Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

October 2, 2006

Case the gun, and get out the fishing pole

I know it’s that time of year when most outdoor enthusiasts are thinking more about decoys, the pheasant hunting opener, and deer camp.

However, for those of us who love to fish and hunt, now, and in the next few weeks, is the time to keep the gun and the bow cased and get out the fishing poles.

The October full moon, or harvest moon, is set for Thursday, the seventh, and without question, it’s one of the best times, if not thee best time of the year to fish.

Walleye and big northern pike are set into their fall feeding patterns, are often in shallow water, and in most cases, bite like crazy, with not much fancy stuff needed.

Last October, on Mille Lacs, anglers said the walleye bite was so crazy the fish were almost jumping right in the boat.

The story isn’t that much different on many of the good walleye lakes that are closer to home.

Some of my fall favorites include:

Big Waverly, wader fish at night with crank baits on the west side of the lake.

Waconia, again – wader fish with crank baits at night under the high clay bank on the east side of the lake.

Belle, another wader fishing hot spot, hit the northwest corner of lake with a slip bobber rig right at dusk.

Collinwood, in the boat or in waders fall fishing on the south end of lake at night has always been good.

Lake Ann, this one takes a boat, but the fishing is easy. Head to the east side and troll the shoreline or what weed line may be left with a colorful jointed Rapala.

Washington, get your boat on the water and jig your way to a limit.

And finally, the North and South Forks of the Crow River. Sometimes, the Crow doesn’t turn on until the full moon cycle in November.

Be it late October or early November, at the right time and in the right spot, the Crow can be a walleye lunker gold mine.

With all that said, don’t put the boat away just yet, put your hunting enthusiasm back on the shelf for a few nights, and get out on the water.
Here’s a final note, last weekend, on the way back from some duck scouting, I made a pit stop at the landing on the west side of Diamond Lake near Atwater.

I fish Diamond quite a bit in the early summer with modest success on walleye, but have yet to ever catch largemouth bass on the lake.

On Saturday, a bass fishing league was on the lake, a total of about 10 boats, and these anglers, all of them, had weighted in limits of monster largemouth with some big walleye mixed in.

A few of the anglers noted you can fish Diamond all summer long and not catch much for largemouth, but when the temps cool down in the fall and the weather pattern changes, the lake really turns on. They had the fish to prove it.

Pheasants Forever’s 2006 pheasant hunting forecast – the glory days are back
From Pheasants Forever

Overview: The 2005 pheasant hunting season was a year to remember across the upper Midwest.

South Dakota maintained its hold as the “Pheasant Capital” with an estimated harvest of over 1.9 million roosters, a 40-year high.
Iowa, North Dakota and Kansas all checked in with big 800,000 bird totals.

Nebraska recorded its best harvest in five years and Minnesota enjoyed its best fall in 40 years.

Unfortunately, a wet and cool spring coupled with a summer drought has prevented another mild winter from translating into the elusive monster pheasant year we’ve all been awaiting.

Nevertheless, much of the range will see similar pheasant totals to the excellent harvests enjoyed in 2005.

The reason for the upswing in pheasant numbers is simple - habitat.
More habitat acres are enabling pheasants to take advantage of favorable weather conditions. However, 2007 is a critical year for pheasants, quail, and all hunters.

The 2007 Federal Farm Bill will be debated over the coming year.
Within the Farm Bill is the 39.2 million-acre Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that is largely responsible for the birds we will enjoy chasing this fall.

So, this November when your mind is on hunting, don’t forget to vote.
And as a voting hunter, learn how your candidates stand on CRP and conservation issues then make an informed choice. It will matter to you and your children’s success during future pheasant hunts.

• Iowa: After South Dakota, Iowa has traditionally harvested the second most roosters in the country. Last year, that harvest totaled 806,601 roosters, which was a 7 percent increase compared to the 2004 harvest estimate of 756,184.

Over the last decade, Iowa pheasant hunters have harvested an average of 970,000 roosters. While that is an impressive total for most states, it does indicate a long-term drop for Iowa.

This past decade (1996-05) is the first time in Iowa’s history that the 10-year pheasant harvest estimate has fallen under one million roosters.

