Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

October 9, 2006

Pheasant season opens Saturday

The 2006 version of Minnesota pheasant hunting kicks off Saturday, Oct. 14 at 9 a.m.

The season runs through Jan. 1, the daily bag limit is two roosters, and the possession limit is six roosters. Shooting hours throughout the season are 9 a.m. to sunset.

Those are the basics. The real story, and I’m almost scared to even say it, is that this season will probably be the best season of pheasant hunting in Minnesota that many of us, if not most of us, have ever experienced.

If you weren’t old enough to be hunting during the soil bank days of the ‘50s and very early 1960s, in regard to bird numbers, this will be the best season you will have ever experienced.

Locally, with a majority of the crops still in the field, hunting will be OK, and even good, if you can find good habitat to hunt.

The big bird numbers are in the far west, near Montevideo, west to Ortonville or north to Benson and Starbuck; in the southwest – Windom to Jackson and Worthington; and in the south central part of the state – St. James to Fairmont and Blue Earth.

Bird numbers, and for the most part, habitat conditions, in those areas are at 40-year highs and, even with a big chunk of the corn still in the field, two bird limits for opening day hunters will be the norm.

Long-range weather forecasts are calling for cool temps, and maybe even snow flurries, which will help.

In reality, and aside from standing crops, the only thing that could spoil the opening weekend is hunting pressure.

Opening day always brings out a lot of hunters, no matter what the bird numbers are like, however, with 40-year high numbers, and the South Dakota pheasant hunting season not opening until Oct. 21, hunting pressure, especially on public lands in Minnesota, will be intense Saturday and Sunday.

In most years, the South Dakota and Minnesota seasons open on the same weekend.

When they do, many Minnesota hunters opt for the South Dakota prairie, and hunting pressure in Minnesota is significantly lower.

With that said, good luck hunting, and here are a few tips for hunting with a crowd:

• Always be patient and put safety first.

• Don’t be afraid to wait. When the bell rings at 9 a.m. and you’re sandwiched by other hunting parties, let them walk, or more likely run, through the field first.

Pay attention to the birds that flushed wild, look for the ones that sailed in behind them, and expect to flush birds right where the party in front you had already walked.

• Move slow and cover the ground you have to hunt thoroughly.

I’ll promise you the first group to reach the other end of the field isn’t the group that had the best hunt or the most fun.

• Keep your dog under control, but remember when you’re in the field, you’re hunting with the dog, he’s not hunting with you.

That pooch knows where the birds are and all you have to do is follow him.

• Wear as much blaze orange as possible and be cautious and courteous and not competitive while in the field.

Waverly Gun Club events

• Ladies: last chance for this year, as the last Ladies Night of the year will be Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

• The range will be open for sight-in for the hunting season.
The range will be open Oct. 21, 22, 28, and 29 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The public is welcome.

• Plan now for the Youth Firearms Safety class, which will start Feb. 6, 2007. The class will be limited to the first 30 registrants.

For more information, call (763) 658-4644.

Plymouth resident wins 2007 Minnesota Pheasant Stamp contest
From the DNR

A painting of pheasants in snowy scenery by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth was chosen as the winning design from among 20 entries in the 2007 pheasant habitat stamp contest sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Twelve entries advanced to the second stage of judging, from which five finalists were selected Sept. 28 at DNR Headquarters in St. Paul.

Nick Reitzel of Karlstad took second place and Edward Durose took third.

“I’m pretty happy to win,” Hautman said. “I spent a week on the painting - one of the fastest I’ve ever done - and I guess I came up lucky. I wanted to do something that was a little different, something not in the brilliant sunshine. It just seemed right from the beginning.”

The five-member panel of judges this year included John Schroers of Toll Bridge Art Gallery; John Miller, a firearms safety instructor; Dave Nomsen of Pheasants Forever; Pat Collins, DNR Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program manager; and Kevin Lines, Board of Water and Soil Resources.

Hautman, who grew up in Minnesota, won the federal waterfowl stamp contest in 1992 and 2002, the Minnesota Turkey Stamp contest in 2000 and the Minnesota Duck Stamp contest in 2006.

This was his first entry in the Minnesota Pheasant Stamp contest.

Hautman has also won state stamp contests in South Carolina, Texas, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The $7.50 Pheasant Stamp is required of all Minnesota pheasant hunters ages 18 through 64.

Stamp sales generate money for habitat enhancement efforts on both public and private lands in the pheasant range of Minnesota.

The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work, which is usually done as limited edition prints.

The 2007 Pheasant Stamp will be available for sale in March 2007.

DNR produces duck hunting podcast
From the DNR

The DNR has just released the latest in its series of audio programs for outdoor sports enthusiasts titled “Basic Duck Hunting Tips.” While the program is described as a podcast, it can also be downloaded and listened to on nearly any computer connected to the Internet that can play audio files.

The program features expert waterfowl hunter and hunter education teacher John Schroers. His resume includes being president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance, a board member at-large of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, lead instructor for the Minnesota Waterfowl Association’s Woodie Camp for teenagers, and has served as both president and vice president of the Minnesota Duck and Goose Callers Association.

