MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL, Minn., March 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/– The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MSHSCTL) will host 6,100 student athletes representing 185 high school teams in the sport of trapshooting for the 2014 spring season. Led by the support of their schools and more than 1,800 volunteer coaches, thousands of student athletes will participate in shooting sports weekly April through June at 106 shooting ranges throughout Minnesota. Continue reading Clay Target League is Minnesota’s Fastest-Growing & Safest High School Sport
The first big game animal I hunted was the whitetail. The deer season in Minnesota generally started in early November and ran for nine days, which was the usual period of the rut.
I was a shotgun hunter at the age of ten, but didn’t start hunting deer until I was 25. There were no deer in southwestern Minnesota when I was a youngster, and it wasn’t until I moved to the Twin Cities that I lived near forest areas that held a population.
I purchased an army surplus .30-‘06 rifle and made my first hunt in the Carlos Avery Game Preserve, 30 miles north of the Twin Cities. I knew nothing about the sport. I had scouted the area and found a little meadow in the middle of the forest that I thought would be a good place to start. Opening morning, I succeeded in finding my position. Daylight came, the sun rose, but the woods were quiet except for an occasional shot in the distance. I was full of anticipation and at about 9:30 a.m., a deer appeared at the edge of the meadow, about 50 yards away. I almost exploded, but managed to get into action and fired. It dropped! I walked over to my trophy, and there lay a little doe.
I studied, visited with experienced deer hunters, and read everything that I could find about the sport. I purchased a new Winchester Model 70 rifle in .30-‘06 at a cost of $100. At that time, the model 70 had the reputation of being the best factory rifle and that reputation continues today. I mounted a 4X Weaver scope, and had a combination that would handle any big game animal in North America.
The cost of factory rifle ammunition is expensive. The ammunition cost in actual hunting is minor, but in order to be a good shot, you must practice. You can burn up a lot of ammo on the rifle range. I learned to handload ammunition, cutting cost significantly.
The learning curve lasted several years. In the meantime, I hunted every fall and was able to bring home a doe. I never took a buck, because I considered any deer fair game and didn’t wait for a buck to appear.
In the past sixty years, I have learned much regarding successful whitetail hunting and am still learning. After a few years, my deer hunting territory widened to cover most of northern Minnesota and I became more particular of the quality of deer I would take. Fawns were off limit after that first hunt and I slowly became a buck hunter.
The Superior National Forest in extreme northeastern Minnesota was logged in the early 20th Century and the second growth timber was cut in the 1950s. Once the canopy of large trees was removed, the small trees and brush cover prospered, producing excellent browse for deer, and the deer population exploded. I found an area about 35 miles north of Lake Superior off the Sawbill Trail that appeared ideal. The region had been logged a few years earlier and there were a number of logging roads leading back into the forest. One particular trail caught my attention. There was an open stretch of road about a half mile long where I counted six well-used game trails.
On opening morning, I set up a small metal folding chair at the midpoint and sat down with my lunch and thermos to watch for activity. A storm was brewing. It was a dull, dark, overcast day with a moderate south wind, temperature was near freezing, and a light rain was forecast to change to snow — typical northern Minnesota weather. I made up my mind to wait for a decent, mature buck. It wasn’t long before I saw a doe cross the road about 300 yards to my right. A little while later, another crossed, going in the opposite direction. Several more showed, crossing the road — more deer than I had ever seen in such a short time.
At 10:30 a.m., I was looking to my left when a buck appeared at the edge of the forest, no more than fifty yards away. He stopped just inside the trees and looked to his right, away from me. His antlers were magnificent, larger than anything that I had ever seen. I raised my rifle and fired. He took one great leap and crashed across the trail into the forest behind me. I wasn’t sure where I had hit him, but I thought that it was a lung shot — my favorite. I waited a few minutes and then followed his track. He piled up a hundred yards from the road.
He was the largest deer I had ever taken to that time, and the largest that I would ever take in Minnesota. He was a heavy, eight-point buck with long, symmetrical tines.Nothing stays the same, however, in the hunting and fishing world. The brush grew up and the hunting in that area declined.
After I left the Arrowhead country near Lake Superior, I began to lose confidence in my ability to find a Minnesota deer that I was really looking for. I often visited taxidermy shops after the Minnesota season and saw bucks that would knock your eyes out, but they were usually taken by weekend hunters who were just plain lucky. To shoot a record book quality deer in Minnesota you had to have luck. Several hundred thousand hunters were in the woods during the short season.
In the ensuing years, I would hunt for a few days during the Minnesota season, but also make short trips to either Wyoming or Montana where the country is more open. I saw more deer out west and never failed to bring home a quality buck. My favorite area was the Black Hills of Wyoming on the eastern border, adjacent to South Dakota. The hills are heavily timbered, but there isn’t as much underbrush, so visibility is good. There is a large population of whitetails, and hunting pressure is quite light, especially in Wyoming.
