Paul Nelson: Bemidji area anglers trading rods for rifles
Anglers are still able to get their boats into virtually all of the local lakes. Many anglers, however, will be trading their life jackets and fishing rods for orange clothing and deer rifles this weekend.
Early Saturday morning, some people reading this column will be sitting in a deer stand deep in the woods or on the edge of a field long before dawn arrives, waiting for the Minnesota firearms deersSeason to open one-half hour before sunrise.
One of the better parts of opening morning occurs when hunters finally get into their stand and start to listen to the woods settle after all the noise they made climbing into the stand.
People don't normally have to listen as hard as they do when deer hunting. Any noise or any movement could be a deer moving past their location.
It can be particularly unnerving to kick up a deer when walking to the stand in the dark or to have several deer come by the stand before it is light enough to see.
It is interesting to note how early that first audible shot on opening morning occurs. It is usually very early and still very dark, so it is hard to imagine taking a safe and accurate shot out of your own stand at that same moment.
This year there will be more than 500,000 deer licenses sold in Minnesota, with the state whitetail deer herd estimated at approximately one million animals.
The rifle deer season is starting one week later than it has for many years, which should help because more deer should be actively in the rut.
Male deer are notoriously wary most of the the time but during the rut both bucks and does can become distracted, which plays into the favor of the hunters, especially early in the season.
The cool temperatures will be perfect for preserving the meat after a successful harvest. Some years the opener has been so warm there is danger of the meat spoiling if it is not processed or refrigerated immediately.
Venison is the ultimate organic free-range meat. If it is processed and cooked properly, it is lean, healthy and delicious prepared a number of different ways. Many hunters look forward to eating the venison tenderloins fresh, which are the equivalent of the fillet minion in beef.
The fishing opener in May and the first day of the rifle deer season in November are easily the two biggest days of the year in the Minnesota outdoor sporting calendar.
Good luck to the hunters this weekend. Have a safe hunt and always be sure of your target and know what is in the background in the area you are hunting.
Non-hunters should remember to play it safe and wear some orange when going outside, walking to the mailbox or just out walking in areas where there could be deer hunters in the woods.
Hunters are required to wear blaze orange on the top half of their body and most hunters wear orange from head to toe when they are in the woods.
Even just wearing an orange hat can help non-hunters to be safe. The goal is not just to avoid looking like a deer. Orange is the most visible color in the woods. Hunters need to be able to see far into the background behind where they are shooting. A flash of orange color anywhere in their sights will stop a hunter from shooting and could prevent an accident from happening.
Once hunters have bagged their deer, there is still time to go back out on the lakes. Muskie anglers are usually the most hard-core anglers and a few die-hard muskie anglers will stay on the lakes until they can no longer get their boats into the water.
Muskies are fatter in the fall than at any other time of the year. They have already started to form their eggs for next spring. If someone were to catch a new state record muskie, it would probably happen in the fall. The cool thing about muskie anglers is many of them would likely release the fish, even if they thought it could be the record.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org