I had a high school journalism instructor who had grown up in northern Minnesota and had lived around timberwolves. One day he started talking to the class about wolves and what they were really like. He was not kind to them but when he got done we all knew he had not been talking through his hat.

When looking for the best information it is always a good idea to talk to a person who knows.

A chat with Ross Hagemeister of the Meister Guide Service before the opener found him full of optimism about the coming fishing season. An email reply from another fishing guide, Mike Frisch, was also upbeat. These are guys who have been making a living on the lakes for more than 25 years. Their job is not to guess or hope, but to know. In talking with Ross once many years ago he explained that his job as a guide was to get his clients on a school of fish as quickly as possible. 

The weather for the May 9 opener was crummy but neither of these men said it would be great. They were going by the conditions they had observed.

You will not find many area lakes without good fish populations so the real arbiter of success early in the year is going to be the weather. Last year the late ice-out hampered fishing early in the season. This year, a more temperate winter and an earlier ice-out allowed lake temperatures to climb fast and that will always pull the trigger on a good bite. 

The rest is up to you.

 

Signs pointing to a better

pheasant hunting season

They say that after a person has hunted long enough they develop a sixth sense for the presence of their quarry. It might sound far-fetched but you will find plenty of hunters who believe it.

Talking with Department of Natural Resources prairie habitat supervisor Greg Hoch Thursday morning I found he shared my optimism about the 2020 pheasant hunting season.

Hoch used to live west of Detroit Lakes and has authored a few books - one on prairie chickens - so he has a good handle on the upland birds of our state. Hoch said he has seen “tons” of pheasants in the ditches near his present location in Cambridge.

Anyone traveling our local roads has seen their share as well.

Hoch outlined three of the conditions for a good 2020 season - two of which have already been met. The first was how many birds were left when the winter season arrived. Mother Nature’s cruel hand on local farmers kept a lot of them from getting their corn out last year. It also ensured that a lot of pheasant hunters did not bag many birds. The standing cornfields not only left a good food source behind, they also created a lot of added cover - a very valuable ally for a pheasant in surviving the winter months. 

When the winter months proved to be temperate another of Hoch’s criteria was realized.

The third and perhaps the most important condition for a good 2020 season is still to come - dry, warm weather during the hen pheasant’s nesting season.

Keep in mind that no one is talking about spectacular ringneck action this fall - just a better one than 2019.

 

Access roads into public

wildlife areas need work

As a hunter who likes to hit various state and federal lands in the fall I have sometimes been disappointed by the lousy condition of road accesses.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Natural Resources manage these areas for wildlife habitat and you can usually find off-road parking spots. The problem I have encountered is reaching these parking areas.  

I doubt if any hunter expects these access roads to be blacktopped but regular upkeep by grading and some Class 5 gravel would go a long way. The DNR is pretty good about hiring private contractors to reset the cement “logs” on their public fishing accesses after a hard winter but hunting access sites seem to be a different matter.

There is a federal waterfowl production area along the Pomme de Terre in Grant County with a long access road leading back into a big wetland. In past years, when a local farmer with a smaller tractor, digger and planter put alternated field corn and soybeans in the WPA’s two food plots it was a great place to hunt pheasants, ducks and deer. 

Over the years it has gotten tougher and tougher to get back to the WPA’s miniscule parking spot. Deep ruts have been created on the road accessed by the traffic. Only pickups and SUVs that ride high enough above the ground to make the trip. There are big potholes in a low spot at the far end of the access road that are also too difficult to navigate.

There are accesses on County Road 110 in Aastad Township where the tire tracks are worn so far down that if a driver is traveling in a car the undercarriage is on the ground or very close to it. There is another of these beauties at a wildlife area on 160th Street in Tordenskjold Township. There is an access road to wildlife directly south of the Fergus Falls FWS District Wetlands office with some potholes that could use attention. 

I would like to think these problems are on a fix-it list on someone’s desk.

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