Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

September 11, 2006

Canoeing the South Fork of the Crow River on Labor Day

On Labor Day four of us, my brother-in-law Marc Sebora, his nine-year old son Caleb, myself, and my eight-year old daughter Abbi, put-in at a new state wildlife management area on Eagle Ave. in eastern McLeod County, then canoed just over a three mile stretch of the South Fork of the Crow River, to the bridge just southwest of Lester Prairie.

We did make a stop along the way for a trade. Caleb traded his spot in the middle of the canoe to his younger sister Callie, and Abbi traded her spot in the canoe to her younger sister Emmi.

With low water levels, a slow current, and no reason to be in a big hurry, the three-mile plus trip took about two hours and 30 minutes.

Personally, I’ve canoed just about the entire stretch of the South Fork, and a big chunk of the North Fork.

But, I hadn’t been on the river in a canoe for quite a few years, so the adventure was just about an entirely new experience for all of us.

It was slow, quiet, peaceful, and even without any big rapids or canoe tipping adventures, exciting.

We saw every thing from slough pumpers and jumping carp, to wood ducks, a bald eagle, turtles, and one beaver.

The most interesting part of the trip, and the reason we chose that stretch, was a huge boulder that sits in the river close to the north bank about two miles west of Lester Prairie.

The boulder, which is huge, has been a part of several research projects conducted by various universities, including the University of Minnesota, has some Chippewa Indian carvings on it and is said to have been an important point of geography to native Chippewa Indians before white settlement occurred.

Although we had a hard time finding or identifying any carvings on the boulder, the kids loved it and, along with the river itself, was a great thing to explore that is close to home.

Most people don’t realize it, but the Crow River, right in our back yards, is a great adventure, canoeing, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, or just exploring – it’s a tremendous resource.

Our next canoe trip will take us farther east on the South Fork, this time from Lester Prairie to New Germany, then on to Watertown.

Next fall I plan heading back up to the North Fork.

If many of you don’t know there is a Middle Fork, I haven’t been on that stretch yet.

Ladies-only night at Waverly gun club

The Waverly Gun Club will conduct another ladies-only night for the shooting range Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.

The gun range is located north on Wright Co. Ro. 9 (after the turn off, drive past the gun club building just north to the shooting range).

Winsted chapter DU banquet Sept. 12

The 23rd annual Winsted Chapter Ducks Unlimited Banquet is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted.

Social hour begins at 6 p.m., with the dinner and program to follow at 7:30 p.m.

The cost of the banquet is $45 and includes a one-year membership to Ducks Unlimited, a one-year subscription to Ducks Unlimited Magazine, a chance at various door prizes, and the banquet dinner.

To be eligible for D.U.’s early bird prize drawing of a Savage .17 cal. rifle, your registration form must be returned by Friday, Aug. 25.

Some of the featured items that will be available for auction include D.U. Sponsor Framed Print of the Year; D.U. Commemorative Shotgun; a variety of framed wildlife prints, carvings, and guns; and many other D.U. products.

To register for the banquet, contact either Dale Gatz at (320) 485-4274 or the Blue Note at (320) 485-9698.

Become a Crow River volunteer

On Sat., Sept. 16, from 8 a.m. to noon, you and your family and friends have the opportunity to help clean up the Crow River and its tributaries.

Over the past two years, this project has been a great success, having removed over 15 tons of garbage from the river.

Stoves, engines, tires, and trash of all kinds has been removed through the help of volunteers like you.

For information about starting up or participating in a clean up in your community, contact Diane Sander at (763) 682-1933, ext. 3.

Deer hunters’ banquet Sept. 16

The Wright County/West Metro Whitetails, a member chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, is hosting its 16th annual banquet Saturday, Sept. 16 at the Buffalo American Legion in Buffalo, with a social hour to begin at 5 p.m., and a dinner at 6 p.m.

The organization is a group of outdoor enthusiasts who are dedicated to allowing the continuation of that age-old tradition of deer hunting in Minnesota.

