Some thoughts on the deer hunt, from a deer hunter

My friend Michael Furtman offered some thoughtful comments on hunting today on his Facebook page. Mike is a Duluth outdoors writer and wildlife photographer ( He was writing about deer hunting in Wisconsin. Thought I’d share his thoughts here:

“Hunting really well is hard, just plain hard. Even the experts can’t always get everything to mesh.” So said my friend, and great writer, Chris Madson. Few truer words have been spoken!

This morning, in a dense fog, I crept into the north woods. The first thing I saw were enormous tracks from what had to be a giant buck. Like all bucks, he had a mission in mind. He did not waver. He did not wander. It was a straight line from doe area A to doe area B, to doe area C. I was, of course, full of anticipation.

I sat at the crossing of several deer trails, waiting for him, or another buck, to appear. The morning was warm, the wind light, and as I sat I realized that for two hours, I’d never heard a shot. This is Wisconsin. This is the opening of deer season. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the woods, and yet there was no shooting. Not a good sign. The deer obviously were not moving. So I needed to.

So I walked. The woods were wet, and quiet, the snow the consistency of oatmeal. With the same skills I use to get photos of deer, I crept through the forest for six hours, often taking a half hour to creep a hundred yards. And I never saw a deer.

For those of you who do not hunt, I suppose it is easy to imagine that it is wanton slaughter out there, that deer are bounding this way and that, and that reckless, feckless hunters are slinging bullets willy nilly, that deer are stacked up like cord wood, and with no more respect. Well, that is not the case. The hunt is, more often than not, a long, tedious task. It is work. Enjoyable, sometimes. But work. All food should come with such effort. Perhaps not so much of it would be scraped into the trash can!

Tomorrow is, as they say, “another day.” I hope to “hunt well” as Chris said. But though I saw no deer, I did see numerous chickadees, nuthatches, some wild turkeys, an otter run, and the tracks of an American marten. It was a good day.


Still time to sign up for Pheasant Summit

There’s still time to register for the first Minnesota Pheasant Summit, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Gov. Mark Dayton is inviting Minnesotans to register for the summit, which takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. To sign up, look here.

The summit is free and open to all Minnesotans. It will focus on why the pheasant population has declined in the state, and possible collaborative efforts to improve pheasant habitat statewide.



Hot turkey sandwiches highlight bicycle drive kick-off at Marine General

Rob Hering (left) of Superior lifts a turkey onto a platter held by John Janousek, a Rapala rep from Brainerd, Minn., at Wednesday’s Bike Drive and Ice-Fishing Kick-Off event at Marine General Sports in Duluth. (Sam Cook photo)

Turkeys sizzled in a cluster of deep-fryers in front of Marine General Sports in Duluth on Wednesday morning. Each of the bubbling cauldrons sent a column of steam into the 23-degree air. Under a nearby canopy, Marine General’s Bob Rogers kept an electric knife purring as he carved up fresh-fried turkeys.

The celebration was the kick-off for the annual Bike Drive and Ice Fishing event at the outdoor shop. It’s going on through about 3:30 today, and Rogers urges anyone who wants a free turkey sandwich to stop by the shop at 1501 London Road.

For the past five years, Rogers has raised money and donated bikes to the Salvation Army for kids at Christmas. Rogers has given away nearly 800 bicycles to area youths. Donations to the bike fund are tax-deductible through the Salvation Army.

A good crowd of anglers and outdoors folks filled the small plaza out in front of the shop at midday, most of them eating turkey sandwiches and sipping hot coffee.

Jarrid Houston of South Range had come by to be part of the scene. He’s been fishing “early ice” on some Wisconsin lakes, and cued up on his smart phone a photo of a small muskellunge he had caught through the clear ice.

“It’s like fishing through a window,” Houston said.

Rob Hering of Superior and Rapala rep John Janousek of Brainerd, Minn., worked together to pull hot turkeys out of the fryers and deliver them to Rogers.

At the curb, Marine General owner Russ Francisco held a microphone in his hand while doing a remote radio interview.

In conjunction with the bike drive, the store also had put new ice-fishing tents, augers and other gear on display.


Bob Rogers of Marine General Sports in Duluth carves turkeys Wednesday at the store’s annual Bike Drive and Ice-Fishing Kick-Off event. Rogers, with donations from the public, has donated nearly 800 bicycles to the Salvation Army over the past five years for Christmas giving. (Sam Cook photo)

Firearms deer harvest down 44 percent in NE Minnesota

After the first 10 days of Minnesota’s 16-day firearms deer season, the deer harvest in Northeastern Minnesota was down 44 percent from last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The buck harvest in the region — all Series 100 deer permit areas — was down 28 percent from last year. The antlerless deer harvest was down 82 percent, largely because so many deer permit areas were restricted to bucks-only hunting this fall.

DNR wildlife officials reduced the number of antlerless deer permits significantly this fall after a severe winter in 2013-2014 in hopes of rebuilding the deer herd.

Statewide, the harvest was down 23 percent overall through Monday, 10 days into the season. The firearms season will end Sunday.

After the first three days of the firearms season this fall, the harvest was down 52 percent in Northeastern Minnesota and 36 percent statewide. As the peak of the rut came on and bucks started moving, hunters took advantage of that.

