Minnesota hunters register 111,000 deer through third weekend of firearms season

Minnesota hunters registered 111,000 deer through the third and last weekend of firearms deer season, down 31,000 from the same period last year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported this afternoon.

So far this year during special hunts and the archery, early antlerless and firearms seasons, hunters have killed 127,000 deer, down from the 2013 to-date harvest total of 144,000.

This year’s lower harvest is by design because regulations were implemented to place more deer — particularly does — off limits to increase Minnesota’s deer population.

In a news release, the DNR said its ongoing deer management work also includes upcoming revisions to the deer population goals for large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota. This is part of a multi-year goal-setting process for the entire state. People interested in helping set these deer population goals can get more information on the process and opportunities for involvement here.

Additional deer will be taken during the late season in southeast Minnesota, which runs through Sunday, and the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday and continues through Dec. 14. The archery season is open through Dec. 31.

Monday Lake of the Woods ice update

Joe Henry of Lake of the Woods Tourism sent out an ice update for the big lake late this morning.

Here’s his report:

Wearing his trademark fox hat, R.C. Carlson of Red Fox Ice Fishing uses a snowmobile to pull a fish house across the ice Saturday in the Northwest Angle area of Lake of the Woods. (Lake of the Woods Tourism photo)

“The ice is forming nicely and water clarity looks good. Current ice report, Four-Mile Bay, 7-9 inches; Bostic Bay, 11 inches; Zippel Bay, 5-8 inches. On the lake, there’s 8 inches of ice in front of Pine Island, 3 to 4 inches off Zippel Bay and 3 inches near Birch Beach.

“There are some cracks and areas that need more time,” Henry said. “Everything depends upon weather. Some resorts may allow ATV travel after Thanksgiving. Water is looking clear. Some local guides have been catching walleyes. Pike spearing going well. Ice fishing season is shaping up nicely. When it’s time, work through resorts and follow marked ice trails.”

Farther north, Henry says there will be ATV and snowmobile traffic after Thanksgiving up at the Northwest Angle, where there’s 7 to 8 inches of ice in Minnesota waters and 3 to 5 inches in current areas.

“Many cracks as common this time of year,” Henry said. “Looking forward to this week of cold weather.”

Some resorts at the Angle will be setting out rental houses Dec. 10, Henry said.

On the Rainy River, Henry says there’s 5 inches of ice in front of Timber Mill Park in Baudette, Minn., in front of Baudette Bay and at the airport. Some walleyes being caught in 14 to 18 of water of water in the evenings by locals who know the ice, Henry said — safety first.

Given Lake of the Woods’ popularity as a winter fishing destination, lodging will be at a premium when ice fishing hits full swing. For more information on lodging availability, click here.

Friday ice update

Devils Lake continues to make ice, and it won’t be long before anglers begin venturing out in some areas — if they haven’t already.

Satellite image of Devils Lake from today.

I checked out the MODIS Today website, which provides daily satellite images from across the country, this afternoon. There were just enough clouds to slightly obscure the view of Devils Lake, but it’s apparent ice is beginning to form in many areas.

As the satellite photo here shows, the areas with the most ice are a bluish-white color while the parts of the lake with the least ice appear as more of a solid blue. Judging by the satellite imagery, that means Main Bay has the least ice while Pelican Lake in the upper left-hand corner and areas farther east have better ice. Smaller lakes to the north have been frozen for the past week.

Today’s satellite view of Lake of the Woods.

Looking to the east, clouds also obscured part of Lake of the Woods, but today’s satellite imagery shows Big Traverse Bay, which comprises the bulk of Minnesota waters, is mostly ice-covered, as is Buffalo Bay in Manitoba and portions of Ontario waters farther east. The ice likely will move and shift a bit with the wind over the next few days until it’s better established, but all signs point to one of the earliest starts to ice fishing in several years.

It’s hard to believe I was out there in a boat less than three weeks ago.

Ice fishing already is in full swing on Upper Red Lake, which is considerably shallower than either Lake of the Woods or Devils Lake and among the first big lakes in the region to freeze. A couple of resorts, West Wind and Rogers’ on Red, are allowing ATV and snowmobile traffic, but anglers who venture out are advised to stay on the staked trails where ice thickness has been confirmed. There’s already a solid 9 inches in places, from what I’ve read.

The cover story in this coming Sunday’s outdoors section features an update on “The Big Three” — Devils Lake, Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake — and fishing outlooks for this winter. You’ll find the story here on Sunday.