I’ve been writing this outdoor column, on and off, for 16 years now.
Over that course of time I’ve gotten to meet a lot of interesting people.
Most times those brief encounters lead nowhere, but occasionally they lead to lasting relationships and friendships.
One of those brief encounters came back in 1992, after I’d written my first outdoor column in this paper, and it was with Harlan Yager.
Actually, I had first met Harlan when I was about eight years old.
My dad and I were in our fish house on Lake Ann when Harlan knocked on the door a sold us a few raffle tickets for a conservation cause he working on at the time.
Since 1992 however, Harlan became my biggest critic and my greatest fan. He challenged me, he scolded me, he praised the effort, he always shared information and forced me, many times, to write things that should be written even though no one in the local outdoor community really wanted to know the truth.
He did all this, right or wrong in his opinions, with a true, deep, and unending passion for the outdoors and the conservation of our natural resources.
Lake Ann, Lake Emma, local pheasant habitat, breeding waterfowl, wood duck houses, hunting, fishing, and teaching kids and others about the outdoors motivated him.
We talked about the outdoors so often and, oddly enough, much different than most who hunt and fish, Harlan never engaged me with how many pheasants he got, how good his dog was, the big fish he landed, or where the sunfish were biting.
He talked about what could we do and what we should all be doing to make it better. He talked about clean water, too many carp, more pheasant habitat, the Conservation Reserve Program, and those many things that really do make a difference in preserving, protecting, and conserving our great outdoors.
In thinking about Harlan, I regret not sharing his passion in this column more often and I worry about the future of our local outdoor resources without him. Agree with his ideas or not, he made a difference.
Harlan passed away with his dog Birdie in a car accident on a local road Dec. 19.
He was on a pheasant hunting adventure and a local habitat tour accessing the past, present, and future of our outdoors.
It was a drive he took often and the view from the drivers seat was one of great passion.
Thirsty’s Tavern in Dassel holds tail feather contest
Thirsty’s Tavern in Dassel is holding its third annual longest pheasant tail feather contest.
The contest will take place through pheasant season, and the winner will receive a Busch deluxe sports bucket.
The rules of the contest are simple. The bird must be shot legally, and it must be brought to Thirsty’s Tavern before the feathers are removed to be valid.
So far, approximately 75 to 100 tail feathers have already been submitted, and the current standing record is 24 3/4 inches.
Nomination deadline approaching for deer hunter ethics award
From the DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) and Turn In Poachers (TIP) are asking deer hunters to share stories of admirable hunting behavior by nominating people for the 16th Annual Minnesota Deer Hunter Ethics Award. Nominations will be accepted until Jan. 23.
The award honors deer hunters who exhibited conduct during the 2008 season that can serve as a positive example to all hunters.
Awards for youth and adult divisions will be presented at the banquet, which will be Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Four Points Sheraton in Minneapolis.
Nomination letters or e-mails should explain the actions of the nominee and why the person is worthy of recognition.
Both youth and adults are eligible, but nominees must be Minnesota residents.
The ethical hunting behavior must have occurred during any of the 2008 Minnesota deer hunting seasons (archery, firearm or muzzleloader).
Nomination letters should be sent to Ethical Hunter Award, MDHA, 460 Peterson Road, Grand Rapids, MN 55744-8413, faxed to 218-327-1349, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information is available on MDHA’s Web site at www.mndeerhunters.com.
Trout anglers reminded of new winter season dates for 2009
From the DNR
The 2009 winter season for lake and stream trout in all Minnesota lakes will open Thursday, Jan. 15, and close Tuesday, March 31, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
In past years, winter trout season dates were different for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) lakes, trout lakes outside the BWCAW and those on the Canadian border.
Legislation enacted after the 2008 Fishing Regulations booklet was printed changed the winter trout season dates for all lakes, making the information printed on pages 14, 15 and 45 incorrect.
The only exception to the statewide winter season is that lakes in Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing and Hubbard counties are closed to winter stream trout fishing.
Blue Lake in Hubbard County is the only lake within those counties where stream trout can be caught during the winter season.
Winter season dates for lake trout and stream trout in lakes, as well as other corrections and changes that have occurred since the 2008 Fishing Regulations booklet was published, are listed online at http://mndnr.gov/fishregs.
