Brute’s Bleat: December 24, 2013


Last week Wednesday seemed like a good day to chase rooster tails so the three of us, Anna, Vana and myself, decided to head southwest toward Montevideo with temps predicted for the middle 30s. The roads were ice- and snow-free and about 9:15 a.m. we spotted our first rooster of the day, one that was pecking for grain or grit along the railroad south of Willmar. We didn’t stop considering there wasn’t any cover close by and the Hwy. 23 right-of-way was filled with snow drifts. This was just west of Raymond and we spotted two more roosters and a hen just east of the same town, again along the tracks in the wide-open spaces. We didn’t even hesitate for those two. After a late breakfast in Montevideo we hunted a WMA south of Clarkfield which we knew contained a corn food plot. By then it was after 11 a.m., but we spotted a hen pheasant in the corn rows as we walked along the north end. We flushed two hens out of the standing corn and they promptly flew into some cattails just beyond the WMA on private property. We continued heading south and got into Lincoln and Lyons counties and looked at some Walk-in Plots as well as other public ground. I picked out smaller swamps that contained cattails and we continued to flush hens, but no roosters. I suspect the roosters had been chased enough to head for cover in the larger swamps. We saw one more rooster, this time next to a farm yard grove but too close to the buildings to hunt. We ran into several other hunters, some were solo and others were in pairs.  It was a fairly quiet day, but we didn’t hear anyone shooting and assumed they weren’t doing very well either.  One other thing that slowed us up was the snow drifts on some of the north/south township roads that made them impassable for our low-clearance Focus. There was definitely more snow down in that area with standing corn, grass and ditches blown full. 
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Anyone thinking about fishing up north should be concerned about the flooding that has taken place because of the snow depth which apparently is too heavy for the ice.  Local fishermen have run into that problem in the Park Rapids area using 4-wheelers and haven’t been able to get where they wanted to fish. The slush also does a number on the ATVs in the cold weather. Mille Lacs and Leech lakes both have slush which hampers travel, but both lakes will improve with continued cold weather. The DNR has this to say: Warning, ice is not strong enough for vehicles (released December 19, 2013).
With recent reports of vehicles breaking through the ice from Douglas to Beltrami counties, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is cautioning everyone about driving on the ice. 
“Ice is never 100 percent safe,” said Capt. Greg Salo, DNR enforcement manager. “Winter recreationists need to think twice before driving out on the ice because the ice in many places is still not strong enough to support vehicles. No fish is worth your life,” he added.
Last winter (November to April), six people died in Minnesota from breaking through the ice. All the deaths involved either a snowmobile or vehicle.
If a vehicle breaks through the ice, the owner is responsible for removal and must report it to the county sheriff. If the vehicle is not removed within 30 days, the owner is subject to fines.
The DNR recommends anyone heading out on the ice should check with a local bait shop or resort – ask about ice conditions – and measure the ice. The DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are: 4 inches for walking, 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV, 8-12 inches for a car, 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.
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If you’re thinking spring, consider applications for the 2014 turkey hunt will be accepted at license vendors and online through Friday, Jan. 10th. The spring hunt will consist of six 5-day and two 7-day seasons.
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If memory serves me right Sunday was the beginning of our days getting longer, which means we’ve turned the corner on sunlight, but not necessarily on cold weather. December was a cold one, but as long as the furnaces keep running it was tolerable. And a Happy New Year to each of you.