Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

November 3, 1997

Minnesota firearms deer hunt

Minnesota's firearms deer hunt for most zones opens on Saturday, Nov. 8 at one-half hour before sunrise, and if you plan on participating, you will be joining more than 400,000 other hunters who will be in the field, swamp, or woods, clad in blaze orange, in pursuit of the wily whitetail.

According to the DNR, 415,000 firearms hunters harvested slightly more than 140,000 deer in Minnesota last year.

Every year, as always, there are a few things that hunters should be reminded of while they prepare for this years hunt and before they take to the field:

Ethics and safety

Hunter and firearms safety and hunter ethics are most often at the top of the list and are always an area of great concern for most hunters. In regard to firearms safety, there is one point that is very important and very seldom written about.

For the past few weeks, thousands of firearms hunters have been, and this week will be, preparing their rifles or shotguns and sighting them in for the upcoming hunt.

In the process of getting that firearm off the rack or out of locked storage to get it ready, it has stood in a corner or been put on a table in the basement or den with ammunition at its side.

The firearm then may be left there for only an hour or two while other preparations are being made, or, in the anticipation of the hunt, it may be left there to look at and handle for a week or two.

In either case, this is a poor situation, especially if there are children present in the home. If you're one of the many hunters getting ready for the deer season, keep your firearms and ammunition stored and locked in separate locations at all times when they are in your vehicle or home.

New license options

Aside from safety, there are many other things to remember. This season, for the first time, hunters can purchase licenses anytime before or during the season they intend to hunt.

However, if the license is purchased after the start of the season, the license is not valid until the second day after it is issued. For example, a license issued on Saturday, is not valid until Monday.

Previously, all firearms licenses had to be purchased prior to the start of the firearms season, including licenses for seasons that start much later in November.

Bucks-only areas

As was the case last year, much of deer Zone 1 and northern portions of deer Zone 2 have been restricted to bucks-only hunting for the 1997 season. This is the result of two severe winters that have taken a toll on our northern deer herd.

All firearms hunters, including hunters who could ordinarily take deer of either sex (such as youth hunters under age 16 and hunters with disabilities who possess permits to shoot from motor vehicles), as well as archers and muzzleloader deer hunters, are restricted to bucks only hunting in these areas.

Wear blaze orange

Blaze orange is required. All hunters and trappers are required to comply with blaze orange clothing requirements during the open season where deer may be taken by firearms, including the muzzleloader deer season.

Those not hunting, or people spending time outdoors in areas where deer may be hunted, should wear blaze orange during the open firearms deer season.

Other regulations

I don't like writing about or detailing hunting regulations, but it seems there are always a few that all of us need to be reminded about.

Number one is trespassing. The key here is to always ask first before you hunt on private land and know specifically where you can hunt and where you can't.

In our area of farm country, trespassing was a chronic problem a few years back. Today, with more educated hunters, it has gotten better. The point is, a few can still ruin it for many.

The second regulation to note is shooting at deer on, over, across or within the right-of-way of improved public highways.

It's illegal, and the regulation applies to federal, state, county, and township roadways. According to the DNR, this is a common source of violations and conservation officers will be emphasizing enforcement of the law this season.

Some hunters may question the description or clarification of an improved public highway. But, to be safe and sensible the best bet is not to shoot over, across, or from any improved public road.

I don't consider a narrow logging road in a state forest in northern Minnesota to be an improved public road. However, I do consider the typical gravel road in McLeod or Wright Counties to be an improved public road.

Hunting outlook

Moving on, like a buck running though a plowed field, the hunting in our neck of the woods should be pretty good.

Hunter success rates will be similar to last year with hunter competition being somewhat greater. With a majority of the corn out of the fields and good weather, the first weekend of hunting in our area could be very, very good.

Regarding hunter competition, if you plan on hunting in Permit Areas 419 and 429, expect a good crowd of hunters.

Intensive Harvest Permits are available in those areas this season and hunters have purchased a good number of them. Also, the DNR has offered Intensive Harvest Permits in those areas because it feels there is a high number of deer there.

No matter if the number of deer is high or not, a lot of hunters will be thinking the same thing as the DNR.

In our northern forests, I won't go any farther than describing the hunting as hit-and-miss. Just seeing a deer and not harvesting one should make any hunter in the forest happy.

In one last note, be prepared, cautious, courteous, and safe when you take to the field or forest this deer season.

Area lakes hunting and fishing report

The fall walleye bite is on, northern ducks have either passed us by or not come down yet, archery deer hunters are having better luck, and area pheasant hunters are running into more birds than they expected to.

That's the scoop on hunting and fishing in our area right now.

Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake reported that Big Waverly, Washington, and Collinwood are all giving up walleyes to fall anglers. Joe's also noted that quite a few anglers have been out, and that fall fishing should only get better in the next few weeks before freeze up.

I've noticed there has been quite a bit of activity on Lake Ann, and have received a few reports of good fishing on the South Fork of the Crow River.

Duck hunting in the area has been slow, with most of the local ducks gone and very few northern mallards or divers coming through the area. The best bet now is to keep a close eye out for bluebills coming through the area and to hunt bigger water that will attract the fast flying divers.

On a good note, local hunters are reporting better pheasant hunting in McLeod and Wright Counties than what was expected. One hunter stated he hasn't taken a local rooster yet but has flushed a good number of birds, mostly hens, every time he has been out.

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