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Issue 3 • Edition 4

Featured in this issue


• Four For Fall By: Brian S. Peterson • 10 Year Old Shoots 10 Pointer By: Jim Kalkofen • Walleyes & Weather By: Ted Takasaki • Fall Planting Leads To Spring Color by: Sheila Helmberger • Bowhunting Allows Portal To Nature By: Bill Marchel • Deer Antlers By: Jim Kalkofen PLUS MORE!

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Each year Labor Day seems a little more subdued because as we get older we realize that life is made up of just so many Labor Days, and we have now opened the coupon book of life and redeemed yet another. Even more than that, though, it is to us lake dwellers the day that ushers out another summer season. It is a subtle reminder that soon the leaves that rustled in the tree tops, on those soft summer breezes, will turn into a collage of dazzling colors and then all too soon they will glide softly to the ground below, leaving the trees and bushes that bore them naked in the icy crushing winds of winter. The garden will be littered with the spoils of the crop that never made it to the table or the canning jar. The flower beds will no longer be attractive, instead filled with dried up blossoms from flowers that once showed off their beauty in the warm summer sun, and gave up their sweet nectar to honey bees and humming birds. A worn baseball glove now lies on the porch where it was dropped after the last game of catch, and a bicycle leans against the railing, a shiny spider web glistening with the early morning dew drops, now stretches from the pedal to the frame. The evenings come early now, and you can feel the cold slowly sneaking in, chasing away the summer’s warmth. The grass is wet with dew in the mornings and an eerie fog hangs over the lake, as the cold air hits the warm water. The little yellow baby ducklings now resemble their parents, bobbing upside down in the water, their bills foraging in the shallow lake bottom. The spotted fawn that had peeked from between its mother legs down by the garden now has a coat that matches hers, and stands and looks over mothers back, her tail flickering nervously as she watches for danger. The eaglets are gone from the big nest by the

by Mike Holst

river; the proud parents sit high in the tree their piercing yellow eyes and snowy white crowns, looking out over their lofty domain. Their work is done until next year, and yes, they too know its Labor Day. The dock is empty now and lily pads have filled in one side of the beach just to give it a little class. A swirl in the water appears as a bass reaches up to take a water beetle for lunch, his tail breaks the surface and then there is only ripples that spread out in an ever widening circle, and then like the days of summer, they too fade away. There are no more children’s voices echoing out over the water as they cannonball of the dock. No more screaming and laughing as they frolicked in the shallows like seal pups in a tropical cove. A given up for lost red and white plastic bobber with white fishing line still attached to it, rocks back and forth hopelessly entangled in the lily pads. Overhead on a tree branch hangs a red and white spoon, the victim of an erroneous cast. A yellow rope that once held a boat to the dock now hangs uselessly in the water, slipping back and forth with the waves; the boat now put away, for it is Labor Day. On the porch the old man sits and rocks slowly back and forth in the weathered wooden swing. His sweat-stained hat now lies in his lap, the sun is no longer a threat and the warmth feels so good on his tired aching bones. His damp blue eyes look out over the lake for some sign of activity. Those eyes that have searched these waters so many times before from the dock, the boat, the shore. The same eyes that twinkled with joy when his grandson pulled in yet another sun fish, way last spring. Eyes that today brim with tears because he knows that now, and in the cycle of his life, it’s Labor Day.




