Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

October 16, 2006

Gone hunting in North Dakota

While not in a western Minnesota field pheasant hunting on the state’s opener, Outdoors’ columnist Chris Schultz was still on the hunt for birds.

Chris made the trek north, and spent a cold Saturday morning hunting birds in North Dakota.

Look for a full report of the Minnesota pheasant opener, as well as his trip to North Dakota in next week’s outdoors.

Waverly Gun Club events

• 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.

Moose observation and photography opportunities
From the DNR

Keep an eye out for moose. The best time to see moose is right now.

The moose breeding season kicks into gear the last week of September and first three weeks of October.

“Moose are most visible during this time of year,” said DNR Area Wildlife Manager Tom Rusch of Tower. “The peak breeding time is October 1-15. I would recommend spending time in good moose country at this time.”

The moose range is basically east of a line running from Duluth to International Falls. Ely, Isabella, Crane Lake, Finland, Grand Marais, Hovland, Tofte, Lutsen and Two Harbors are all good moose areas.

Moose watchers may want to check out the Gunflint Trail, Sawbill Trail, Echo Trail, Caribou Trail, Forest Highway 11, Highway 1 and Highway 2 in Cook, Lake and northern St. Louis counties.

“Get a good map of northeastern Minnesota, like the Superior National Forest Map or DNR PRIM maps, and make a moose loop,” Rusch advised.

Maps are available online from the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/wildlife/hunting or the U.S. Forest Service Superior National Forest at www.fed.us/r9/superior.

The moose population estimate for northeastern Minnesota is about 7,000 animals in 2006.

Adult bulls with antlers make up about 25 percent of the population.

Even in good moose habitat, moose numbers are very low in density.

On average, there are three moose per square mile in the best areas and one or less in average areas.

Moose tend to congregate at prime food sources like clearcuts, wild fires, prescribed burns, timber blowdowns and other forest openings that allow sunlight to penetrate to the ground.

Bull moose respond best to calling during the breeding season, Rusch said. The best time to call is the first two weeks of October. Weather affects the intensity of the rut.

“This fall has been unseasonably warm, which greatly diminishes daytime rutting activity,” Rusch said. “Moose have been very active at night for the last week to 10 days.”

“Reports of active bulls are good right now and should continue with the cold weather that has arrived,” Rusch said. “Clear, calm, cool weather is perfect for moose.”

The 2006 Minnesota moose hunting season runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 15.

“Use caution when pursuing moose,” Rusch advised. “Rutting moose can be very aggressive and unpredictable. Use common sense and give them plenty of room.”

For safety, a blaze orange cap or article of clothing is recommended for people who plan to be out tromping around in moose country during the hunting season.

For more information, contact: Tom Rusch, area wildlife manager, Tower, (218) 753 2580, ext. 240.

2006 northeastern Minnesota moose hunt off to a good start
From the DNR

During the first 10 days of the 2006 moose-hunting season in northeastern Minnesota, which opened Sept. 30, hunters registered 129 moose at eight registration stations scattered across Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties.

In the 2006 lottery, 279 once-in-a-lifetime moose tags were issued in 30 zones. Moose hunting is limited to parties of two to four hunters.
Hunters faced fairly normal fall weather conditions during the first week of the season.

Mild days and cool nights with no major storms made for good hunting conditions.

Hunting success was up from 2005, when after the second week, 113 moose had been harvested.

Harvest was heavily biased toward adult bulls, which is typical early in the hunt, according to Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife managers.

Hunters reported good moose rutting activity as the week progressed.

The breeding period normally kicks into gear in late September and continues for three to four weeks.

Minnesota’s peak rutting occurs the first two weeks of October.

Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts reported moose activity was “fair to good” through the opening week of October.

Many successful hunters utilized calling to bring their moose within range.

Moose rutting activity is normally suppressed by above average fall temperatures.

Daily temperatures pushed into the 70s in moose country on more than one day. Moose activity generally tends toward early and late in the day when it gets warm. DNR officials said hunters can look forward to good hunting opportunities with cooler weather moving into northeastern Minnesota later in the season.

The bag limit is one moose of any age or sex per party. Only Minnesota residents, at least 16 years of age, are eligible for the moose hunt. The 2006 season closed Sunday.

In 2006, almost 7,000 applicants applied for the 279 available state permits.

