Last week’s cold snap is not much more than a memory now, but when I stepped outside last Wednesday with Vanna into a -20 windchill I immediately looked down to see if I had my trousers on. I did, and hopefully, that will be our coldest week of the new year. Temperatures moderated by the weekend and brought out a horde of anglers who, like me, had been hibernating. Each winter Minnesota’s baseball fans go through a period called “The Hot Stove League” where predictions are made, trade talk increases, and stories of past incidents and practical jokes surface. The same can be said for anglers who have participated in their share of practical jokes, or have been the butt of one. One such incident came to light last week that happened a decade or two ago and involved four Maple Lake ladies who were winter angling on Lake Mary. As the story goes, three of them decided to play a trick on the fourth angler.
Daryl Hennen convinced me to make a pheasant run on Wednesday (it didn’t take much convincing) and we headed for the pheasant mecca west of Cottonwood. We didn’t find a whole lot of birds, but I did get a shot through the brush at one in the afternoon. It was an extremely windy day and it wasn’t until the last hour of hunting that we started to see a few birds. Most of them were hens, but one rooster crossed the road ahead of us and we figured we best leave that one for romancing in the spring. We were feeding the dogs in a WMA approach when another hunter pulled over. He said five roosters and four hens just crossed the road ahead of him (and behind us) and were leaving the WMA for some corn stubble. He wasn’t going after them and it was quitting time and we’ve never had much luck chasing birds. I figured that would be my last pheasant outing for the season which ended at sunset Jan.
"Thank you to all who contributed to 2016’s Giving Tree Program. Twenty-one families in Maple Lake received assistance in making their Christmas a bit brighter. Thank you to the businesses who hosted a collection box for toys; Irish Blessing’s Coffeehouse, Star Bank, The Costume Shoppe, Maple Lake Floral and the Dollar General. Financial donations from the American Legion Club, Maple Lake Lions and Maple Lake Knights of Columbus, and from individuals were put toward the purchase of winter items; coats, boots, hats/mittens. Thank you for the generosity shown by those who purchased a specific item to be given as a gift and because of those who donated food items. This year, students from the Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy made and donated baskets of household and cleaning products to our Giving Tree families. Those baskets made a nice addition to their Christmas gifts!
I’ve been keeping an eye on the creek that runs out of Lake Mary into Ney Park which is still wide open. Shortly before Christmas the County Park Service installed a bridge over the water on the park path to accommodate hikers, skiers, etc. Vanna and I tend to use the woodsy trail in the winter, mostly to get out of the wind, so we really appreciate the county’s efforts. (Photo by Harold Brutlag)
Last Thursday was too nice a day to not give late season pheasant hunting a try, so when I finished up some work I loaded up Vanna and the two of us headed west around 11 a.m. I didn’t have a destination in mind, but by the time I got to Willmar I thought Montevideo might be far enough. Our first stop was west of Gluek, a WMA I hadn’t hunted this year, but it had held birds in previous years. It looked good from a distance, but there was too much evidence of someone having hunted it that morning for us to trudge through the snow. We zeroed in on another WMA west of Montevideo that contained a corn food plot. Vanna got a solid point and the bird didn’t want to move even though I kicked around in the weeds and brush. Vanna didn’t give up, but she did move ahead which apparently was too much for the pheasant and a hen busted out. It would have been a great video! We hunted our way around the cattails which were pretty much filled with snow, so I stayed on the field edge.
Maple Lake Mes-senger pub-lisher, Ed Pawlenty, was all smil-es when he nailed five walleyes last week. His largest was 25 inches. He also had several crappies the same day while fishing near Sauk Centre.
I took a survey of shoppers while I was waiting in the car with our Setter, Vanna, while Janis and Anna were looking for items to buy last week. I don’t often go shopping with them because I’m not one to go from store to store or from shopping center to shopping center to get the best deal, but more power to them! That said, my survey shows an estimated 95% of the shoppers were ladies which isn’t anything new to Target, Macy’s, Walmart or any of the large and small stores. They’ve been targeting lady shoppers for years and years. They have no reason to change. As the old advertising motto says, “Ride the advertising horse till it dies.” More power to them in a year when holiday shopping seems to be at an all-time high. That goes ditto for local stores who compete for the shopping dollar. And as this is the last issue before Christmas we wish all of the Messenger readers the merriest of Christmases.
Apparently Mike and Ken Muller and myself were pansies a couple of weeks ago when we got as far as Fergus Falls before we cancelled our pheasant hunting trip to North Dakota. Toughing it out in that North Dakota blizzard were Mark and Fred Menth who harvested possession limits of pheasants in the adverse weather. Mark said hunting in the wind, gust up to 50 mph, was not easy, but he said the birds were bunched up in groves and brush and not quick to fly which was good for himself and Fred. Travelling was impossible on the freeway and blacktopped roads so they used the gravel roads and hunted between Bismark and Dickenson. Fred had a young Lab which did a great job of retrieving on a cripple that it followed for a good 100 yards before it caught up with the cock. Mark, who I ran into Wednesday morning at M & M, jokingly said he had the tank full if I was ready to go. I took a rain check!
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I may have found the answer to getting some pheasants rather than walking for a couple of hours and maybe flushing one or two roosters. Actually, it was Mike Muller’s idea to go to the Gold Meadows pheasant farm out of Cold Spring last Tuesday where 12 birds were put out for the three of us, Mike and Ken Muller and myself, to hunt. We ended up harvesting 11 birds and should have had about 14 if my aim would have been better. We hunted mostly unharvested corn and some grass which gave the dogs a good workout as well the three of us. Mike’s dog, Lucky, had the most points of the two English Setters. Vanna had a hen pheasant pinned against a corn stalk and ended up grabbing the bird when it couldn’t fly away. She probably saved me some embarrassment had it flown and I missed it! While walking one stretch of corn I came across two unfired 12 gauge shells (2 3/4 in.) a previous hunter had lost which fit my older O/U Red Label.
The Maple Lake Elementary Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) would like to thank the following individuals and businesses who donated items or their time for our 41st Annual Halloween Carnival: Maple Lake Lions, Maple Lake Legion, Maple Lake Messenger, Star Bank, Bernatello’s Foods, Apple Jacks Orchard, Annandale Dairy Queen, Maple Lake Elementary custodians, especially Greg Helmbrecht, Maple Lake Elementary staff, costume contest judges, MC, and our 70+ volunteers. We couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you for your help and support!
Just in case you may think I’ve lost my enthusiasm for hunting pheasants and have switched to woodpeckers, that just isn’t so. For the past couple of weeks a pileated woodpecker, like the one shown, has been buzzing around our neighborhood apparently in search of food. They’re a pretty bird and a quick check on the internet had this to say about them. “The pileated woodpecker is a large woodpecker native to North America. Roughly crow-sized, it normally inhabits deciduous forests in eastern North America, the Great Lakes, the boreal forests of Canada, and parts of the Pacific Coast.” That makes it sound like it’s out of place in ML, but hey, it adds some color to the winter gray. . . Now getting back to pheasant hunting a planned trip to the northwestern corner of North Dakota was going well until we hit a snag in the weather Sunday. We, Mike and Ken Muller, myself and three dogs, were on our way by about 7:30 a.m.