The reason for the steady drop in harvest totals is due to the gradual loss of Iowa’s pheasant habitat. In fact, state biologist Todd Bogenschutz estimates that Iowa has lost 30 percent of the upland habitat that existed just 15 years ago.

The 2006 hunting season likely won’t put Iowa back over the one million mark as the state’s August roadside survey showed a 22 percent decline from 2005’s report.

That survey has led Bogenschutz to predict a 2006 pheasant harvest of 700,000 to 750,000 roosters.

However, there is the possibility bird numbers are better than what the survey indicates.

The state experienced a mild winter and good early production conditions.

Bogenschutz noted there appeared to be an early pheasant hatch in parts of Iowa and the roadside survey likely did a poor job of counting these early birds, which leaves the door open for a better pheasant season than forecasted.

Additionally, PF’s Iowa biologist Dave Van Waus says that landowners are reporting more birds this year than the August roadside survey indicated.

Nevertheless, even a down year in Iowa provides some of the country’s best pheasant hunting opportunities.

Also, Iowa will become the Pheasant Capital of the World on January 19, 20, & 21, 2007 when PF’s National Pheasant Fest comes to Des Moines. Season Opener: October 28.

• Minnesota: Last year, Minnesota pheasant hunters experienced the state’s best pheasant harvest in 40 years with 586,000 roosters bagged.

In fact, Minnesota hunters have reached the half million harvest mark in two of the last three years.

With the state’s 2006 roadside survey up another 12 percent over last year, and 75 percent above the ten-year average, hunters from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” are eager to uncase their shotguns this fall.

The state’s survey showed an above-average number of adults carried over due to a mild winter and a 13 percent increase in broods compared to last year.

Gains in grassland acres are responsible for returning Minnesota’s bird numbers to the “good ol’ days” of the Soil Bank Era. In fact, state biologist Sharon Goetz estimates that within the state’s pheasant range, protected grasslands account for about six percent of the landscape, the highest number since the mid 1990s.

Farm programs make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.

The state’s PF chapters in Pheasants Forever’s 1982 birth state can be proud of their role in the dramatic pheasant turnaround in Minnesota.

Season Opener: October 14.

• Nebraska: Pheasant hunters harvested an estimated 437,000 roosters in the “Cornhusker State” last year, the highest harvest total in five years.

With a mild winter and relatively normal spring production conditions, the stage is set for a similar season this fall.

The state’s July rural mail carrier survey indicated a seven percent drop in pheasants, while the state’s August roadside survey exhibited a six percent increase over last year.

The highest abundance of birds can be found in the state’s southwestern counties, followed by those in the northeast.

Nebraska also offers excellent hunting opportunities on private lands through CRP-MAP (Managed Access Program), which improves habitat and provides public access on nearly 200,000 CRP acres annually.

The state’s CREP, Corners for Wildlife, and Focus on Pheasants programs are also creating wildlife habitat. Season Opener: October 28.

• North Dakota: South Dakota doesn’t have the monopoly on pheasants, just ask their neighbors to the North.

In 2005, the estimated harvest topped 809,000 roosters in NoDak. According to state biologist Stan Kohn, last year was the best pheasant season since the Soil Bank Era over 40 years ago. And, the big news is that this year could be even better.

Along with over 3 million acres of CRP habitat, winter weather plays a key role in North Dakota.

Those ND roosters were blessed with an extremely mild winter. In fact, January 2006 was one of the warmest on record.

A mild winter led to excellent carryover coming into a spring nesting season with good conditions across much of the state.

However, portions of the south-central and southwest were extremely dry this summer and may have affected brood size to a small degree.

Although the August roadside counts are still being tabulated, Kohn estimates that the birds and brood numbers could be up by as much as 30 to 50 percent based on the preliminary data.

The state’s best pheasant range exists south of Interstate 94 with the southeast corner and portions of the southwest providing the state’s highest bird populations. Season Opener: October 14.

• South Dakota: Pheasant hunters everywhere will be excited to hear that “The Pheasant Capital” will again live up to its nickname.

Winter began with an ice storm in late November that had hunters and state biologists concerned.