He has also been an Advanced Hunter Education instructor, a seminar speaker at Game Fair, and an instructor for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Young Waterfowlers group.

“We were fortunate to have John on the show,” said Steve Carroll, DNR information officer and host of the show. “Besides being an expert waterfowler and champion duck and goose caller, he has a real gift for teaching people about the sport.”

Schroers discusses basic waterfowling equipment, clothing, camouflage patterns, decoys, guns, ammunition and demonstrates several basic calls.

DNR’s boating safety specialist Tim Smalley is also featured on the show. He has hunted ducks for 50 years, ever since his father first took him out hunting on Minnesota’s Leech Lake when he was six years old.

“Tim passes along a few tips to help waterfowlers stay safe while they are out on the water,” Carroll said. “He covers topics such as special life jackets that allow hunters to shoulder a gun, how to load your boat safely and cold water survival tips.”

The Minnesota DNR’s podcast series recently won a National Award of Special Recognition from the Association for Conservation Information.

The judges were impressed that a state agency was using new technology to reach their constituencies at a very low cost.

The “Basic Duck Hunting Tips” program may be downloaded at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Birds being killed by flying into windows
From the DNR

Every fall, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) receives calls about birds fighting each other at feeders and reports of birds being killed by flying into windows.

“Birds go through a type of restlessness that is brought on by their urge to migrate,” explained Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor. “German history refers to it as “zugunruhe,” a word which comes from “zug,” meaning move or migration, and “unruhe” which means anxiety or restlessness. Endocrine-type hormones control this migratory restlessness. Even migratory birds kept in captivity exhibit this heightened activity.”

Migrating birds often mistake large picture windows or glass doors for open space and attempt to fly through them, Henderson said.

Eliminating all window strikes is not possible, Henderson noted, but a few precautions can help reduce the number of casualties.

Windows that mirror the landscape need to be changed from the outside. A quick fix is to rub soap on the outside of the window to break up the reflection.

After migration, the soap is easy to remove with water and a squeegee.
High concentrations of birds competing at feeders may frighten some birds to fly into a window.

Move feeders and birdbaths at least 20 to 25 feet away from windows, or move them within three feet of the window, so the birds won’t have enough momentum to hurt themselves if they do hit the window.

Stick-on window feeders with suction cups can also be attached to the outside of windows where bird kills are a problem.

The activity of birds feeding at the window will reduce the chance of bird kills.

Other effective methods are to suspend ribbons, colored strings or mobiles hung in front of the window. These objects should be placed about four inches apart. Henderson said, “Anything you do to eliminate the mirror-like quality will help prevent accidents.”

For more information concerning birds, call the DNR in the Twin Cities area at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Now is the time to complete snowmobile safety training
From the DNR

If people wait until cold, snowy weather arrives before taking snowmobile safety training, they may be too late to enjoy the season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Some snowmobilers wait to see how much snow is in the forecast or on the ground before getting around to taking a DNR snowmobile safety training course,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “In some instances, it’s too late because classes have already concluded or are full. No snowmobile safety certificate, no snowmobiling.”

He said plenty of snowmobile safety training classes are available right now.

Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

By taking a snowmobile safety course, snowmobilers learn about all aspects of their sport and their recreational machines.

Students learn about the machine, the laws, safe operation, ethics of the sport, and how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.

Until recently, the only way to get a snowmobile safety certificate was by completing a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor (either an 10-hour youth course or a four-hour adult course for those 16 and older).

But the DNR now has a CD-ROM available for those 16 or older.

“They can review the information at home and fill out the forms/tests and send them in,” Hammer said.

The adult CD-ROM is free. The course fee is paid upon completion and is available from the DNR by calling (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or by e-mail info@dnr.state.mn.us.

More than 1,800 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state.

For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR Web site www.dnr.state.mn.us, or call 800-366-8917.

Outdoor notes

• Dismal ducks: With blue sky weather, and dry pothole conditions, duck hunting in our area, and in many parts of Minnesota, was slow during last weekends opener.

Hunting a small pothole near Clara City I saw a few small flocks of teal, two mallards, and two wood ducks.

I headed home empty handed after two hours of watching the sun reflect off my decoys.

The highlight of my hunt was watching pheasant after pheasant hop and jump around on the dry slough bed.

The area I hunted held about one acre of surface water, last year the same area carried about nine acres of surface water.

Other reports indicated slow hunting in general with the best hunting coming from the bigger shallow bodies of water in our area.

• Moonlight fishing and it was great: Thursday evening I had the chance to do some wader fishing on the Crow River, the conditions, with the full moon were perfect, and in about an hour of fishing I nabbed three decent walleye and one unexpected catfish.

It was the most beautiful evening of fishing I have ever experienced.

The fish hit a white Beetle Spin in one hole along a high bank. The water in that spot was about three feet deep.

• Make sure your hunting dog has up to date vaccinations and the right health certificates if you plan to hunt out of state this season.

• The fall colors and weather have been beautiful of late – take the time to get outside and enjoy it.

Fall colors did peak a bit earlier than normal this year.

• The firearms deer hunting season in Minnesota opens Sat., Nov. 4.

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

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