Pheasant season off to a slow start

October 20, 2008

by Chris Schultz

For many of us die-hard pheasant hunters, a poor opener with bad weather and a lot of corn still in the fields is a gift from Mother Nature.

We prefer those late November hunts and cold December days in field over those of the early season, and general, poor conditions on the opener add up to better late-season hunting.

Regarding this year’s opener, even with pheasant numbers that are above the 10-year average, the hunting can only get better.

Thunder, lightening, rain, and acres of standing corn created poor hunting conditions in far western Minnesota, while humidity and hot weather slowed hunters and dogs in other parts of Minnesota’s pheasant range.

The best reports came from the Windom area, where hunters reported at least seeing good numbers of birds before they headed into standing corn fields.

Locally, hunters’ success was also slow to poor, with several parties reporting no birds taken, heavy hunting pressure on public lands, and too much corn still in the fields.

A few local hunters stated that after a weekend of pheasant hunting, they believe the hatch in our area was poor and there are, and will be fewer birds out there than DNR August roadside counts indicated.

Only time spent in the field will bare the truth.

So far, approximately 76,000 pheasant stamps have been purchased this season, compared to 129,000 stamps sold in each of the previous two years.

The good news is, the hunting can only get better, and will get better as the remainder of the soybeans and all of that corn gets harvested.

The trick is to pay close attention to the corn harvest adjacent to areas that provide good upland cover.

If you can be one of the first few hunters that get to those areas after the corn harvest, picking up a two-bird limit and rousting a good number of birds can be easy.

Good luck hunting, and remember to wear blaze orange.

• North Dakota pheasant hunting

I spent the opening weekend of pheasant hunting in southeastern North Dakota and believe me, the hunting was tough – even the travel was tough.

Rain, rain, and more rain, a total of more than 7 inches in three days, added up to muddy fields, wet cattail sloughs, and treacherous rural roads.

Throw in a dramatic loss in Conservation Reserve Program acres in the area, a poor pheasant hatch, a soybean harvest that’s about 70 percent done, a corn harvest that hasn‘t started yet, and a 126-pound, 16-month-old yellow Lab that is more of a bulldozer than a bird dog, and I’m surprised we harvested any birds at all.

We did bag a few birds, but in the same area, we saw far fewer birds than we have during the previous three openers.

Again, I hope it’s a case where the hunting only gets better.

Archery lessons at Prairie Archers in Lester Prairie

The Prairie Archers Club is offering archery lessons to beginners of all ages starting Tuesday, Oct. 28.

Classes will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m. The cost is $30.

Equipment will be provided or you may bring your own.

For more information, contact Jim Richardson at (320) 395-2721.

The range is located at 412 Central Ave., Lester Prairie – above Angvall’s Hardware Store.

Waverly Gun Club events coming up

The Waverly Gun Club has also set dates for its rifle range. The range will be open for site-ins on the following Saturdays and Sundays: Oct. 25 and 26, and Nov. 1 and 2.

The hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Surplus hunting permits now available for special hunts in MN state parks
From the DNR

Thirty-five Minnesota state parks will be open for special permit archery, firearm, or muzzleloader deer hunts in November and December, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

And those who did not apply for a special permit or were not successful in the permit drawing may be able to purchase surplus permits for seven of the parks involved in special hunts.

Surplus hunting permits are available by calling the park manager at the following Minnesota state parks: Gooseberry, Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettegouche, Scenic, Lake Bronson, Great River Bluffs, and Interstate. Contact information for these parks is listed below.

The other 28 state parks that are offering special hunts are already fully subscribed, so permits are not available at those locations.

All hunters must have a firearms or muzzleloader license to obtain a permit.

If they were successful in the drawing, they cannot obtain one of the surplus permits.

Hunters who wish to camp at the park hosting a special hunt will not need reservations.

After Nov. 1, all camping at Minnesota state parks is on a first-come, first-served basis.

• Why hold special der hunts in Minnesota state parks?

The DNR Division of Parks and Recreation annually holds a number of special hunts in order to manage the deer population.

While this effort has been relatively successful overall, sometimes deer populations have still expanded beyond acceptable levels due to mild winters or undersubscribed hunts.

“Deer are part of the natural communities that we seek to preserve or restore in the Minnesota State Park system,” said Ed Quinn, resource management coordinator for Minnesota state parks. “When deer populations in an area become too high, however, they can have significant negative impacts on native plant and animal communities.”

Heavy deer browsing on seedling trees during the winter can nearly eliminate regeneration of some tree species, such as pine.

In addition, deer can also greatly reduce the numbers and variety of wildflowers and other herbaceous plants that grow on the forest floor.

“Techniques such as bud capping and exclosures are also used to control the amount of deer browsing,” Quinn said. “Our overall goal is to manage the deer population in the parks so that their numbers are at a level that does not negatively affect the other natural resources. In some cases, that is best accomplished through special hunts.”