Fortunately, the cold snap was short-lived, the ice melted, and a mild winter lasted the remainder of the season.

Spring nesting conditions were favorable with ideal dry, warm conditions.

The stage was set for the monster pheasant season of the century when a summer drought hit the central and north-central part of the state.

The near-record precipitation lows impacted brood sizes and chick survival, resulting in the state’s summer brood survey showing a six percent drop in bird numbers from 2005.

In essence, South Dakota has about the same pheasant numbers as last season, which happened to set a 40-year high harvest with more than 1.9 million roosters bagged.

Incidentally, that harvest of nearly two million birds is double the size of any other state’s annual pheasant harvest.

There is no secret behind South Dakota’s bird numbers; 1.4 million Conservation Reserve Program acres.

Reauthorization of CRP in the 2007 Farm Bill is critical for South Dakota’s pheasant population and the tourism industry built around the state’s favorite bird. Season Opener: October 21.

Survey gauges hunters opinions on deer regulation changes
From the DNR

Early antlerless seasons and antler-point restrictions are among hunters’ top choices for regulations that might put more harvest pressure on antlerless deer during Minnesota’s deer season, according to a recent survey from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The survey, conducted by the University of Minnesota, was mailed to a statistically representative sample of 6,000 deer hunters age 18 or over throughout Minnesota’s different deer hunting zones.

The 3,300 hunters who responded provided background information and their opinions about various deer management regulations.

Unlike any survey ever conducted in Minnesota, hunters were also presented several management scenarios and asked to rank different regulation choices for each scenario. The unweighted margin of error for the survey was 1.7 percent.

The survey was designed to determine hunter preferences for hunting regulations designed to manage deer populations within goal levels under various population scenarios.

For example, one scenario asked hunters what regulation options they would prefer to increase antlerless deer harvest if the population was 25 percent above goal.

Other scenarios examined hunter preferences for options under higher or lower population situations.

Overall, of the population regulation alternatives that were presented to hunters, support was as follows:

• early antlerless seasons, which reduce the number of antlerless deer, received 50 percent support

• antler-point restrictions, which restrict the harvest of 1.5-year-old bucks, received support of 47 percent of hunters who responded to the survey

• 46 percent of hunters supported a prohibition on cross-tagging for bucks

• 37 percent of hunters supported earn-a-buck regulations, which require hunters to harvest an antlerless deer before taking a buck

• a buck license lottery and moving the season out of the rut and received 29 and 28 percent support, respectively

• prohibiting cross-tagging for all deer received 27 percent support.

Similar to surveys conducted in 2001 and 2004, a majority of deer hunters (65 percent) wanted to see more mature bucks in the deer population.

The goal of this survey was to examine regulations directed at deer population management, not large buck management.

However, a number of the population management hunting regulations intended to increase antlerless deer harvest would also reduce pressure on bucks and allow more bucks to survive to an older age.

Hunters were also asked about their perceptions of local deer populations and the number of mature bucks in the area they hunt most often. Survey responses included:

• 57 percent had heard about or seen big bucks in the area they hunt

• 43 percent were satisfied with local buck quality and 39 percent were satisfied with the number of mature bucks

• 77 percent were satisfied with the number of antlerless deer in their area

• 67 percent were satisfied with the total number of deer.

“Our intent is to find regulatory alternatives that are acceptable to hunters and will achieve our deer management goals,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. “With this survey, we can see clear patterns in effective regulations that hunters would accept under certain circumstances.”

Currently, DNR is examining different regulatory packages that might increase antlerless deer harvest and also lead to higher survival for antlered bucks.

Overall, Cornicelli said hunters indicated a strong preference for continuing to hunt even though they may not agree with regulation changes.

As evidenced by the low support for a buck license lottery, hunters clearly wanted the opportunity to hunt bucks every year.

“These results suggest that buck license lottery would likely not be a prudent management course in Minnesota,” he said. “Early antlerless seasons, antler point restrictions, eliminating party hunting for bucks, and even earn-a-buck might be accepted by the hunting public.”

In a separate process, the DNR has recently been working with stakeholder groups and individual hunters to update deer population goals throughout the state.