In Series 100 areas, hunters had taken 23,087 deer this fall through Monday compared to 40,873 last year, DNR officials reported.

Statewide, firearms hunters had taken a total of 102,168 deer through Monday, down from 133,000 last year.

Jeff Lightfoot, DNR regional wildlife manager at Grand Rapids, said despite the slow start to the season, hunters were able to take more deer through the remainder of opening week and into last weekend.

“We’ve historically said that the first three days (of the season) determine the harvest, and once we’re down we’re not climbing out,” Lightfoot said. “But recently (2012) hunters really put in the effort through that first week and into the second weekend, and we made up some ground. This year looks like the same thing was going on.”

Some factors worked in hunters’ favor, he said.

“We had snow on the ground, and people like that,” he said. “They can see tracks. It keeps you a little more engaged. But with some of the wind and the cold mornings, I was surprised to see the relative difference (between this year and last) get a little better.”

The DNR had predicted a steep decline in the deer kill this fall, with an overall harvest estimate of 120,000 deer. Through Monday, including the archery harvest, hunters had taken about 115,000 deer this fall, said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader in St. Paul.


Ely adventurer Paul Schurke will present ‘River of Doubt’ at St. Scholastica

Paul Schurke (left) of Ely and Dave Freeman of Grand Marais prepare dinner along the shores of the Rio Roosevelt in Brazil on their trip last summer. (Paul Schurke photo)

Ely adventure Paul Schurke will make a presentation titled “The River of Doubt: Following Roosevelt’s Footsteps” from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24, in Mitchell Auditorium at the College of St. Scholastica. The presentation will describe Schurke’s recent trip on Brazil’s Rio Roosevelt (the “River of Doubt” with fellow adventurer Dave Freeman of Grand Marais. The two retraced the route that Teddy Roosevelt traveled on his epic descent of the river 100 years earlier in 1914. In addition, Schurke’s presentation will celebrate the life of Roosevelt, a robust outdoorsman who made a personal commitment to sleep outside 30 days a year, even while he was president.

The presentation is free.


DNR invites public to informational meeting about revising Lake Superior fish plan

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will hold an informational conference Dec. 6 as the agency kicks off the revision process for its next 10-year plan for Lake Superior fisheries management, the DNR announced today.

The current plan took effect in 2006 and expires in 2015. The new plan will be the third 10-year plan for Lake Superior fisheries management.

Doors open at 8:30 a.m. for the conference, to be held at the University of Minnesota Cloquet Forestry Center. It will last from 9 a.m. until 4:15 p.m.

DNR staff and other experts will present on the status and management of Lake Superior fish populations, habitat, and sport, charter and commercial fisheries. Participants will have an opportunity to identify and discuss issues in breakout sessions.

One area that could receive more attention than in previous plans is trout stream habitat in the lake’s tributaries.

“The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was not around during the last management plan revision process,” said Cory Goldsworthy, Lake Superior fisheries supervisor. “With this new source of funding and the stakeholder group’s involvement in stream habitat projects already, a lot of discussion could be devoted to stream habitat this time around.”

The 2016 fisheries management plan for the Minnesota waters of Lake Superior will be developed by the DNR with input from the Lake Superior advisory group, which represents sport and commercial fishing organizations, environmental groups, local governments and interested anglers.

Minnesota firearms deer kill down 36 percent statewide after first three days

As expected, Minnesota’s firearms deer harvest is down. Way down.

After the first three days of the season, the harvest was down 51 percent from 2013 in Northeastern Minnesota (Series 100 deer permit areas) and down 36 percent statewide, said Leslie McInenly, big game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The statewide harvest was 54,000 for the first three days of the season, which opened Saturday. That’s down from 84,000 in the same period last year.

Part of the reason for the decrease is that the DNR offered far fewer antlerless deer permits this fall than in recent years. But the buck harvest was down as well, said Jeff Lightfoot, DNR regional wildlife manager at Cloquet. In addition, opening weekend weather was not ideal, with high winds.

Marine General bicycle drive kicks off with turkey fry

The annual Bike Drive and Ice Fishing Kick-Off turkey fry will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at Marine General Sports, 1501 London Road. For the past five years, Bob Rogers of Marine General has raised money and donated bikes to the Salvation Army for kids at Christmas. To kick off the event, Rogers deep-fries a whole lot of turkeys and makes turkey sandwiches for anyone who comes by. Beverages will be provided, too. Donations to the bike fund are tax-deductible through the Salvation Army.

In conjunction with the bike drive, the store also will have new ice-fishing tents, augers and other gear on display during the event.

Over the past five years, Rogers has given away nearly 800 bicycles to area youths. He gets help assembling the bicycles from Miller Hill Subaru and London Road Car Wash.



Two Duluth cross-country ski trails ready for skiers

Cross-country ski trails are open now at Snowflake Nordic Center, 4348 Rice Lake Road, and at the 3-kilometer campground loop at Spirit Mountain, according the the Duluth Cross-Country Ski Club. Snowflake, with 6 inches of snow, is groomed for both skate and classic skiing.

Duluth officially received 7 inches of snow at the airport on Monday and Monday night.