Minnesota Outdoorsman - Minnesota Fishing and Hunting Reports
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Giving coyotes a free pass during

deer season

By Steve Piatt

We’re right smack in the middle of deer season now, and chances are pretty good that at some point I’ll encounter a coyote during a whitetail hunt.

I won’t shoot the pesky canine, though, for several reasons.

While some hunters will immediately turn their deer hunt into a coyote hunt if the opportunity presents itself, I can’t make that transition, primarily for fear of disrupting my deer hunt – and likely Paula’s since we’re sometimes in a two-person stand and, if not, she’s set up not far away, certainly within earshot of my .270.

I can understand the disdain hunters have for coyotes. They undoubtedly impact deer and likely turkey populations, worse in some areas than in others I’m sure. While they often get blamed for a lot, they’re certainly not blameless when it comes to fawn predation.

And I can also understand a hunter’s rationalization that removing even one coyote from their hunting landscape can only help things. But biologists say that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, given too much hunting pressure and harvest, coyotes are capable of thumbing their noses at us by producing more pups to offset our efforts. Coyotes, it seems, are known as a “compensating species,” which basically means they’re here to stay regardless of our efforts.

But the main reason I don’t pull the trigger on a coyote – although I did once in the Adirondacks, and regretted my clean miss as well as even my attempt – is that I don’t want to disrupt our deer hunt in any way. And while I might be able to get away with shooting a coyote without hindering our chances at a whitetail, I can’t be sure of that. So the coyote gets a free pass.

I’m probably in the minority on this one, given Facebook posts and the hunting fraternity’s general hatred of the canines. If you get the urge and it’s legal to do so, fire away. Me? I’ll let the ‘yote walk, figuring there might be a buck in the area, and removing one from the landscape isn’t going to make much of an impact.

Time for the late-season rooster roll call
By Tony Peterson
The most challenging (and rewarding) time to hunt public land pheasants is from now until the end of the season. While it’s not easy, hunters willing to work will find plenty of roosters.

When it comes to pheasant hunting success, particularly on public land, there are a lot of wild cards to consider. Standing corn is a big one, and this year, the amount of water out there on the landscape is a major issue. While we should be freezing up soon, that’s not always the case for anything with a little flow to it, which means the roosters might be across a waterway from you and, in general, pretty safe.

Pheasant populations are another wild card, and while we aren’t at last year’s numbers, we aren’t without a few birds to chase around, either. The numbers are definitely good enough to justify a few days in the field, although I wouldn’t count on easy limits.

I never do, and when they occasionally come my way I’m always surprised. Mostly this time of year, it’s a matter of hunting from the moment legal shooting time begins until sunset, and then hoping there is some heft in the game bag for the effort. There usually is if you keep at it and spend your time shadowing a decent dog in good cover.

That might be the most important piece of the puzzle right now: good dogs in good cover. A great dog hunting the CRP grass where the roosters spent their time in the early season doesn’t do you much good, just as a mediocre dog in the thickest stuff on a given property isn’t so great either.

A good dog that works with you in gnarly cover is usually the key to sussing out birds on heavily hunted ground. It’s not the mowed paths and uncut milo fields of high-dollar hunts, but it sure is rewarding for anyone willing to put in the miles. As the season progresses, you’ll probably have to put on more miles and wade through thicker stuff, but the upside is the birds are easy to locate and most of your hunting competition will either stay home or hike the easiest routes.

Use that to your advantage for the remainder of the season.

Eastern equine encephalitis virus found in ruffed grouse
by Minnesota DNR Reports

(Photo by Bob Drieslein)

Three Itasca County ruffed grouse that appeared sick have tested positive for a mosquito-borne virus called eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), marking the first time the virus has been confirmed to cause illness in a Minnesota wild animal.

“Now that we’ve found the EEE virus in Minnesota grouse, we will continue to monitor grouse populations for signs of the disease,” said Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program leader for the Minnesota DNR. “It’s too soon to say how widespread the EEE virus might be in grouse populations because we only have one year of grouse sampling results from 2018.”

EEE is a rare illness in humans. People bitten by infected mosquitoes seldom develop any symptoms but the virus can be serious if they do.

The hunters who harvested the grouse brought them to DNR staff in late October after they noticed abnormal behavior in the birds – they didn’t or couldn’t fly away. When field dressing the birds, the hunters also noticed reduced muscle mass.

The DNR submitted samples from the birds to the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL). Tests concluded two and possibly a third were infected with EEE virus. The third grouse – suspected of having the virus, also had inflammation in the brain, providing further evidence that it likely also suffered from EEE. All birds tested negative for West Nile virus.

“It is rare for us to find EEE in Minnesota, but this year we’ve diagnosed the virus in these grouse and a horse,” said the VDL’s Dr. Arno Wuenschmann. “I initially suspected that West Nile virus caused the encephalitis but molecular tests conducted on the grouse in collaboration with the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University proved EEE virus was to blame.”

The EEE virus is typically found in the eastern United States and along the Gulf Coast but also has been found in other states, including Michigan and Wisconsin.

Prior to this discovery, the DNR had confirmed that wolves and moose in northeastern Minnesota had been exposed to the virus but never found animals of either species sick with the disease.

In 2018, the DNR began asking hunters to submit grouse samples for West Nile virus testing. Samples collected the first year showed 12 percent of the birds had been exposed to West Nile virus but none had been exposed to EEE.

“We’ll keep testing samples that hunters submit for both viruses,” Carstensen said. “Hunters who harvest sick grouse also can help us by contacting a nearby DNR area wildlife office so they can submit those samples for testing, too.”

As with any wild game, care should be used when processing the animal to avoid cuts that could cause potential infection. Any game that appears abnormal – either in the field or after dressing – should not be consumed. Hunters with questions about what they harvest can contact a nearby DNR area wildlife office.

Grouse sampling information can be found on the DNR website.


By Brad Smith (October 2017)

Now this is one big deer. 

Duluth, Minnesota has a lot of deer. They have so many deer in fact that once a year, the city opens up to a public deer hunt to help reduce the population within city limits.

One hunter partaking in this city hunt, Leif Birnbaum, was positioned in a treestand in a purposefully unnamed neighborhood. Then, all of a sudden, a cow-sized buck came walking right into his range and Birnbaum let his arrow fly.

"I couldn't believe how big it was," Birnbaum said in an interview with the Duluth News Tribune. "I'd never seen a deer on the ground that big. It was the biggest body I'd ever seen. We just stood there thinking, 'How are we going to get it out of here?'"

After field dressing out to 260 pounds, this deer could have easily topped 300 pounds on the hoof. Birnbaum does not plan to get his big deer mounted. As he stated, he didn't think the antlers were particularly big. It was just the size of the body that made this deer so special.

With that being said, the hunter does plan to get a European mount made instead.

Goodness gracious, what a land-cow!