• Accomodations for disabled hunters

Every effort will be made to accommodate disabled hunters who have already received a special permit or are interested in obtaining a surplus special permit.

Two Minnesota state parks – Frontenac and Wild River – already have specific arrangements in place.

• Minnesota state parks with surplus park permits

Gooseberry Falls, (218) 834-385; Regular Firearms, 11/8-23
Great River Bluffs, (507) 643-6849; Regular Firearms, 11/22-24, 11/28-30
Interstate, (651) 465-5711; Muzzleloader, 11/29-12/14
Lake Bronson, (218) 754-2200; Regular Firearms, 11/8-16
Scenic, (218) 743-3362; Regular Firearms, 11/8-23
Split Rock Lighthouse, (218) 226-6377; Regular Firearms, 11/8-23
Tettegouche, (218) 226-6377; Regular Firearms, 11/8-23

For more information on special hunts, visit the Minnesota State Parks Web site to view the chart of hunt types, dates, locations, and restrictions at: www.mnstateparks.info.

Migration reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

• Name: Ben Cade

Date: October 15, 2008

Location: Devils Lake, ND

Weather: Cool, sunny with plenty of wind.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Excellent. Much of North Dakota has just received over three inches of rain in some areas. Many fields have sheet water and most potholes are full.

Feeding Conditions: There are a lot of barley fields being used by the ducks and geese in the area. There are also bean fields down, but barley is what the birds are hitting hard. Fields with standing water are holding plenty of birds.

Species and Numbers: The area continues to pick up new birds this week. There are good numbers of ducks and dark geese around. A few smaller flocks of light geese are arriving. I noticed some new flocks of little geese moving in this morning.

Migrations: Migrating birds are beginning to trickle into the area.

Season Stage: We are in the second week of the season.

Hunting Report: There have been a few groups doing some shooting in the area. Large concentrations of ducks can be found while scouting.

Gossip: On a drive through eastern North Dakota on Monday, I observed many fields have standing water. Large concentrations of birds have relocated to these areas to take advantage of the wet conditions.

• Name: Ben Cade

Date: October 11, 2008

Location: Hutchinson, MN

Weather: Warm and clear.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Dry.

Feeding Conditions: The bean fields are mainly picked in the area and the farmers are beginning to harvest corn. The birds are hitting silage fields in the area.

Species and Numbers: There are low numbers of Canada geese in the area. Small migrations have occurred bringing new birds, but not in big bunches yet.

Migrations: Migrating birds are beginning to trickle into the area.

Season Stage: The regular season for ducks and geese is in its second week.

Hunting Report: Hunters that are willing to be patient and allow birds to work will increase their success. The birds are responding very well to flagging and will finish to quality decoy spreads and realistic calling.

Gossip: I witnessed several groups of hunters shooting at birds well over one hundred yards in the air. This can be very frustrating for other groups in the area as the birds start to become skittish.

Seems like many guys in the area need to be more patient.

Trappers reminded of new regulations in northeastern Minnesota
From the DNR

In response to a federal court order, trapping regulations in northeastern Minnesota have changed to restrict, modify or eliminate the incidental take of Canada lynx.

Trapping seasons begin on Oct. 25 in much of the state.

The new regulations apply east and north of U.S. Highway 53, which runs from Duluth to International Falls.

A copy of the new regulations has been mailed to all trappers who purchased a license in 2007, and is posted online at www.mndnr.gov.

The Canada lynx is listed as a threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Any possession of lynx, including accidental taking, is a violation of federal law.

Any trapper who accidentally takes a lynx is required to notify their local conservation officer.

Persons who know about the take of a lynx can report it by calling Turn in Poachers (TIP) at 800-652-9093.

Further information about avoiding the take of lynx is available in “How to Avoid the Incidental Take of Lynx while Trapping and Hunting Bobcats and other Furbearers.”

This document is online at www.mndnr.gov.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: On occasion, an eerie green glow can be seen illuminating from the forest floor. Is there something causing this or is it an unexplained Halloween phenomenon?

A: This phenomenon, called “foxfire,” is a blue-green glow given off by the mycelia (threadlike strands) of certain fungi that grow in rotting wood. Armillaria, a root- and trunk-rotting fungus common in Minnesota, is one such organism that can emit a faint, blue-green light seen at night.

It grows on hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, vines and forbs found in forests, along roadsides, and in cultivated areas.

Bioluminescence, the emission of light from living organisms, is most likely to occur when decomposing wood is damp and when the temperature is in the high 70s.

If you want to see foxfire, go for a hike in the woods after dark on a cloudy or moonless night in late summer or early fall.

If you kick some decayed and softened stumps, you may also have a shoe that glows in the dark!