Welcome ...................................... 3 Four For Fall .................................. 5 Bowhunting Allows Portal To Nature ..... 7 10-Year Old Shoots 10 Pointer .. 10

Page 13 Page 17

Your Best Shot ............................ 12 Fall Planting Leads to Spring Color .. 13 Walleyes & Weather.................. 15 Muskie Myths & Legends .......... 17 Deer Antlers ............................... 19

MUSKIE MYTHS 506 James Street • P.O. Box 974 Brainerd, MN 56401 (218) 829-4705 4

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STAFF: Publisher .................................. Terry McCollough Advertising Director ................... Tim Bogenschutz Copy Editor ............................................Roy Miller Special Projects Coordinator ......... Meagan Matich Marketing Coordinator .................Monica Nieman Magazine Layout ................................ Tyler Nelson Ad Design .......................................... Jeff Dummer, Andy Goble, Nikki Lyter, and Tyler Nelson Sales........................... Roger Barnard, Linda Hurst, Kristine Roberts, Glen Santi, Carla Staffon, Jill Wasson and Dave Wentzel Outdoor Traditions is a trademarked magazine published by the Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 976, Brainerd, MN 56401. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. ®2006


For avid trail users, four must-see segments of the Paul Bunyan Trail — and the adjoining Heartland Trail

The Heartland Trail picks up from the Paul Bunyan Tail, just off Highway 34, northwest of Hackensack, and will take you on a scenic tour of Walker, among other places. THE CONVENIENCE STORE WAS, WELL, NOT OVERNisswa to Merrifield, trailhead and parking lot are located L Y C O N V E N I E N T . At least not from here, and not in comoff Highway 371, just south of downtown Nisswa behind the parison to the other amenities of the trail. Triangle convenience store. A bicyclist or in-line skater or jogger or walker or any of The route: The trailhead is across from Bell Train Resort the other types the trail attracts had to leave the trail and and North Long Lake. Stretches along North Long Lake, sevnearby trailhead, walk to County Road 3, cross County Road eral smaller lakes and resorts, through woodlands and along 3 and go another 50 yards to reach the store for a refresh- short stretches of prairie — wear your orange or red during ment or energy boost or whatever. the deer hunting season as the occasional stand can be seen A good 100 yards from the trail. So, yes, not totally incon- on each side of the trail. At about the two-thirds mark, the venient, either. But with everything that can be found on — trail crosses County Road 19/Clark Lake Dam Road, where or just off — the trail ... you’ll find a nice rest area on one side of the trail and beautiThis stretch of the Paul Bunyan Trail — Merrifield to ful Clark Lake and the public lake access/dock on the other Nisswa — includes many of the same things that draw peo- side. From there, the trail dissects two smaller, environmenple to the lakes area as a whole: lakes, woodlands, wildlife tal lakes, one on the left and another on the right, about a and, depending on what you’re looking for, peace and quiet mile from the Nisswa trailhead/parking lot, which is a short or the hustle and bustle that comes with a small tourist town walk or bike from downtown Nisswa and all the bustling in the summertime. Or a little of both, if you like. town (at least in the summer and, to a certain extent, the The Paul Bunyan Trail, like this area, can be anything you fall) has to offer. want it to be, providing a good running, biking or in-line Trail highlight: For lake lovers, the stretch from just south skating workout or the venue for a leisurely ride or stroll of where the trail crosses County Road 19/Clark Lake Dam through lake country. Road to Nisswa is a must-see. The Merrifield-to-Nisswa stretch offers all of the above, as do many other segments of the trail and it’s sister trail — the East Twin Lake to Pequot Lakes Heartland Trail. Distance: 4.3 miles. Most any stretch will do. But as the colors change from Parking: Limited (at East Twin Lake public access and, to summer greens to fall brilliance, the following are four must- the south, along Wilderness Road). see stretches of the trail, in order going north from Baxter, Trail type: Mostly flat — 78-foot gain in altitude from start where the Paul Bunyan Trail begins. to finish (1,224 feet-1,302 feet). How to get there: From Brainerd, take Highway 371 north Merrifield to Nisswa to Wilderness Road or about a mile further north to the East Distance: 7.3 miles. Twin Lake public access. Parking: Yes. The route: From Wilderness Road, West Twins Lake is visTrail type: Mostly flat — 22ible on the other side of Highway 371. Then, after a short foot gain in altitude from start open stretch, the trail is again consumed by forest, with to finish (1,198 feet-1,220 feet). East Twin Lake soon visible to the right. Less than a mile in, How to get there: From East Twins Lake is visible just to the right. You see more and Brainerd, take County Road 3 more of the lake as you go along, and about a mile in, the north to Merrifield. Turn left public access butts up against the trail. The lake skirts the on East Bell Train Road — at trail for about another half mile, slowly giving way to forest, the sign to Bell Train Resort. then farm land and pieces of the city (Pequot). A nice rest From Merrifield to Nisswa, the Paul Trailhead and parking are to Bunyan Trail winds along a number area is located to the left about two-and-a-half miles from the left. Or, if going south from of quaint lakes, including Clark Lake, the starting point, and soon after, less than a mile outside located just feet from the trail.

