Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

October 30, 2006

Firearms deer hunt opens Saturday in Minnesota

As thousands of Minnesota firearms deer hunters take to the forests, farmlands, sloughs and wood lots Saturday morning for the opening day of the 2006 Minnesota firearms deer hunting season, many of them, more than in the past, including my hunting party, will be in search of that new hunting spot because they have lost access to the hunting ground they had used in previous years.

For my hunting party, except for a few years hunting on the North Shore near Tofte, we have hunted state forest land and for the most part, Potlatch Paper Company land near Cross Lake.

This season, just a few weeks ago, we found out that our old hunting ground had been leased and posted, all 200-plus acres.

A few years ago Potlatch told us they would not be leasing that particular chunk of ground because of its location and heavy amount of recreational use from duck, grouse, and deer hunters to ATV and snowmobile users.

Our hunting party wasn’t worried. After 30-plus years of deer hunting on the land, we felt it would probably be available for another 30.

When we found out, some in our party were devastated. It was a place they were really connected to, and now may never be walking on again.

After reality set in, the questions were where do we go with 10 hunters now, and what is our traditional deer hunting future be?

Luckily, there is enough available state forestland and open Potlatch land in the area that we don’t have to go far.

The biggest problem is we just don’t know how many other Minnesota deer hunters will also be there.

Hopefully, for our party, it will all turn out and our deer hunting tradition will continue.

Aside from habitat, especially regarding our wetlands, the largest issues facing the future of hunting and other outdoor sports in Minnesota is access to land that will provide a quality hunt and the opportunity to see and harvest game in a setting that is not crowded with too many others.

Although Minnesota is adding hundreds to thousands of acres of public hunting land every year, the issue of increased property values, more leased land, and more posted land across the state is limiting the chances of having a quality hunt.

Here is one solid example:

Although Minnesota’s deer herd is in great shape, many of the locations or permit areas, like those just north of Howard Lake that were in Zone 4 but are now in Zone 2, that are offering Intensive Harvest Permits and other Management Permits are doing so not only because of good deer numbers, but because of limited access.

The DNR, to manage the herd properly, needs those hunters that have access to those locations to harvest more deer simply because very few hunters have access to more and more areas that have high deer numbers.

So, is the issue too many deer, or is it really limited access? Both of them together compound the problem. Deer hunting could turn into the old fishing adage, 10 percent of the anglers catch 90 percent of the fish.

Good luck deer hunting, savor the location you hunt, and more then ever, especially if it has high deer numbers, be willing to share it.

Waverly Gun Club events

• 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.

Blind hunter gets another shot
From the DNR

Brent Neeser was given another chance to hunt again recently thanks to the love of his father, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Capable Partners, a Minnesota non-profit organization dedicated to creating accessible outdoor opportunities for the physically challenged.

Declared legally blind since his mid-20s, the 37-year-old Andover man participated in the first vision impaired deer hunt, Oct. 14-22, at the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area near Cambridge.

“It was a very emotional experience for me to see Brent, who once had sight, lose his sight, and then gain back some of his independence by doing something he enjoyed so much in the past,” said his father, Dave Neeser of St. Cloud.

State statute allows a hunter with sight to assist a visually impaired hunter with using a firearm to take a deer during a specially permitted hunt.

Using a laser guided scope, the hunter with sight gives the direction of the deer and tells the visually impaired hunter when to pull the trigger.

Brent, who works for the Veterans Administration, regularly hunted with his father from age 12 to his mid-20s when he began to slowly loose his sight from a retina disease.

“The fall became a difficult time of the year for me because I could no longer hunt,” Brent said. “I still went along with dad when he hunted, but it just wasn’t the same.”

Dave sensed his son’s loss and went about finding a way to get him afield again. He contacted the DNR, which directed him to Capable Partners. They went about setting up a special deer hunt for the physically impaired.

Early on Oct.14, the Neeser’s and 19 other physically impaired hunters headed to the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area.

Capable Partners provided a hunter orientation session before the participants made their way to their deer stands. Father and son were hunting together again.

“We sat in the stand with dad behind me to call out the direction of any deer crossing our path,” a still excited Brent recounted. “I joke with dad that I can hear but can’t see, while he can see but can’t hear. He soon pointed out a deer 35-40 yards directly in front of us.”

Dave quickly scooted behind his son calling out the direction of the deer. Brent trained the laser bead from the gun’s scope and pulled the trigger hitting the deer in the shoulder.

The 6-point buck ran for a short distance. Brent was disappointed after an initial search in the area found nothing.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster, a real downer when we couldn’t find him,” Brent said.