In 2005, state licensed hunters killed 136 bulls and 27 cows, for a total of 163 moose.

Hunting party success was 57 percent, the lowest rate since the modern moose season began in 1971.

Moose viewing is gaining in popularity in northeastern Minnesota.

The DNR warns that non-hunters should exercise caution while pursuing moose photo and viewing opportunities.

A blaze orange outer garment or cap is recommended. Rutting moose can be very aggressive, so observers should use caution and give the moose plenty of room.

2006 Moose Hunt 10-Day Tally:
• Two Harbors: 90
• Tower: 34
• Orr: 5
• 10-Day Total: 129 (thru 10/9/2006)

For more information, contacts: Tom Rusch, Tower Area Wildlife Manager, (218) 753-2580, ext. 240, or Bob Kirsch, Two Harbors Area Wildlife Manger, (218) 834-6619.

Women get hooked on pheasant hunting
From Tom Conroy of the DNR

Watching the pheasant sail off toward a distant stand of cattails, she took a deep breath and explained, “Boy, I was really tense on that one!”

Based on how badly it appeared she had missed that shot, I was not optimistic that she would be bagging a bird on this early fall morning.

Still, as she loaded another shell into her shotgun, I could tell she was determined to try.

A short time later, she would have another chance. The Lab was obviously “birdie” and soon went into its tell-tale posture – tail straight up, front legs extended, head held high, eyes riveted on the ground.

Ready to pounce. As the dog sprung, the rooster burst out of the grass.
As the pheasant gained altitude and distance, she shouldered her shotgun and swung smoothly on the bird. As the blast echoed across the rolling hills, the bird folded and dropped. And the celebration began.

“I got it, I got it,” she hollered. “I can’t believe it. I actually got it!”
It was her first pheasant, and if she wasn’t completely hooked before, she was now. Pheasant hunting is officially in this lady’s blood.

There were 10 women hunting pheasants on a recent overcast morning at a hunting preserve near Le Center during a Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) event sponsored by the DNR. I had agreed to bring my dog and act as a guide for the event. I had no idea what to expect.

The mission of BOW is to provide opportunities for women to learn skills that enhance and encourage participation in hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.

BOW offers weekend workshops designed to teach beginning level outdoor skills to women. Instruction, equipment, meals, lodging, entertainment and fun are all part of the low workshop fee.

Additionally, Beyond BOW programs focus on one subject more in-depth.

Among the classes offered are fly-fishing, archery, ice fishing, shooting sports, snowmobiling, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing, nature hikes, open water fishing and more.

Classes are taught by experienced instructors using a hands-on approach and are specifically geared to women.

Introductions, coffee and an opportunity for the women to try their hand at shooting clay pigeons began the pheasant hunt day.

Now, I’ve shot enough clay pigeons in my life to know that hitting those little orange and black orbs zipping through the air can be a challenge.

At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, I really didn’t expect many clay pigeons would be colliding with pellets during this pre-hunt exercise.

The first lady to shoot strode confidently to the station. She turned the first clay pigeon to dust. Lucky shot, I thought.

Pigeon number two was equally dusted. Really lucky, I figured. When the third pigeon exploded into a black puff of smoke, I crossed my fingers and hoped they didn’t suggest I give it a try.

The next lady up busted two of three clay rockets and suddenly, I realized I was having an epiphany.

When it comes to handling a shotgun, it matters not the gender. These ladies were all capable of becoming good wingshots. They were just lacking in the experience of hunting ringnecks.

Each of the participants had taken firearms safety training and most had at least some experience afield.

On this day, they came to learn the tricks and tactics of pheasant hunting. Several hours later, as they emptied their game pouches, it was apparent that the mission had been accomplished.

Fifteen pheasants were ready to be cleaned.

Following lunch, two of the ladies were chatting as they walked to their vehicles. They had met that day for the first time. And now, they were making plans to get together this fall to hunt pheasants.

For more information about BOW, visit the web site at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/bow.

DNR cracking down on deer baiting
From the DNR

Minnesota deer hunters are reminded to review new baiting regulations before heading to the field this fall.

Changes in the regulations went into effect late last year after deer baiting complaints reached a new high during the 2005 deer hunting season.

“Conservation officer reports were laced with illegal baiting activity last deer season,” said Maj. Al Heidebrink, DNR Enforcement Division operations manager in St. Paul. “The rule changes that took effect late last year will hopefully tighten the loopholes some hunters used to skirt the law.”