Photos provided by Brian S. Peterson

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of Pequot, a grass trail runs parallel to the paved trail to the left, just into the woods, for those who might prefer a more rustic trail experience. Trail highlight: Where the trail and the East Twin Lake public access come together is quite scenic, especially come fall. Just north of Hackensack to Highway 34 Distance: 11.5 miles. Parking: Yes. Trail type: Flat at first, then very hilly. The first three miles or so are flat. Then, over the next 8.5 miles, although the difference is only 10 feet from here to the end of the stretch (1,371 feet to 1,381 feet), in between, it’s a rollercoaster like no other on the Paul Bunyan Trail, with a total vertical descent of 731 feet and a total vertical ascent of 741 feet. How to get there: From Brainerd, take Highway 371 north through Hackensack. Go another four miles to County Road 50. turn left — trailhead and parking are on the right.

Trail type: Flat. How to get there: From Brainerd, take Highway 371 through Hackensack. Go another two miles to County Road 6/Lower Ten Mile Lake Road. Go west (left) — road becomes County Road 12 — to Akeley and Highway 34. Go east (right) for several miles to marked trailhead/parking lot. At the trailhead/parking lot, follow the trail less than a mile to the fork and map/overview of the Heartland Trail. At the fork, go right toward Walker. The route: Here, the Heartland Trail picks up from the Paul Bunyan Trail, which dead-ends at Highway 34. With a canopy of pines and aspens, the trail traverses a ridge of sorts, skirted on both sides by forest. Several miles in, the trail offers a spectacular view of Lake May, then hugs Leech Lake. At Walker, the trail continues along Leech Lake, with a side trail to downtown Walker, which skirts a stretch of the lake, a marina and several upscale neighborhoods before suddenly ending at the back of downtown. Trail highlight: The Heartland lives up to its name, with prairie in most every direction at the trailhead. But it was nice leaving those wide-open spaces behind for the canopy and tranquility of the forest and, later, the views of Lake May. B R I A N S . P E T E R S O N , Outdoors Editor, may be reached at brian.peterson@ or at 855-5864.

The parking lot off the Paul Bunyan Trail, just south of downtown Nisswa, is typically abuzz with trail users. The route: This stretch of the trail is all about ascent and descent, so don’t forget your safety helmet. To get to the hilly segment of the route, take the trail 2.9 miles north from the trailhead. A sign there will tell you what lies ahead: “Caution. Due to terrain, this 8.5-mile trail segment may be challenging for some in-line skaters, wheelchair users, inexperienced bikers and those with limited abilities.” There are other signs warning of steep slopes and wild curves as well, and before you know it, the trail will take you far from the sight and sounds of Highway 371 and into the heart of Chippewa National Forest. There are stretches you’ll battle to get to the top of inclines. But before you know it, you’re sailing downhill again, with enough speed to scale a good part of the next hill before kicking it into high gear to reach the top, and so on. But although ultra-hilly, no ascent or descent is overly lengthy. Trail highlight: The many downhill runs in which you have the opportunity to shoot through a variety of tight and winding curves. Highway 34 to Walker (Heartland Trail) Distance: About 7.5 miles. Parking: Yes.