They emphasize education, legislation concerning all outdoor activities, and providing opportunities to all groups of hunters.

There will be silent and live auctions, raffles, and games. Prizes will include guns, prints, and outdoor gear.

Forkhorns, those 16 and under, will all get a chance into a free raffle in which the top prize is a gun.

For more information, call Jim at (763) 682-2061, or Al at (763) 263-7893.

DNR finds Eurasian watermilfoil in 11 new lakes
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has confirmed the discovery of Eurasian watermilfoil in 11 new lakes, all but one of which are within 50 miles of the Twin Cities.

Eurasian watermilfoil, or simply milfoil, is now in 188 bodies of water in the state since it was discovered in the late 1980s.

The majority of infested water bodies are in central and north-central Minnesota, according to Chip Welling, DNR Eurasian Watermilfoil Program coordinator.

Milfoil also has been discovered in Wisconsin in Superior Bay near the Barkers Island Marina. It is not known whether milfoil is growing near the Park Point public water access or other accesses on the Minnesota shore of Superior Bay or the Saint Louis River.

To prevent further spread of milfoil to inland lakes near Duluth, boaters using these accesses are urged to be extra thorough when looking for and removing aquatic plants from their boats, trailers, nets, anchors and other equipment.

It is unlawful in Minnesota to transport aquatic plants or prohibited invasive species on public roads or to launch watercraft with them attached.

The following lakes have been added to the list of Minnesota waters infested with invasive species: Lake Winona, Winona County; Maria or Little Mary and Emma lakes, Wright County; Fish Lake, Chisago County; Clear, Mud and Bone lakes, Washington County.

In addition, milfoil was discovered in four bodies of water with no public water access. They are Lucy Lake, Carver County; an un-named and unprotected lake in Washington County; Quarry Lake, Dakota County; and Lakewood Cemetery Pond, Hennepin County.

The full list of infested waters is available on the DNR Web site at

Despite finding more evidence of the plant’s spread, DNR officials said milfoil is still known in fewer than 200 lakes across the state, thanks to continued vigilance from boaters.

The DNR urges boaters to continue to take precautions to avoid spreading the plant.

Pheasant count is close to last year’s
From the DNR

Minnesota’s pheasant index remains at its highest level in 20 years, thanks to favorable habitat and nesting conditions in southern and western portions of the state, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today.

The state’s pheasant index (113 birds per 100 miles of survey driven) is 75 percent above the ten-year average, and similar to 2005 when hunters harvested nearly 600,000 roosters, the most since 1964, according to results of the annual August roadside survey of farmland wildlife.

“All the elements are in place for another very good pheasant hunting season,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “A mild winter and good weather during this spring’s nesting season allowed birds to take full advantage of more than 1 million acres of grassland habitat enrolled in farm programs and another 650,000 acres protected in wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas.”

The best opportunities for harvesting pheasants will likely be in the southwest, where observers reported 242 birds per 100 miles of survey driven.

Good harvest opportunities might also be found in the central and west central regions, where observers reported 113 birds per 100 miles driven.

Although winter weather was considered moderate to mild and spring was favorable for nesting, a spate of cold and wet weather from June 9 to 11, the peak of Minnesota’s pheasant hatch, could have hampered brood survival, according to Sharon Goetz, DNR wildlife research biologist.

“The adult pheasant index increased from 2005, which reflects improved winter survival,” Goetz said. “Reproductive success, however, was only average.”

The range wide hen index increased 21 percent from 2005 and varied from 5.2 hens per 100 miles driven in the southeast to 41.2 hens per 100 miles driven in the southwest. The cock index was up 49 percent compared to 2005. The mourning dove index increased 50 percent while indices for gray partridge, cottontail rabbit, white-tailed jackrabbit and deer were similar to 2005.

One key to increased pheasant populations is grassland habitat, Goetz said. Within the state’s pheasant range, protected grasslands account for about 6 percent of the landscape, the highest number since the mid 1990s. Farm programs make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.