Heidebrink said if people are found hunting over bait, the penalty includes a fine between $150 and $200. If a deer is shot over bait, it’s an automatic $500 restitution payment.

It has been illegal to bait deer in Minnesota since 1991, but those who choose to break the law argued that they were simply feeding other wildlife.

Heidebrink said other hunters got fed up with the excuse and asked that changes in the regulation eliminate any loopholes.

“Hunters can make a difference. And they should, because baiting hurts those who follow the rules,” Heidebrink said.

• The basics of the new rules

It is currently illegal to place or use bait for the purpose of taking deer.

The new rule:

- maintains the baiting prohibition and states that a person may not hunt deer with the aid or use of bait

- clarifies that it is unlawful to hunt where the person knows or should have known there is bait

- clarifies that it is unlawful to hunt where the person has placed bait or caused bait to be placed within the previous 10 days

- prohibits the transportation and placement of food items that are capable of attracting or enticing deer (vs. for the purpose of attracting deer).

Bait does not include liquid scents, salt or minerals placed for deer.

Bait also does not include food resulting from normal or accepted farming, forest management, wildlife food plantings, orchard management, or other similar land management activities.

These new provisions are intended to close some of the loopholes associated with baiting. Such issues as “I’m feeding the pheasants not the deer,” or “I didn’t know there was bait here,” or “I didn’t know there was bait placed here last week” will no longer work.

• Questions and answers

- Is corn or grain left in fields or stored in cribs considered bait?

No, as long as it is the result of normal farming, wildlife food plots, or other land management practices. In addition, since food must be transported and placed in order to constitute baiting, standing crops and food plots are not bait sites.

- What is a food plot?

Planted foods that are utilized for wild animals.

- How long must food be removed befor the site can legally be hunted?

Ten days.

- Can wildlife be fed on same property where deer hunting is taking place?

As a general rule, yes. The regulation is not intended to restrict deer feeding. However, the location of the feed site and the timing of the feeding (as discussed above) must be considered. Remember, it is illegal to hunt deer that are being influenced by bait.

- Can I hunt on a trail that leads to a feeding site?

Generally, no. A person may not hunt deer in the vicinity where bait has been transported and placed. The intent of the law is to prohibit the hunting of deer where they are influenced or attracted by bait.

- What about bird feeders that deer are feeding at?

Bird feeders can generally be placed to feed the birds, and this new regulation is not intended to restrict bird feeders. However, the location of the bird feeder and the timing of the placement of the feed must be considered.

It is possible that bird feeders with seed that has been transported and placed by a person may influence or attract deer, and could constitute baiting for deer as well as food for the birds.

A number of factors will need to be investigated and weighed on their own merit.

Remember, baiting deer is a form of poaching and poachers should be reported.

People who have information on illegal baiting can contact a local conservation officer or call the Turn In Poachers Hotline at 800-652-9093, or cell phone users can dial # TIP.

Fort Ridgely State Park hosts photographic journey Oct. 21
From the DNR

A photo program that highlights a unique landscape, which has been described as a “world within a world,” will be offered Saturday, Oct. 21, at Fort Ridgely State Park.

Nature photographer Ron Bolduan will present a program of his photographic journey through the seasons of the Gneiss Outcrop Scientific Natural Area near Granite Falls at 7 p.m., in the Fort Ridgely Museum.

The Gneiss Outcrops are formed from some of the oldest known rocks on the earth’s surface and are home to wide varieties of plants and wildlife.

Bolduan has spent more than a year documenting life in this blend of prairie, hardwood forest, cedar stands and rock outcrops.

In the center of these outcrops, enclosed by stone cliffs rising 50 feet over the Minnesota River Valley, is a small, spring-fed lake that is the centerpiece of the program.

Fort Ridgely State Park Manager Mark Tjosaas said, “All of our facilities are open, including our campground, so folks can enjoy camping, a fall hike or picnic and take advantage of a ‘do not miss’ opportunity to see photos of a fascinating landscape that exists only about an hour from the park.”

Following the program, refreshments will be served by the park’s Friends Group. The state park is located off State Highway 4, six miles south of Fairfax or 12 miles north of Sleepy Eye.

The program is free, but a state park vehicle permit is required to enter the park.

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