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POSSESS A MINNESOTA ARCHERY DEER LICENSE AND YOU OWN A TICKET TO A G R A N D P E R F O R M A N C E . The show begins in mid-September amid green surroundings and balmy temperatures, and ends more than 100 days later when bare tree limbs yield to a northwest wind, waving goodbye to another year.

Ruffed grouse drumming commonly heard during springtime, but the forest birds also drum during the fall, especially on warm calm days. Photos provided by Bill Marchell

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A balcony seat is suggested — say 15 feet up in an As the theater lights dimmed the show’s pace inancient bur oak — but the show can be viewed from the creased. Next on stage was a doe and her roughly five main floor as well. Camouflage attire is recommended. month-old buck fawn, his future antlers just fuzz-covered I remember one particular mid-October late afternoon bumps between his ears. Shortly, another doe and her performance. I chose a balcony seat, a comfortable perch female fawn joined the initial pair. The audience — me in a dead balsam fir, the needle-less tree a victim of a — remained still and quiet. I could hear the soybeans lightning bolt. Fortunately crunch as the deer began to for me, I was absent the day fill their bellies. of the storm. Suddenly the four whiteThe stage was a soybean tails raised their heads in field, dried and crispy. Surunison, eyes and ears riveted rounding it on three sides the to my right, obviously alerted upper level seats were a wonby a noise inaudible to me. derful mix of birch, ash, oak, Out stepped two spike bucks and spruce. The lower level forty yards away, their tiny consisted of mostly of wilfinger-length antlers barely low, alder, hazel, dogwood visible to the unaided eye. and nannyberry. Whoever While waiting for an opportunity to harvest Immediately the does and decorated the theater was in- a big buck an archer often has a chance to fawns resumed feeding, and deed an outstanding artist - a observe the goings of smaller bucks like these the young bucks joined them. two youngsters testing one another’s prowess. color genius. The theater lights were dimOn the fourth side of the mer yet when a third buck stage was a pond. As I climbed to my seat, I noted a small walked onto the stage. This young buck’s antlers sported bunch of wood ducks swimming and tipping up among eight points, but his rack was small. Hunters would call the wild rice and cattails. it a basket-rack. The show started immediately upon my arrival. A Now there were seven deer feeding within 30 yards of sharp-shinned hawk glided on ridged wings low over the the base of tree in which I was perched. The doe and her stage, scattering small songbirds along the way. Only buck fawn were nearly beneath my tree when the fawn robin-sized, sharp-shinned hawks are fast and furious. began nursing. I could actually hear the sucking sounds Their favorite prey is small birds which they usually as the fawn fed. snatch from mid-air after a surprise attack. A few minutes later another 8-point buck walked into The matinee I was attending also featured several au- view and it, like the other deer began eating soybeans. dio performances. Nearby but out of sight behind a Its antlers were very similar to those of the initial 8-point maze of colorful foliage, a ruffed grouse beat its wings buck’s. The stage was set, I thought, for the two deer to from his own stage, the trunk of a fallen tree. The drum- spar with one another since they were very similar in ming tune was familiar to me; the lyrics were recogniz- size. They had another plan while they fed in proximity, able only to other grouse. unconcerned. Farther away, two barred owls were having a hoot-off, With the sun perched on the western horizon — as if perhaps discussing who has the right to a hollow in an on cue — six of the eight deer including the two 8-point old ash tree. Overhead, a flock of Canada geese claimed bucks left the stage and walked through a narrow strip of to anyone willing to listen suppertime had arrived. woods and into an adjoining soybean field. That’s when

An archer adjusts to the various weather conditions by adding or subtracting clothing. Some birds, like Canada geese, head for warmer parts and often their presence along the way with their insistent honking.


