

• Now is the time to get your ice fishing gear ready.

• As of Nov. 25, the Crow River was not frozen. If you’re up to it and don’t mind the cold weather, give the Crow a shot for great pre-ice walleye fishing.

• Take a kid hunting or fishing, he or she will have fun and so will you.

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