Sign up began in June for the Minnesota CREP II, targeting enrollment of up to 120,000 new acres of environmentally sensitive cropland in the Red River, Lower Mississippi, Missouri and Des Moines river watersheds. Although progress continues on CRP and CREP II, the expiration of a large proportion of existing CRP contracts beginning in 2007 is still a major concern for future wildlife populations.

“If Minnesota is to avoid a drastic decline in pheasant and other farmland wildlife populations, hunters, landowners, wildlife watchers and conservationists must make the case for farm programs,” Simon said. “CRP, RIM and CREP have provided great benefits for those who enjoy upland bird hunting in the agricultural regions of the state.”

The DNR is working through the Farm Bill Assistance Program to expand the habitat base through marketing of farm bill conservation programs in partnership with Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Pheasants Forever, and county Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Beginning this year, there will be new emphasis on grassland-wetland complexes through a “Working Lands Initiative” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners.

The annual roadside survey, which began in the late 1940s, was standardized in 1955. DNR conservation officers and wildlife managers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first two weeks in August.

This year’s survey consisted of 170 routes, each 25 miles long, with 151 routes located in the ring necked pheasant range.

Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number and species of wildlife they see.

The data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long term trends in populations of ring necked pheasants, gray partridge, eastern cottontail rabbits, white tailed jackrabbits, and selected other wildlife species.

The 2006 August Roadside Report and pheasant-hunting-prospects map can be viewed and downloaded from

Tree stand safety vital to avoiding injuries
From the DNR

Minnesota’s archery deer hunting season begins Saturday, Sept. 16, followed by the deer firearms and muzzleloader seasons on Nov. 4 and Nov. 25, respectively.

Every year hundreds of hunters are seriously injured and scores killed nationally due to falls from tree stands.

The majority of accidents occur because hunters do not take appropriate safety precautions when ascending or descending from an elevated hunting platform, according to safety experts with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Deer have keen senses that make it very difficult for hunters to get within shooting range, particularly in dense woods.

A deer stand placed in a tree above the ground provides a hunter with a wider view and a less obstructed shot.

Tree stands range from nothing more than a homemade wooden platform fit snugly into the branches of a tree to commercial models featuring all the comforts of a lounge chair. The hunter stands or sits and waits for an animal to come into close range.

In Minnesota, no person may take deer from a constructed platform or other structure that is higher than 16 feet.

This restriction does not apply to a portable stand that is chained, belted, clamped or tied with rope. However, a bad fall resulting in injuries can take place whether the stand is 10 feet up or 20 feet up a tree.

Stand manufacturers and DNR hunter education courses stress the importance of wearing a full body harness.

Most hunters follow that advice. But few hunters take precautions while getting into or out of a stand, when most accidents occur.

Since 2000, at least 129 people have been seriously injured in Minnesota using deer stands and another six died, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Numbers may be higher, because hospital emergency rooms use an international coding system, and there is no code for tree stand injuries.

Common injuries include broken bones, spinal cord injuries and brain damage.

• Safety first

The experience of the DNR’s recreational vehicle coordinator, Lt. Leland Owens, provides a classic example of a tree stand accident. He fell out of an 11-foot deer stand when he was a young hunter.

“I fell asleep with a single shot 20-gauge across my lap and woke up when I hit the ground,” Owens said. “I wasn’t seriously injured, but I’m very thankful I lived to tell about it.”

Owens uses this example when he speaks to firearms safety classes.
Les Frieborg, 60, of Detroit Lakes, is a long-time hunter who became a huge proponent of tree stand safety following an incident in 2002. He was moving a portable stand when the top safety strap tightened against the tree.

“After a lot of effort I was able to finally get the strap to release, but the stand shifted immediately,” Frieborg said. “I fell about 15 feet to the ground crushing both heels and breaking my wrist.”

Frieborg was able to crawl to his truck for assistance, but his injuries required a long recovery period. He no longer treats safety as an afterthought.

