Dick Herfindahl: With wildlife, southern Minnesota has a lot to offer

Published 10:19 pm Friday, November 24, 2017

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

My brother-in-law, Lynn Johnson, who is originally from Twin Lakes but has lived in Nome, Alaska for more than 20 years, made his annual fall visit back to Minnesota in September. I got to spend a lot of time with him in the almost two months that he was here.

Lynn is an example of a true outdoorsman and while he has lived in Alaska he has pretty much done it all. He has fished and hunted and has gotten almost every type of critter that Alaska has to offer. He has his own airplane, more than one for that matter, and spends a lot of his time flying to different places around the Nome area. When he comes home, he buys an out of state hunting license and spends most of his time bow hunting for deer. Of all the wild game that he has hunted over the years he ranks venison right up there with moose meat.

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A few years ago Lynn and his wife treated us to a seemingly endless feast of wild game. He brought quite a variety of meats back and I can truthfully say that it was the first and only time that I have eaten caribou tacos or muskox cheeseburgers. Lynn’s wife, who everyone calls sister, is an excellent cook and can prepare any type of game and make it taste delicious. This year Lynn hunted hard and was finally rewarded with a deer just the day before he and sister had to head back.

While he was here he marveled at the good fishing we have available to us in the area. He said that when he was growing up in Twin Lakes he never imagined that he would be able to catch walleye in the Shellrock River or nice pike on Pickerel Lake. On more than one occasion we drove around the countryside just to look at habitat while trying to spot wildlife. There were a couple of times when we drove around both Albert Lea and Fountain Lakes and were impressed by the new boat landing on Pickerel. On more than one occasion we took South Shore Drive where we spotted some turkeys and by the Jugland Dam there were pelicans, seagulls, heron, geese, ducks and even a pair of eagles.

Yes, Lynn did thoroughly enjoy his time here. He and some old friends of his spent some time fishing and they also hunted some land both locally and also west of here. I won’t say exactly where he hunts because like any good sportsman, he gets a little secretive when it comes to mentioning any land that he has permission to hunt.

Overall he said that he really enjoyed this visit and couldn’t wait to come back. When I last heard from him they had just endured a blizzard that had 40 mile an hour winds and dumped 12-inches of snow and were waiting for another one to hit the next day.

Minnesota firearms hunters registered 161,057 deer through the third weekend of deer season, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Preliminary results through the third weekend show that the number of deer registered was up 16 percent from 2016. Of the deer harvested, 53 percent were bucks, compared to 63 percent during the same period in 2016.

In Zone 1, in northeastern Minnesota, total firearms harvest was up 36 percent. In Zone 2, which covers the majority of the state and runs from Canada to Iowa, harvest was up 10 percent and Zone 3, in southeastern Minnesota, was down 5 percent.

“The conditions were generally good for hunters participating in the last week of the Zone 1 season and for the start of the 3B season in the southeast,” said Erik Thorson, acting big game program leader. “Which provided a boost to the statewide firearms harvest.”

Based upon the number of antlerless permits available and the number of permit areas that allow multiple deer to be taken, the DNR is projecting the 2017 total deer harvest to be around 200,000. The 2016 total harvest was 173,213 and to date firearms and archery hunters have harvested about 180,000 deer this year.

In much of Minnesota, the firearms deer season ended Nov. 12, and the northern rifle zone season ended Nov. 19. The late southeast firearms deer season is open through Sunday, Nov. 26. The muzzleloader season begins Saturday, Nov. 25, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 10. More information on deer management can be found at mndnr.gov/deer.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued its annual ice safety warning for lakes with winter aeration systems.

Aeration creates areas of thin ice and open water that are extremely hazardous to people and pets. Open water areas can shift or change shapes depending on weather conditions, and leaks may develop in airlines, creating other areas of weak ice or open water.

The updated list of aerated lakes and more information is available at mndnr.gov/eco/lakeaeration.

“We’re urging people to use caution anytime they venture onto lake ice, especially at night,” said Amanda Yourd, DNR hydrologist and aeration coordinator. “Extreme care should be taken on aerated lakes. Watch for the large orange and black warning signs at high use public accesses and the required thin ice signs around open water areas.”

Until next time: Don’t be in too much of a rush to fish that early ice. Fishing is usually the best on new ice but be sure the ice is safe before you drill that first hole.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today. Also, take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops serving today.