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the two bucks finally began sparring. I heard antlers clashing and rattling but because of the heavy vegetation I could only occasionally see movement. The doe and fawn that remained nearby would now and then lift their heads to look in the direction of the two sparring bucks as if attempting to discern the outcome. Roughly 30 minutes later, the battling whitetails were still going at it, but by now they had pushed and shoved themselves into a shallow wetland. Although they remained mostly out of sight, I could hear water splashing in harmony with antlers clattering. The seriousness of the buck fight was difficult to determine by hearing alone, but judging by the sounds and the duration of the brouhaha it seemed as if it was more that just playful sparring. At a half hour after sunset I climbed down from my balcony seat. As I left the stage and walked alone in the darkness I reasoned the price of admission — a mere $26 — was a bargain for even a one day-showing. Fortunately for me my ticket was valid for about 75 more days.

B I L L M A R C H E L is a wildlife

A bowhunter who hunts near water is often is often rewarded by the sight and sounds of feeding wood ducks.

and outdoors photographer and writer who lives near Fort Ripley. His work has appeared in many regional and national publications and he writes a monthly column for the Brainerd Dispatch. He can be reached at




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She was in the woods before she could walk. She loves being outdoors, hunting with Dad John and


scouting for deer, “I look for tracks, scrapes, rubs, trails, food sources and beds. I’ve been checking spots out since July for this fall’s hunt,” she said.

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Now, all this might be normal for a guy who’s been deer hunting for 20 years or more. But Jonna is now 11, and in the sixth grade at Pillager school. What may become her most memorable deer hunt occurred last fall when she was 10. Jonna told of her No. 1 lesson from the deer woods last fall, “The biggest lesson I learned was to wear warmer clothes.” Mom “Sam” Samantha (manager of Regis at the Mall), laughed, and knew that a shopping trip was in order. Jonna’s second biggest lesson was patience. Dad John said, “She hunted harder than the other guys in camp. She spent more time on stand, sat longer, and wanted to go even after school.” In fact her big buck adventure was one evening after school. The 2008 hunt started Saturday cold and windy. She was on stand with Dad from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. They hiked out for lunch, and then returned and sat until dark. Same routine Sunday. Total number of deer spotted — ZERO. Every day after school, they drove to the Aitkin area, changed, hiked to the stand (they tried many different stands during the season), but their luck was about the same. John said, “These were some of the best spots from years past, but they were devoid of deer for some reason.” The second Saturday found her in a stand, but when a small buck walked through, a tree branch prevented a clear shot. “I felt doubtful I’d ever see another buck when he walked away,” she said. “My heart was pounding and the crosshairs were wiggling more than they should have.” She also hunted Sunday — nothing. She hunted a few evenings after school, and on Thursday the ride from Pillager to Aitkin was uneventful. After sitting for awhile, “Dad thought he saw a deer sneaking through, and thought we should move into a better position. He was about half way down the ladder, when I told him my scope was fogged up.

“He climbed back and helped me clean the scope. That’s when we heard something behind us. A buck materialized in the brush. I had to shuffle and turn around because the deer was behind me.” John recalled, “There was a lot going on in the stand. I’m sure we made plenty of noise, but the deer didn’t bolt.” Jonna continued, “The buck walked out, stopped, and when I shot, it dropped. It was all so fast that I still didn’t know how big it was. That probably kept me from getting really excited.” Her .243 caliber rifle did its job. The story told with the tape and scale made the ending even sweeter. The buck had 10 points with an inside spread of almost 15 inches, weighed 175 pounds with a huge neck, and the trophy mount will soon become a permanent addition to the Seibert home. At first her friends, especially the guys, didn’t believe her. The photos and her convincing manner won them over, and she hopes this season another chapter will be written about her love of deer hunting. J I M K A L K O F E N has been in and around

boats all his life. He has been director of the largest walleye tournament circuits for two decades, and was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.