An anecdote that I remember in minute detail occurred there on a four-day hunt over the Thanksgiving holiday in 1969. I had been hunting this particular area for several years and knew the terrain very well. One of my favorite stands was located on a ridge where I had a view of a broad area of excellent country. In the past, I had seen many deer there, so was quite optimistic. There was snow on the ground but it was old and no new snow had been added for several days. The ground was covered with old tracks.
I arrived just before sunrise and made myself comfortable, intending to spend the morning. I saw an occasional doe early on, but not the usual activity. About 10 o’clock a whole herd of deer moved into a small patch of grass about 150 yards below me. The rut was on. I didn’t take time to count all the deer, but I would guess that there were 20 to 25 does and two small bucks. They moved to the grass and then stopped to look around. Just as they began to feed, I saw a mammoth buck come in behind them. He was the one that I was looking for. I had my Winchester Model 70 in .270 caliber. I raised my gun to my shoulder, took careful aim and fired. The country erupted with deer running in every direction — and my buck with them. I had plenty of time, as the deer hadn’t spotted me and the wind was OK. I had a perfect hold. There was some small brush in the line of sight, but I aimed to shoot through it.
I first looked for blood on the snow, but found none. I tried to follow the tracks but there were too many to recognize a buck track. I spent the rest of the day working the entire country, as I knew that he was dead; but not where he had gone. I stayed all day, but failed to find any evidence of a dead deer. The bullet must have a hit a small twig or branch and was deflected. I didn’t take the time to truly analyze the quality of the antler, but he had at least ten points with heavy mass.
I was so enamored with deer that I set a challenge for myself to collect all the whitetail subspecies in North America that could be legally hunted and also continue my search for a record book trophy. I began to travel to the places that were producing big antlers. I concentrated on Texas, eastern Colorado, Kansas, Alberta and Saskatchewan. In looking for subspecies, I hunted South Dakota, Iowa, Montana, Alabama, Missouri and Mexico. I was busy traveling from one place to another, and seldom returned from a trip without an animal (all bucks) and took some with nice racks. All were eight points or better in the mid-trophy class of 140 to 155 inches, with a few over 160. It was not uncommon to see more than 50 bucks a day in Texas.
The prairie provinces of Canada (Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba) are noted for the largest body size. Deer weighing more than 200 pounds to nearly 300 are not uncommon. The population density is not high, but the chance for a real trophy antler is best there. I made a number of excursions to Alberta and Saskatchewan, but hunting there was often frustrating.
Jim Shockey, an outdoor journalist and outfitter friend, contacted me in the summer of 1998 and told me that he had just purchased a hunting camp north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He expected that it would produce some outstanding trophies, as it had not been hunted for a number of years. He had some openings the last week of the season, which was early December. It can be bitter cold at that time, but I decided to book a hunt.
I flew to Saskatoon where I was met by Jim’s father and was driven to the camp.
We headed to my stand well before sunrise. The blind was at the edge of a small clearing in the forest. I saw a few does, but nothing else. Just at noon, a buck appeared at the edge of the forest. I could only see his left antler but it looked impressive. He was looking away from me, so I waited to see what the other antler looked like. The full view was all I needed to decide to shoot. At the shot he bolted forward and fell within fifty yards.
I knew that I had a trophy, but when I walked to him I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the largest whitetail that I had ever seen on the hoof. The score as a non-typical was 197 4/8 inches. It also made the list as a typical with a score of 164 ½. It had 22 countable points and was the culmination of fifty years of whitetail hunting.
I went back to the Shockey camp the next year. I saw several nice bucks, but nothing to excite me. I turned my attention to some of the better Midwest farm county areas such as Iowa, Missouri and Kansas the following years, but my standards were so high that I never saw anything that tempted me.
In my travels to whitetail country I achieved my goal of collecting all the whitetail subspecies in North America.– Erwin Brown
November 2012 drew our Wisconsin gang back to northeast Minnesota for the opener of whitetail deer season as it has done for the past 12 years; however, there was a sense of something new and exciting about it this time. We had two coveted non-resident wolf tags and with the resident wolf packs growing in size and numbers, this was our chance to aide the deer and moose populations that have been in decline during those years. Today, there is an alarmingly low deer population and no visual moose population anymore.
It amazes me that I haven’t seen any pro-wolf folks show up out here to enjoy nature or experience the wolves in the wild and see what the burgeoning wolf population does to deer, moose, elk and other animals. There is very little wildlife to view anymore as one travels and camps along these wild waters and woods.
All our stands were set up that Friday in the same old spots they have always been, and a couple of wolf baits placed at locations we found during our earlier bear hunt that seemed to draw wolf every year. The tents where set, the wood stoves were pumping out heat, and with full stomachs from a good camp meal, we hit those canvas cots and sleeping bags early. We were not even asleep when the wolf pack started howling and hollering not far from our tents. Morning could not arrive soon enough.
