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PAUL NELSON COLUMN: Deer season is here

Paul Nelson

The rifle deer season begins on Saturday morning, Nov. 4. This should be a good year for local hunters to have success and put some venison in the freezer for the winter.

Hunters in section 184, which includes most of the Bemidji area, are allowed to harvest either sex deer this season because of a forecast surplus of deer in the region.

The weather favors hunters this year, with cooler temperatures for hanging deer and snow cover on the ground to help hunters track deer and also help them see the deer moving through the woods against a white background.

Most deer hunters don’t mind cooler temperatures. One of the few potential frustrations is having the harvested deer freeze when hunters try to hang them for a couple of days before processing.

Most hunters feel that aging the deer helps improve the flavor of the venison. It doesn’t matter if the aging happens on the carcass or in the controlled temperatures of a refrigerator when the venison is taken out of the freezer to thaw and eat.

Hunters can process their deer as soon as the next day with no negative effects. Hunters that have their deer processed usually do the aging on the carcass, while hunters that cut up their own deer can do the aging in their refrigerator, with a long shelf life after they thaw their processed venison.

Hunters that process their own deer may want to consider taking off the hide before letting the deer hang, in order to avoid having to remove a hide that is frozen to the animal.

Anxious for ice

Many anglers are anxious for ice fishing, which usually begins on the shallow lakes sometime around Thanksgiving in the Bemidji area. Anglers may get on the ice earlier this year if the current cold weather pattern continues.

Regardless of when the lakes freeze, anglers should have some time between the end of the rifle deer season and the beginning of the ice fishing season to get their gear ready.

Most anglers have put their boats away for the season. There are always a few anglers that hold out until the last moment, hoping for one more warm up before the lakes begin to freeze.

The Rainy River is one place where anglers may be able to extend the open water season for a little while longer.

There are two migrations of walleyes going on in the Rainy River late in the fall. Some walleyes from Lake of the Woods follow the emerald shiners in and out of the river in a feeding migration.

Another group of walleyes leave the upper regions of the Rainy River and the tributaries flowing into the Rainy River in order to spend the winter in Lake of the Woods, where water temperatures are slightly warmer and food sources are more stable.

The persistent wind this fall has been helping keep the lakes open longer. A thin crust of ice usually begins to form around the edges of the lakes first, before the lakes finally freeze over at night, when winds are light and temperatures are at their lowest point of the day.

The ideal situation would be a seamless transition from the rifle deer season into the ice fishing season without too much of a gap.

Anglers only need a little time to make the transition from summer to winter. Anglers need rods, auger and sonar, with the rest of the stuff not really essential for ice fishing.

This means starting the auger to be sure it runs and charging the sonar batteries to be sure they are ready for another winter.

Anglers should also put new line on their reels for winter. Anglers don’t need as much line for ice fishing because there is no casting or trolling involved. They just have to have enough line to reach the bottom plus a little extra line to play a big fish.

Anglers can use straight fluorocarbon line during the winter for maximum performance, using 2- to 6-pound test line, depending on the type of presentation being used.

Paul A. Nelson runs the “Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.”  He can be contacted at

Paul Nelson
Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.