But after another search, Dave found the buck.

“I jumped in the air when he said he found him,” Brent said. “I was on cloud nine, and I’m still on cloud nine thanks to my father, the DNR, Capable Partners and a very generous Pine River gunsmith who provided the 20-gauge shotgun and mounted the laser at cost.”

Neeser’s deer was among the 19 harvested that day.

The Neeser’s hope the special hunt was a success for everyone who participated, whether they took a deer or not.

Their hope is if it was, it would provide an opportunity for physically challenged hunters to participate in future regular firearm deer seasons, and other hunting seasons.

“I lost so much when I lost my sight and could no longer hunt, especially losing that special bond between a father and son or daughter who hunt together,” Brent said. “But being able to hunt again has been tremendous, improving my confidence in everything I do. It’s great to have a second shot at hunting.”

For more information about Capable Partners, call (763) 439-1038.

Spring turkey hunting applications available
From the DNR

Applications for the 2007 spring turkey hunt are now being accepted wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

Spring turkey hunters may apply for one of 33,976 permits to hunt a five or seven-day season in one of 60 permit areas. Last year, spring turkey hunters harvested 8,241 birds.

“Turkey hunters can look forward to more great opportunities this spring,” said Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife program leader. “Turkey numbers remain strong and their range continues to expand into parts of northern Minnesota.”

This spring’s hunt will consist of six five-day and two seven-day seasons.

All Minnesota residents must apply no later than Friday, Dec. 1, at any of 1,800 locations where hunting and fishing licenses are sold or by telephone at 1-888-665-4236.

A nonrefundable $3 application fee must be paid at the time of application.

An additional nonrefundable $3.50 convenience fee will be charged for all applications made by telephone.

Nonresident hunters may apply by mail or by telephone.

Hunters will also be asked to state a second choice in the last three seasons if they aren’t successful in the lottery for their first choice.

If a hunter is successful in the lottery for second choice and purchases a license, they will lose their preference points for future drawings.

Hunters who are successful for either the first or second choice drawing and choose not to purchase a tag, will lose the current year’s preference point for future drawings but not accumulated preference from past years.

Hunters who were not successful in either the first or second choice drawing will be eligible to purchase surplus turkey permits, which are sold, on a first-come, first-served basis in mid-March.

Archery spring turkey licenses will once again be available for residents and nonresidents.

Archery spring turkey licenses may be purchased for the last two time periods only for any permit area with 50 or more applicants.

Applicants who are successful in the spring permit lottery are ineligible for the spring archery license.

This year, for the first time, hunters will be able to hunt until sunset rather than the previous quitting time of 5 p.m.

“This change will have no impact on turkey populations but will give folks an opportunity to hunt for a couple of hours after school or work,” Penning said.

All wild turkey hunters seeking to hunt in spring 2007 must obtain an application booklet at one of the ELS agents or an application worksheet on the DNR Web site under wild turkey hunting at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

The application booklet contains maps of open wild turkey permit areas, permit quotas, dates and an application worksheet.

The application worksheet should be filled out in advance to ease completion of the application process at an ELS agent. Turkey hunting licenses are made available by a preference system drawing.

A special landowner-tenant preference drawing for up to 20 percent of the permits is also a part of this system.

Successful applicants in the drawing will be mailed the 2006 Spring Wild Turkey Hunt Book in February.

For more information, call the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

State officials warn motorists about danger of deer-vehicle crashes
From the DNR

State officials urge motorists to take precautions to avoid deer-vehicle collisions, especially during the fall months when most crashes occur.

The peak time for deer herd movement-and the danger of crashes-occurs in early to mid-November.

Last year, two people died in deer-vehicle collisions and 474 were injured. Over the last five years, deer-vehicle crashes have accounted for 25 traffic deaths.

The Minnesota departments of Transportation, Public Safety and Natural Resources issued the warning.

The economic impact of more than 4,000 deer-vehicle fatal, injury and property damage crashes cost the state more than $41 million in 2005, according to the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

“With 12,000 miles of state highways and a herd of 1.3 million deer, deer-vehicle collisions are a key safety issue,” said Mike Hamm, director of the Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division.

“The risk increases during the fall when deer are most active.”
The issue of vehicle-deer crashes becomes more critical as traffic volumes increase and development extends further into rural areas.
“The best advice is don’t ‘veer for deer,’” said Kathy Swanson, director of DPS Office of Traffic Safety. “It’s safer to hit a deer than to swerve into oncoming traffic or off the side of the road and risk hitting another vehicle or roadside object.”