A cold, cloudy day was a perfect opening the season. We ate a quick breakfast then made for our stands. There was not much in the way of action the first day with all fellow hunters complaining of not only the lack of deer, but of deer sign altogether. Later that evening, I worked my call to locate the wolf pack. I found them, but it was getting too late to shoot so I called just enough to alert the pack that there was an unwanted wolf in there midst. The threat of the “intruder” ticked them off to a point that they were calling and moving in on my position at a feverish pace.
The next day rolled in a barometric twin to the first with perfect hunting conditions and our group dispersing with all the excitement and anticipation they did the day before. The day was looking up as all the guys saw deer and my day ended much the same way as the first. The only difference was I added a fawn distress call to my bag of tricks just before leaving the woods for the night. The wolf pack was ready to take out the intruder at all costs and I called into my view a couple of females and immature wolves in the fading light. I slipped into the darkness returning to camp and immediately began formulating my plan to intercept the wolves the next day.
Morning arrived seemingly before we knew it with much talk around the cook tent of yesterdays hunt and renewed high expectations. I told the guys how I was going to move in on the wolf pack with hopes for a shot at a large male. We wished each other good luck along with a few high fives and were off.
For me the day was going along quite well. I saw two small eight pointers and a half a dozen does and fawns by mid afternoon and I started my two-mile hike into the middle of the wolf pack’s bedding area. Once there, I waited for them to start calling. I replied with a couple of short, low howls, and at once the pack opened up! My plan was in full swing and I needed to stay downwind and out in front of them until I was able to reach a clearing from an old clear cut and draw them into it.
As soon as I got to the clear cut, I gave another howl as well as a shot volley on my fawn distress. The wolves went crazy and it seemed that the entire pack was out for blood. I was not at my ambush location for more then a minute when I noticed a large male slip into the clear cut 225 yards below me. As he stopped to see if he could see and or wind the intruder I steadied my Ruger in 7mm Rem. Mag. topped with a Simmons Pro Hunter scope high on the shoulder and fired. At the shot, the Hornady 154-grain bullet dropped the large wolf in his tracks. Wow! I watched for any further movement in case a follow up shot was required, then noticed that some of the pack was within yards of me running around wondering what just transpired. I wasted no time getting to where my wolf had dropped. I found him stone dead but still looking like he could come to life any second and use that nasty set of teeth on me.
It was now getting dark and I had about two miles to hike back to camp to retrieve the guys to help get the big wolf out of the woods. I tagged him and tossed my jacket on top of him and was off. I had taken my shot at about 4:15 that afternoon and by the time we got back in camp with the wolf it was about 9:00 at night
It was a successful and historic 2012 wolf hunt for me, but for the first time we went home from deer camp without a mature buck. The gang was still happy to have hunted though, and enjoyed the camaraderie that goes with it. We cannot wait until 2013 so we can do it all over again.–Joel Johnson
The Lake Superior Chapter of Safari Club International recently donated $9,500 to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allowing the department to add a third K-9 unit to its ranks.
Dale Bruder, Lake Superior Chapter SCI president, said of the donation, “We believe organizations like ours have to work hand-in-hand with conservation officers because we’re against everything they are against — poachers and violators of any kind. Our board thought it was an excellent idea for the organizations to work together.”
K-9 “Axel” and his partner, Conservation Officer (CO) Pat McGowan of Hastings, have already completed nearly 12 weeks of human tracking, obedience and evidence search field training conducted by CO Travis Muyres, a certified K-9 trainer and experienced DNR K-9 team handler.
According to Lt. Todd Kanieski, K-9 unit coordinator, the dog comes in “green,” which allows DNR to train the K-9 how the department wants. Kanieski added that the internal “working drive” of both dog and handler are paramount to the success of the K-9 team. “Being a K-9 handler carries a lot of extra responsibility,” he said. “The handler must have a proven history of making solid decisions in the field. The dog must be social around people.”
Conservation officers typically work alone in a 650 square mile patrol area and the DNR working dog model is a lot like the civilian law enforcement patrol dog. It takes a dog of steady, stable character but capable of controlled aggression under certain circumstances, such as on command, when attacked, or when the handler is attacked. The added dimension of a DNR K-9, however, is the ability to sniff out game and fish violations, which is a force multiplier noted Kanieski.
“Searching for trace blood evidence or a shell casing in a large field or wooded area could take multiple officers several hours, but with the right K-9 team, that task can be done in minutes and the area would be more thoroughly searched,” Kanieski said,“We have had great success at finding fish/game evidence and shell casings in the field. That evidence helps us in protecting our natural resources. A K-9 makes sure of that.”
The K-9s are a small part of the DNR Enforcement Division and relies primarily on private donations from organizations such as SCI that have a heavy interest in conservation education and humanitarian projects. The ability to protect natural resources was a big reason why SCI made such a generous donation to the DNR K-9 program. “We see the benefits of establishing good rapport with game agencies, so this fell right in line with what our chapters need to do,” said Derron Wahlen, SCI field coordinator. Funds to assist with the acquisition of a K-9 are raised through SCI chapter fundraisers. “Without the support of the Lake Superior Chapter of the Safari Club…we would not be adding a third K-9 unit,” said Kanieski.