Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

October 23, 2006

Pheasant season opens with success

It was a boom, plenty of space, beautiful weather, good friends, and lots of pheasants.

That was the 2006 opening weekend of the North Dakota pheasant hunting season.

Six of us with four dogs, on a mix of private and federal public land, had no trouble filling our limits of roosters.

However, for me, missing the Minnesota opener left kind of hole in my pheasant-hunting soul.

If you don’t know I’m a die hard Minnesota pheasant hunter, I’m used to battling huge opening day crowds on public land and spending entire days busting through cattails in search of my two-bird bag.

Although I’ve hunted pheasants from southwest Nebraska, all over Iowa and across the Dakotas, Minnesota public land hunting is what I’m used to and it’s what I love.

This year, we opted for the North Dakota choice because we knew people there, had land to hunt on, and because the South Dakota opener was not on the same weekend as Minnesota’s opener.

Meaning Minnesota public lands would even have more opening day hunters on them.

Except for my Minnesota pheasant hunting soul, it was a good choice, because on Monday after two days and a morning of hunting in North Dakota, on the way home I got to bag two Minnesota public land roosters and flushed many more birds.

In Minnesota, reports from across the pheasant range were good. Most hunters bagged some birds even with extremely high hunting pressure and a good chunk of corn still in the fields. For the most part, Minnesota hunting will only get better.

With all of that said and an awful lot of pheasant huntng left to do for the season, take the time to read Tom Conroy’s article on Minnesota public lands and pheasant hunting that I have included in this week’s column.

Grandpa and the kids
From Tom Conroy of the DNR

It was a phone call he obviously did not want to make. And it was a phone call I didn’t want to receive, especially coming when it did.
At 9 p.m. on the night before the Oct. 14, 2006 pheasant season opener, my phone rang. “Tom, I’ve got bad news.”

The caller was a farmer that I had met a few weeks earlier, a congenial, earthy fellow with a keen interest in the outdoors and young people.

On the day we met we talked hunting, fishing, farming and, of course, the weather, for an hour or more.

And then he invited me to go pheasant hunting on the opener. Sure, I could bring a few friends, he said. Young kids were especially welcome.

And then the phone call. Much of the land the farmer had had permission to hunt over the years had been leased to others, he said.

The landowner, apparently, had recently received an offer he couldn’t refuse. As a result, we were out of luck.

Nevertheless, we agreed to meet at the farm the next morning to devise a different strategy. Others were already there when we arrived, including several youngsters.

A decision was made to hunt a nearby Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

Now, on the pheasant opener, the early bird truly gets the worm when it comes to hunting public land. Be there early or get in line. We were late, not early.

The first WMA we visited was saturated with vehicles and hunters. We left for a different public area. It was much the same at the second WMA as the first but the season was already underway and there appeared sufficient space for us to hunt.

Our hunting party was large. My preference is small groups of three or four and sometimes I prefer hunting alone, just the dog and me. And so it was with some trepidation that I fell into line and our small army headed out across a field of native grasses. There were nearly as many dogs as hunters and before long control became an issue.

For safety reasons, a hunter should never move out in front of another hunter. However, it seemed almost impossible to keep a straight line going. We had hunters young, old and in between and not everyone could move at the same pace due to the terrain and physical ability.

Eventually we bumped into another hunting party, a smaller group that contained one unpleasant individual who seemed to think his group had ownership rights to this public land. We decided to leave.

While returning to our vehicles, an older gentleman and two young boys appeared from over the crest of a hill. Several of us waited for them and learned that it was a grandpa and his grandsons. Grandpa carried an old single-shot Springfield shotgun, his grandsons wooden toy guns.

When the old-timer told us that he and the kids had already walked a mile from where they had parked their vehicle, we offered to give them a ride back. “No thanks,” grandpa said. Up until a few weeks ago he was hardly able to walk at all, he explained, but a little doctoring had gotten him back on his feet. He was going to savor every moment he could, on this perfect autumn day, walking outdoors with his grandkids, hoping to stumble upon a rooster along the way.

Like us, the old-timer had yet to flush a rooster within gun range. And although the odds of that happening on this by now heavily hunted WMA seemed slim, he was going to keep trying. As our hunting party split into smaller groups and prepared to go our separate ways for the remainder of the day, grandpa and the kids said good-bye and ambled off in search of a memory.

Later, while our small group wandered across a federal Waterfowl Production Area behind dogs that were increasingly losing interest in the hunt, I kept thinking about grandpa and the kids. Too many kids today, unfortunately, don’t have anyone to take them hunting. But even for those who do, how many of those youngsters will continue to hunt if they don’t have quality hunting opportunities?