“Safety first,” said Frieborg. “After an incident like this you’re just so much more aware that an accident can happen in a second, even to an experienced deer stand hunter.”

• Experts agree

There is no disagreement among hunting safety experts regarding the basic precautions hunters need to take when using a tree stand. First and foremost is the need to always stay connected to the tree.

Experts say that while a safety belt is better than nothing, in the event of a fall a belt can actually exert so much pressure that it suffocates the wearer, causing a loss of consciousness.

A safety harness that distributes the shock of a fall evenly is a much better choice.

Many hunters, even those who wear a harness, are only connected while in their stand.

One method of staying connected while getting into or out of a tree is to borrow a knot used by mountain climbers and tree workers.

The prussic knot slides up a static rope but cinches tight when pressure is applied.

By attaching the end of a harness to a prussic knot a hunter can move up a tree with some degree of safety.

Many hunters use screw-in metal peg steps to climb up to their stands. But the same steps that prove so useful can become dangerous obstacles in the event of a fall, lacerating or puncturing a hunter.

Sectional climbing sticks provide a safer alternative to pegs.
Hunting experts recommend maintaining a minimum of slack in the safety tether.

Too much slack may add hundreds of pounds of force in the event of fall.

• DNR safety experts say

- check tree stand belts and chains at the beginning of each season; stands left up for an extended period of time are subject to damaging wear

- select strong healthy trees to erect stands

- avoid using homemade platform stands

- if using tree pegs, scrape away any thick bark and screw the peg into live wood; never reuse old peg holes

- always use a haul line to pull up equipment

- never rely on branches to climb up a tree

- let family members know where your stand is located and approximately when you will be home

- carry a cell phone for emergencies.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: How will the dry conditions we experienced this summer impact fall colors? What will the colors look like?

A: Fall colors vary from year to year and place to place for several reasons.

Weather is most critical in determining the colors displayed each fall.

Colors are best when high quality foliage – a product of a warm, moist summer – is exposed to sunny, cool fall days.

Light frosts may also help, but hard freezes can ruin the display.
Physiological stresses placed on trees can impact fall colors. Cool, wet summers can cause premature displays of color.

A mild summer drought may actually increase the display, but severe drought usually dulls colors noticeably.

In some cases, foliage may die early and turn straw-colored due to a lack of water.

Because it is too dry to produce the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges, the severe summer drought will create a landscape filled with the subtler colors of tans, bronzes and auburns.

Outdoor notes

• The opening weekend, and first week of Canada goose hunting in our area, seemed to be boom or bust.

Several hunters I spoke with, that were set up in the Howard Lake area, took home limits of geese, while others hunting near Winsted, and an area south of Delano, got blanked.

Abbi and I ended up bagging a total of five geese, but there wasn’t a honker to be seen in the area we were hunting until Sunday afternoon, the second day of hunting.

Two weeks prior to the start of the season there were over 350 geese using the field we were decoying in, then pouf, they were just gone.

That was a common statement from many hunters around the area. In mid-August there were geese everywhere, then a majority of the local flocks left and didn’t come back.

A theory put out by one group of hunters, noted that by late August most of the small grain fields in our area were picked clean of waste grain and have grown up in grass or seeded alfalfa to a point where the geese will no longer use the field.

Also, many of the geese move on to areas where sweet corn is being harvested.

The early September Canada goose hunting season in our area closes Sept. 22.

• The youth waterfowl hunting day in Minnesota is set for Sat., Sept. 16.

• The small game and archery deer hunting seasons in Minnesota also opens Sat., Sept. 16.

• Last week, there was beautiful full moon. In October and November be prepared to hit the water during the full moon period, it’s often the best walleye fishing of the year.

• The days are getting shorter in a big hurry. Today, the sun will rise at 6:48 a.m. and set at 7:31 p.m.

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

Outdoors Columns Menu

Outdoors: Home | Honor Roll | Library | Links

Herald Journal
Stories | Columns | Obituaries | Classifieds
Guides | Sitemap | Search | Home Page