With these new goals, Cornicelli said, it’s probable that alternative deer regulations will eventually be introduced in certain parts of the state so that deer populations can be kept within the goal levels.

“With all the work we’re doing regarding setting deer population goals,” Cornicelli said, “alternative deer management research on state parks, and these hunter preference surveys, I believe that in the not-to-distant future, Minnesota hunters will see some of these regulations applied in deer areas.”

A sampling of other responses to survey questions includes:

• the average age of Minnesota deer hunters is 39 and they have been hunting an average of 25 years

• 54 percent hunted on their own land, 80 percent hunted on land they didn’t own, and 52 percent hunted on public land

• 90 percent hunted the same location every year

• 76 percent were satisfied with the 2004 firearm deer season

• 80 percent indicated they knew a “great deal” or a “moderate amount” about the Minnesota deer program and 83 percent were satisfied with their ability to understand the deer regulations

• 51 percent were satisfied with the amount of public land available to deer hunting and 50 percent were satisfied with the amount of private deer-hunting land

• 95 percent were satisfied with their hunting experience with family and friends

• 71 percent were satisfied with their success regarding killing a deer

• 39 percent were satisfied with the number of mature bucks and 67 percent were satisfied with the total number of deer in local populations

• 51 percent were satisfied with the number of other hunters in their area.

“This survey not only provides the DNR with good baseline information, it gives us some direction on what regulations our hunters can support,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “In order for regulations to achieve the desired result, they must be supported by the hunting public.”

The DNR is currently conducting research at several state parks throughout the state to test the effectiveness of early antlerless seasons, antler point restrictions and earn-a-buck regulations.

DNR cautions hunters not to mistake a swan for a goose
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters not to mistake a swan for a goose during the regular waterfowl hunting season that takes place Sept. 30 through Nov. 28.

According to Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor, “All swans are protected in Minnesota. Penalties for accidentally shooting a swan can be severe.”

People who shoot swans face stiff fines up to $1,000, possible confiscation of the shotguns, and restitution charges of $1,000 for a trumpeter swan.

Henderson said the trumpeter swan disappeared from Minnesota in the l880s.

The restoration efforts of many partners, including the Minnesota Zoo, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program and the Three Rivers Park District have brought Minnesota’s flock back to more than 2,000 adults and at least 500 young of the year.

Because of their increased numbers and expanding range, trumpeter swans may be found in areas where they were never seen before and could show up virtually anywhere in the state.

To avoid accidentally shooting a swan, hunters need to become familiar with the differences in both size and markings between protected swans and legal geese.

Swans are three to four times the size of a Canada goose. The all-white adult swans and the light gray swans (cygnets) are much larger than geese and have necks equal to their body lengths. The much smaller, dark gray Canada goose has a distinctive black head with white cheek patches and its neck is half of its body length.

Snow geese are much smaller than swans; their necks are shorter and they have black wing tips.

Trumpeter swans usually travel in small family groups of two adults and two to six cygnets. In contrast, geese usually travel in large flocks of up to 100 birds.

Henderson urges hunters to be sure of their targets and help ensure the safety of Minnesota swans. To learn more about identifying trumpeter swans and their calls, visit the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program at www.dnr.state.mn.us, or call (651) 296-6157 in the Twin Cities metro area or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Outdoor notes

• Now is a great time of year to get reconnected to the outdoors and your favorite outdoor spot – that place that is special to you.

It could be the corner of a switch grass field on a state Wildlife Management Area, the point on a good local duck hunting lake, or that quiet spot in the woods.

This fall, when you’re at that favorite spot, take a hard look around and then make a commitment for the enhancement, conservation, and preservation of that special place.

• Remember to properly store and lock your firearms and ammunition. Be safe, not sorry.

• Look for a complete report on the first week of duck hunting in next week’s column.

• The Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 14.

• Take the time to get outside and enjoy fall. Fall colors are peaking early this year and before you know it, the trees will be bare.

Look for colors to peak sometime this week.

• Lastly, we are losing daylight in a big hurry. Today, Oct. 2, the sun will rise at 7:12 a.m. and set at 6:52 p.m.

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