The DNR has typically added 3,000 to 5,000 acres of land annually to its WMA system in recent years, making it one of the largest WMA systems in the country. And this fiscal year the DNR will add more than 8,500 acres, courtesy of a $24 million appropriation over two years from the Legislature. When combining both state and federal land, there are some 650,000 acres of public hunting land in the pheasant range of Minnesota. Even at that level, however, public land is not able to satisfy the demand.

On the 131-acre WMA where we encountered grandpa and the kids I counted 23 hunters. With that kind of pressure it is not surprising that more and more private land is being leased or sold for hunting purposes. Of course, not everyone can afford – or is so inclined – to pay big bucks for hunting.

Can’t help but wonder where all those future grandpas and kids will fit in.

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.

Hunters harvest 13 deer during Camp Ripley youth hunt
From the DNR

Warm, clear and very windy weather greeted archery hunters participating in the fifth annual youth deer hunt Oct. 7-8 at the Camp Ripley Military Reservation, according to Beau Liddell, DNR area wildlife manager at Little Falls.

A total of 150 permits were issued with 133 hunters participating.
Youth hunters harvested 13 deer, for a success rate of 10 percent for the two-day hunt (typical success for a two-day archery hunt at Camp Ripley.)

Fourteen-year-old Brian Dvorak of Norwood-Young America, took the first deer, a 105-pound yearling buck. Justin Hartzberg of Coon Rapids, also 14, took the largest deer, a 127-pound eight-point buck.
Many of the 13 animals taken were the first ever for the youth participants.

Youth hunters were paired with non-hunting adult mentors.
The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) and the Minnesota State Archery Association (MSAA) were the primary hunt administrators.

“MDHA and MSAA did a great job planning and conducting this hunt,” Liddell said.

In addition, the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation, provided significant logistical and planning support.

The hunt took place in a 15,000 acre area on the northern third of Camp Ripley.

“While the weather conditions weren’t ideal, there are a lot of deer which helped the hunters achieve an average harvest for this year’s hunt. Many hunters saw numerous deer, learned a lot and enjoyed the experience,” said Liddell. “Many hunters were not selective and took the first good shot they had at a deer, with fawns and does comprising eight of the 13, or slightly more than 60 percent of the deer taken,” Liddell said.

“The hunt sponsors deserve a lot of credit for the high quality experience provided to youth participants,” Liddell said. “Without their involvement and hard work, this event would not have been possible.”
The Camp Ripley youth hunt, the first of its kind in Minnesota, laid the groundwork for similar youth hunts being offered elsewhere in the state.

Deer drive safety must be top priority
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges deer hunters to hunt safely this fall, especially during deer drives.

Last year, a St. Francis man was wounded at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge while retrieving a deer shot by his daughter.

A group of nine hunters was making a drive nearby when a deer stood up and started running toward the man and his daughter. One of the hunters opened fire.

The man told his daughter to get down, but before he could take cover he was hit in the knee. The man drove to a nearby hospital where he was treated and released. The shooter was cited for reckless discharge of a firearm.

In another incident, a Red Wing man was in a hunting party doing a deer drive when a deer ran through and a member of the party shot at the deer.

The 12-gauge slug passed through the deer, struck the ground and ricocheted towards the man, striking him on the forehead.

The man was taken to the emergency room but survived the incident.

“Many times, the victim and offender know one another,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Education Program coordinator, DNR Division of Enforcement. “In fact, they’re hunting together but the excitement of the hunt can quickly cloud a hunter’s judgment and perception, and make him or her momentarily forget about surroundings, even hunting partners.”

To ensure safety, deer hunters should establish hunting plans that define who will shoot and when during drives.

Each hunting party member should have a predetermined zone of fire and always know the whereabouts of each member of their hunting party.

“Every hunter assumes an incredible responsibility when he or she picks up a sporting firearm and heads afield,” Hammer said. “It’s up to the hunter to make sound shooting decisions. If there’s even the slightest hint something isn’t right, the hunter should not shoot. There will be other opportunities. Wait for the next chance and take pride in knowing you made the right choice.”

Hammer reminds hunters to hunt defensively, and to assume every movement or sound they hear is another hunter until they can prove unquestionably that it isn’t.

He said hunters should remember to scan the area behind the target, positively identify the target and be absolutely sure it is a legal deer before taking the safety off and pulling the trigger.

Wearing blaze orange clothing is required in areas open to deer hunting with firearms. He said every accident is preventable and following a few basic rules is all it takes to have a safe and successful hunt.

“Know where your partners and others are, know your zones of fire, make your position known to other hunters, be sure of your target and what’s beyond it and wear blaze orange clothing,” Hammer said. “It’s not only a common sense thing to do, it’s the law.”