Swanson said if motorists encounter a deer in the roadway, apply brakes firmly, hold onto the steering wheel and bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.

All vehicle occupants should always use seat belts to reduce the possibility of death or injury, and to avoid being ejected from the vehicle in case of a crash.

Drivers can improve their safety by following these suggestions:

• drivers should slow down and prepare to stop as soon as they see a deer; it is much safer to stop than to take evasive action

• when people see a deer, they should watch for additional animals as they may travel in small groups

• deer are most active at dawn and dusk which is when most deer-vehicle crashes occur

• deer eyes may reflect in headlights and drivers should be alert for that

• drivers should scan roadsides; deer frequently feed in the roadways and may not be noticed by drivers if they are constantly looking straight ahead

• if a person hits a deer, they should call 9-1-1; law enforcement officers will assist with injuries and write a report to provide to insurance company

• it is illegal to take a deer without a permit; people who hit a deer or find a deer carcass, must obtain a permit to tag the deer before it can be legally transported; all law enforcement officers can issue such a permit

• drive at safe speeds, posted speed limit is the speed limit

• use seatbelts; the best defense in case of a crash; a statewide seat belt enforcement campaign continues through Oct. 30.

In the coming weeks, nearly 500,000 hunters will take to Minnesota’s woods and fields in hopes of harvesting a white-tailed deer.

In some areas of the state with high deer population densities, hunters will be able to harvest multiple deer in an effort to reduce local deer populations.

“Deer hunting is the most important tool for managing the state’s deer population,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. “We rely on hunters to help us maintain deer population levels.”

More information is available on Mn/DOT and DPS Web sites at www.mndot.gov and www.dps.state.mn.us/ots.

Deer hunters can aid wild turkey management
From the DNR

Minnesota deer hunters are being asked this fall to keep a sharp eye out not just for deer, but wild turkeys as well.

Some 18,000 deer hunters will be randomly selected to receive a postcard survey asking them to report information about wild turkey sightings while hunting, according to Sharon Goetz, Department of Natural Resources wild turkey biologist at the Madelia Farmland Wildlife and Populations Research Station.

“The percentage of deer hunters observing wild turkeys is used as an index of turkey population growth,” Goetz explained. “Sightings are also used to delineate the current distribution of turkeys in the state as populations continue to expand northward.”

The last survey was completed in 2002.

Selected hunters will be mailed a postage paid return postcard questionnaire requesting information about the permit area hunted, number of turkeys observed while hunting, and location of observations (number of miles and direction from the nearest town).

Deer hunters will receive the surveys in the mail within two weeks of the season they are hunting. A second mailing will be sent to nonrespondents in late December.

The area to be surveyed includes 112 permit areas selected to include Minnesota’s current and potential wild turkey range.

Strong harvest at first Camp Ridpley bow hunt
From the DNR

Archers took 271 deer during the first two-day bow hunt at Camp Ripley Military Reservation near Little Falls.

“Weather conditions were superb, and hunters did exceptionally well during the first two days,” said Beau Liddell, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Little Falls area wildlife manager.

“For the third year in a row hunters were allowed to take up to two deer and to use bonus permits to increase harvest on antlerless deer. This largely explains the strong harvest so far this year with fawns and does comprising about 70 percent of the harvest.”

The harvest represents one of the highest two-day takes ever and is 115 percent above the long-term average of 126 deer for the first hunt.

“As long as weather cooperates next weekend, the total take for all four days should rank amongst the best harvests in history at Camp Ripley,” Liddell said. “The harvest so far is almost as high as the long-term average of 280 for both hunts combined.”

There were 2,509 permits issued for the first hunt, with 2,208 hunters participating, for a participation rate of 88 percent (slightly higher than the 80-85 percent participation typical of the hunts). Hunter success was about 12 percent (4 percent higher than the long-term average of 8 percent), and 14 hunters took their bag limit of two deer.

“With nine consecutive mild winters, Camp Ripley’s deer herd is in good condition. Most hunters who provided comments indicated they saw numerous deer,” Liddell said. “The good harvest experienced so far is due to excellent hunting conditions, high deer densities (estimated at more than 30 per square mile), and a high number of hunters in Camp Ripley.”

Of adult bucks weighed, eight tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds, above average for the first hunt.

The largest buck weighed 244 pounds, taken by Mark Meyer of Bear Creek, Wis. Cade Collins of Cedar, Minn., took a buck nearly as large, weighing in at 239 pounds. Mark McClintock of Holdingford, Minn., harvested the largest doe of the first hunt, weighing in at 117 pounds.

The second two-day hunt is scheduled for Oct. 28-29.

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