granola bars. “You won’t always see a big buck if you shoot a small one.” F A V O R I T E V E N I S O N D I S H E S : garlic venison sausage, jerky (she helps make their own), and back straps fried in garlic butter. M A S T E R L I S T O F A N I M A L S S H E W A N T S T O H U N T : deer, bear (going this fall), elk, moose and African lion. The lion (and a few other animals from the Dark Continent) made the list thanks to the taxidermy mounts displayed at the Brainerd Fleet Farm store. F A V O R I T E S C H O O L S U B J E C T : math. L O O K I N G F O R W A R D T O : meeting their new foreign exchange student from Tajikistan. Last year, she shared the house with an exchange student from Japan. FAVORITE DEER STAND FOOD: BEST ADVICE:

Photos provided by Jim Kalkofen

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Best Shot

Rose Zak, Brainerd, MN

When the fine weed began blooming in late july I didn’t have to fill the hummingbird feeder. These natural wild flowers are a great nectar source for the birds, bees & butterflies. This picture was taken in my garden (south of Brainerd)

Send a slide or print to “Your Best Shot” Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 574, Brainerd, MN 56401. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want your materials returned. Do you enjoy taking photos? Do you have a favorite image of an eagle, flower, sunset, or how about your favorite hunting partner? Here’s your chance to share it with readers of “OUTDOOR Traditions.” Send it along with a two-sentence explanation as to where, why, and how it was shot. Both could be published online and in the 50,000 copies of our new quarterly magazine, “OUTDOORS Traditions.” Each issue will have an “editor’s pick” contributed photo, including a credit line of the photographer’s name and portrait if available. If your photo is not chosen, all appropriate images will be included on the “We Spotted” section of our website. They will be displayed there for three months, running concurrently with the season and/or until the next “OUTDOOR Traditions” publishes. Deadline for the winter edition is November 24, 2009 . The Dispatch will collect images quarterly (spring, summer, fall, winter). After each issue of “OUTDOOR Traditions” publishes, we will then place the images on our website.

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FALL PLANTING LEADS TO SPRING COLOR TAKING THE TIME TO PLANT FLOWERING BULBS YET THIS FALL WILL GUARANTEE THE GIFT OF A WONDERFUL SPLASH OF COLOR, POSSIBLY EVEN B E F O R E T H E S N O W M E L T S , N E X T S P R I N G . Those Minnesota winters can last as long as six months and fall bulbs that bloom in the spring, such as a handful of tulips or crocuses popping up from the ground, can go a long way in spreading the word that the end is almost near. Garden centers in our area offer a wonderful variety of bulbs that can still be planted in the coming weeks – just when you thought gardening was over for the year. With a little careful thought about where you put them crocuses, tulips, daffodils and grape hyacinths can all be early arrivals to kick off next year’s landscaping projects. When shopping for bulbs for our area make sure to select those that are hardy enough to grow in Zone 3. It covers most of the central and northern areas in Minnesota. Fall bulbs are friendly for beginner or expert gardeners. They don’t take a lot of work, only a few minutes to plant, and if you cluster them in large groups the end result can be dynamic. The perfect planting window is between mid-September to mid-October, but the earlier the better so they get a chance at a good head start before the ground freezes. Don’t purchase your bulbs until you are ready to plant them. They can dry out which may harm your chances of blooming. Check them also for nicks or other damage that may prevent them from growing. A good healthy bulb will result in a better bloom. Find an area in the yard with an exposure that will warm up faster in the spring if you are looking for the earliest blooms possible. They like rich, well-drained soil in an area that does not attract standing water during the spring thaw. Once your bulbs are planted cover them up with about half of the soil you removed and give them a good drink of water. Cover them with the rest of the soil and then rake the area smooth. Mulch the surface with 3-5 inches of leaves, grass clippings or straw to insulate the bulbs through the winter. When the soil temperatures begin to warm up in the spring, carefully remove the layers of mulch. The hardy bulbs you plant in the fall will bloom spring after