Minnesota deer firearms season opens Nov. 4; hunters urged to follow tree stand safety guidlines
From the DNR

As the state’s deer firearms season opens Nov. 4, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters to follow safety guidelines.

One of the most popular pieces of equipment used by deer hunters is a tree stand. Each year, the majority of hunting accidents are the result of incorrect or careless use of tree stands.

“Deer hunting is historically a safe sport, but only if hunters exercise caution and follow tree stand safety guidelines,” said DNR Chief Conservation Officer Col. Mike Hamm.

Nationally, one in three hunting injuries involve a tree stand. Falls from tree stands can be caused by a variety of factors, including a weakness in the stand’s structure and incorrect installation.

“We want everyone this season to have a hunting good experience and to be safe,” said Hamm.

To help prevent tree stand accidents, Hamm advised hunters to follow these precautions:

• climb tree stands carefully; most accidents occur when hunters are climbing up or down

• always use a climbing belt

• use a full body harness when hunting from elevated tree stands

• never carry equipment with you while climbing; use a haul line to raise or lower gear

• make sure firearms are unloaded prior to raising or lowering them with a haul line

• check permanent tree stands every year before hunting; replace worn or weak lumber

• carry a whistle and cell phone to call for help; carry a first aid kit and flashlight

• wear boots with non-skid soles; steps or platforms can be slippery in rain, sleet or snow

• don’t fall asleep (a common cause of accidents); if you get drowsy, move your arms rapidly until you feel alert or get out of the tree stand

• as a precautionary measure, remove all logs, upturned and cutoff saplings, rocks and other obstructions on the ground below the tree stand

• use updated equipment; when used properly, newer tree stand equipment is solid, safe.

For more information about tree stand safety and product recalls, go to the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association Web site at www.tmastands.com/recalls.php and the Consumer Products Safety Commission web site at www.cpsc.gov.

Don’t forget to ask for permission to hunt on private property
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters to always ask landowners for permission to hunt on their property.

It is also important to remember that once hunters have obtained permission, they are an invited guest and should always respect the rights and property of your gracious host.

A little respect and a simple “thank you” will go a long way in obtaining permission to hunt there for years to come.

Any entry onto the private property of another without permission is considered trespass.

Landowners may be able to pursue court action against trespassers whether the property is posted or not.

People who are caught trespassing may be issued a citation and assessed a fine under civil penalties, and repeat violators can lose their license or registration.

If people are convicted of violating trespass laws under criminal procedures, they may lose their hunting privileges for up to two years, lose hunting equipment, and be subject to fines and possibly a jail sentence.

All DNR conservation officers and all other licensed peace offers enforce trespass laws and may issue a citation to a person who trespasses in violation of the law or who removes a sign without authorization.

A brochure about hunting private land is available by contacting the DNR Information Center at info@dnr.state.mn.us, (651) 296-6157, or toll free 888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

A brochure may also be downloaded from the DNR web site www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Outdoor notes

• With the Minnesota pheasant hunting opener past, the trick to the trade and bagging a few birds now is corn.

Watch the corn harvest like a hawk. Note standing corn fields next to good areas of cover and be ready to hunt that spot when the corn is harvested.

• After a few days of hunting it’s a good time to give your dog a good health check.

Take a hard look at the ears, eyes, pads, nails, and under belly, checking for scrapes, abrasions, cuts and burs.

Keeping your dog healthy during the season is a key factor in pheasant hunting success and fun.

• It’s time to get ready for the 2006 Minnesota firearms deer hunting season. The season opens on Sat., Nov. 4.

• Make sure you are properly storing and locking your firearms and ammunition. Always keeping them away from children.

• Fall walleye fishing in our area has been good and will only get better as we move into November.

Plan to fish during the November full moon cycle which I believe will occur in early November.

• The Dakota’s were dry, during our North Dakota pheasant hunting trip I noticed most small pothole and even some larger ones were completely dry.

The same held true has we drove through South Dakota. Water conditions however were much better in Western Minnesota. Western Minnesota potholes also held a fair number of ducks last week.

• Head to the Waverly Sportsmen’s Club to Site in your deer rifle.

• The days are getting shorter in a big hurry and if there’s one bad part of fall, losing daylight is it.

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

• I’m officially starting the – who will get a deer battle. It’s a battle that has waged for quite some time now and has even included a newspaper office pool.

The battle is between myself, and hunting partner, Herald Journal Sports Editor Aaron Schultz. With a hope there’s a lot of football on TV during the opening weekend of the deer season, I’m betting the tide will turn in my favor this year.

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