Brute’s Bleat: December 4, 2013


Anglers and spear fishing enthusiasts have the opportunity to pursue their sports after most of the area lakes froze over late last week. That includes Cedar which is a perennial late-ice lake. I haven’t ventured out on any of them yet, but the word is about 4-5 inches on East Maple. There were a couple of houses out from the swimming beach on Maple Lake Friday. Buffalo Lake attracted lots of anglers using portable fish houses on Sunday. I’d urge some discretion until we get more colder weather which should be coming this weekend. I’m still in the hunting mode but after the past weekend that could change to angling. The pheasant roosters are becoming difficult to find and three of us, Daryl Hennen, Mike Muller, and myself, hunted west of Milan on Sunday and didn’t raise a rooster feather all day, despite an early start. Our dogs put up some hens, mostly in the cattails, but they were even few and far between. We saw two roosters alongside Hwy. 75 in the afternoon but they were smart enough to look for gravel where there wasn’t much cover, so we didn’t bother them. Some muzzle loaders were hunting deer and one party bumped two large does out of a wood lot which ran across the gravel road ahead of us. We visited with a pheasant hunter from Madison Sunday morning who said there are some pheasants in the areas we were about to hunt. He was going to hunt an adjoining 40-acre piece of grass, but we didn’t hear him shoot and all we put up was one hen. I made a trip to Montevideo with Anna over the Thanksgiving Day weekend which I figured had to be a  rooster. I was wrong, but a small flock of about eight Hungarians suddenly busted out of the grass. I hadn’t seen a flock of them in Minnesota for a number of years, although they used to be fairly familiar in Wright County. Anyway, they surprized me to the point all I could do was watch them fly away. It was probably just as well as they no doubt need to maintain some numbers if they are to build up their population. My analysis of the pheasant situation in Minnesota after a lifetime of hunting them comes down to several problems. I feel weather is the biggest factor they face during their short lives (2-3 years). It’s not only a matter of surviving Minnesota’s brutally cold and snowy winters when it’s difficult for them to find adequate food and shelter, a favorable nesting time is equally important. We need about three years of warm springs so pheasant chicks can find the bugs they need for food to survive and build up their numbers. Unlike song birds who are fed by their mothers, they’re on their own when they hatch. After seeing the vast acres of grass and swamp land in the western and southwestern parts of the state as well as some CRP land, I’m not entirely convinced there is a lack of habitat. It’s true that CRP acres are great for the birds, but we haven’t had a good nesting season for several years with the cold, wet springs. Considering pheasants aren’t native to the United States they probably aren’t capable of adapting to the climate changes of Minnesota. Pheasants had it much easier in the ‘40s when farming practices were actually quite primitive compared to today’s standards. I think we’re in a transitional time for pheasants and we’ll need to to get some breaks from Mother Nature before the fall roadside counts get better. In the meantime, keep going out and exercising your dog and yourself. Watching a pointer lock up on a bird or birds can still be the most satisfying part of a day’s hunt even though chances are it will be a hen. That happened to Vana Sunday and two hens busted out of the cattails as the sun was hanging on the horizon when I moved in. Had they been roosters I’d have had a chance for a double, but the way I’ve been shooting that’s only wishful thinking .   .    .
I like the blue lights on the Birch Ave. South trees in downtown Maple Lake. Many of the residences have their Christmas decorations up and lighted for the festive season, a task which is still on my to-do list. I’m in the process of deciding which of my ugly sweaters to use in the Messenger’s contest! I’ve never been among the Black Friday shoppers that inundate the big box stores before they’ve digested their turkey dinners. That just isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s a good thing there’s lots of diversification in the United States where everyone can do their own thing.