DNR asks watercraft owners to take online survey
From the DNR
If you own a watercraft, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants your opinion about boatlifts, docks and platforms.
The information will supplement public meeting feedback contributing to the DNR’s rulemaking process for structures in public waters.
Watercraft owners are invited to go online by Monday, Jan. 19 to take this first-ever, 27-question survey.
The DNR will name members for an advisory committee before the end of the year to provide input and review drafts of the rules revisions.
A period for public comments and a public hearing on the proposed rules will take place in 2009. New rules are expected to go into effect Jan. 15, 2010.
Legislation passed earlier this year requires the DNR to update rules and permit requirements on structures allowed in public waters by January 2010.
Those who do not have access to the survey online can call (651) 259-5700 to request a paper copy. Results of the survey will be available online shortly after the deadline.
Minnesota has more than 880,000 licensed watercraft and is the third largest in per-capita watercraft ownership in the United States.
Those who don’t own boats but would like to express their opinion on structures in public waters can send comments via e-mail to or mail their comments to Docks and Structures Survey, DNR, 500 Lafayette Rd., St. Paul 55155.
From Avery Pro-Staff
• Name: Ben Cade
Date: December 17, 2008
Location: Buffalo, MN
Weather: Lows have been well below zero with wind chills close to -30.
Snow Cover: We have a good blanket of snow on the ground now, even after a rain storm on Sunday. More snow is in the five day forecast.
Water Conditions: All of the lakes are locked up. I saw vehicles on area lakes last night. Open water can be found for birds to roost near the larger rivers.
Feeding Conditions: Birds are still able to find food in some areas. Reports from the weekend had birds numbering the thousands in some area corn fields.
Species and Numbers: There are good numbers of geese wherever you can find open water.
Migrations: Nothing new. Most birds we have left will probably stay most of the winter unless the food supply gets buried with snow.
Season Stage: We have one more weekend of late season goose hunting.
Hunting Report: Hunting has been excellent for those who have been able to get out when weather permits. I have heard several reports of five man limits being taken and one group that shot nearly 50 in one day.
Gossip: Seems like there are plenty of people still out and looking for places to goose hunt. Good feed fields are limited, so expect plenty of hunting pressure in traditional late season hunting areas.
Special late-season deer hunt set for Dec. 27 to Jan. 11 in permit area 101
From the DNR
A special late-season deer hunt will take place Saturday, Dec. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 11 in Permit Area 101 in northwestern Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The hunt is part of the state’s ongoing bovine tuberculosis (TB) surveillance and eradication efforts.
Details of the hunt include:
• hunters may take an unlimited number of deer of either sex
• deer can be tagged with any remaining unused tags from the 2008 season
• hunters can use any 2008 license or permit from any deer area
• hunters must have a license and use the legal weapon for that license
• new or replacement licenses may be obtained at any Electronic Licensing System agent; hunters can also purchase additional disease management permits for $2.50
• all harvested deer must be registered at one of the following registration stations during regular business hours: Olson Skime Store in Skime; Riverfront Store in Wannaska; or the DNR offices at Thief Lake or Red Lake wildlife management areas.
Once the late season hunt concludes in January, the DNR will conduct another aerial survey of the area to determine current deer abundance and distribution.
The agency can then contract with ground and aerial sharpshooters to further reduce deer populations in the bovine TB core area.
For more information on Minnesota’s bovine TB eradication efforts, visit www.mntbfree.com.
Question of the week
From the DNR
Q: Where does the balsam fir boughs used to make holiday wreaths and garland come from?
A: The specialty forest products industry uses many of the natural resources found in Minnesota’s forests, such as pinecones, mosses and birch twigs, to make everything from decorative items to medicinal and herbal products.
One of the most important specialty products is the balsam bough.
Approximately 4,000 tons of boughs are harvested annually from Minnesota forests, and each ton makes roughly 400 wreaths.
However, the number of holiday wreaths and garland made per ton varies depending on the size of each item.
Most of the boughs used by Minnesota’s special forest products industry are harvested from public and private lands across the northern part of the state.
Itasca, St. Louis, Aitkin and Cass counties support more half of the total bough harvest in Minnesota.
The state’s balsam bough industry has annual retail sales topping $20 million.