Photo Provided by Sheila Helmberger

spring but in a few years they may need to be replaced or divided if they are starting to crowd each other. Some gardeners choose to thin their gardens and share the bulbs they remove with their friends. Cut off the faded flowers once they are done blooming to preserve the plant’s energy. Bulbs are a favorite way to plant flowers because they have few insect or disease problems. If your bulbs bloom poorly it could be for a number of reasons: Perhaps they were plant-

THINK PINK it could be your mother your sister your wife your daughter or you Let’s work together to raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection. October 2009


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ed too shallow or too late, were the wrong type for the growing zone they were planted in or were uprooted by an animal. Squirrels, chipmunks and mice all love flowering bulbs. Sometimes bulbs are known to rot. Using the wrong fertilizer or too much fertilizer will ruin the bulb, also along with soil that is too wet or if the bulbs you purchased were damaged. Weather is the most unpredictable factor when planting bulbs. A colder winter might mean a delay in their bloom but a warmer winter will find them emerging early. The idea bulb garden will feature a mixture of a variety of bulbs that will bloom all through the season.

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The Minnesota Extension Office offers the following chart to allow you to choose bulbs from each section to ensure a graden that is always in bloom.

S H E I L A H E L M B E R G E R has a jour-

nalism degree. She is a mother of three, and contributes regularly to various local publications.

Photos & Graph provided by Sheila Helmberger

Pro angler Ted Takasaki holds up a monster walleye taken during an approaching storm. In this article, meteorologist and avid angler Todd Heitkamp helps us all understand the impact weather — especially barometric pressure — has on fishing.

WALLEYES & WEATHER An easy-to-understand story about barometric pressure and its impact on your fishing TODD HEITKAMP STILL REMEMBERS THE DAY

first explained the basics of barometric pressure in a Weather 101 class at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Barometric pressure is just the weight of the air, the prof said. It constantly pushes down on everything, like a big hand. It presses down on you, the earth and the surface of the water. He went on to say that stormy weather results from low pressure, when the ‘hand of the atmosphere’ pushes down with less strength. On the opposite end of the spectrum, clear blue skies come from high pressure, or a heavy hand, the teacher said. Heitkamp instantly recognized how that analogy could help fishermen understand how fish behave. Most HIS PROFESSOR

Photo provided by Ted Takasaki

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people use a barometer simply to help them guess as to whether they should take an umbrella with them. But, barometric pressure readings can also predict whether fish are likely to be biting, or if they will soon be biting — or, perhaps, if it’s best to stay home. Time on the water has confirmed the professor was speaking the truth, according to Heitkamp, who’s been a meteorologist for the National Weather Service for the past 20 years. He also owns Dakota Angler bait & tackle store in Sioux Falls, S.D. “Weather is the most important influence on fishing,” says Heitkamp. “In the tackle industry, I see all the latest gadgets and tackle. But what people haven’t come up with is how to control the weather. If the weather

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doesn’t cooperate, there’s nothing you can do.” In simple terms, here’s how Heitkamp sees it: Barometric pressure — the weight of the air — decreases as a storm approaches. It’s called low pressure. To understand how it works, imagine the palm of that giant hand the professor talked about easing up as it presses on the water’s surface. Its touch is lighter. The water isn’t as compressed as it was, and fish can move more easily through it. The mood of many fish often changes to what we might call a more ‘active’ mood. They move around more freely and feed. A storm also brings clouds and wave-creating wind, reducing sunlight penetration. Active fish can move to shallower water. In the case of walleyes, they often rise in the water column. The sonar screen shows them moving up off the bottom. Or, they just move shallower on shoreline-connected and midlake structures. Heitkamp believes that the absolute best fishing periods often occur when barometric pressure reaches its lowest point, just before the front arrives. “The old saying, that fish bite best right before the storm,” he says, “is true.” So, Heitkamp says, the best time to head to the lake is when the forecast calls for storms moving into the area. The picture changes when the storm is over. Barometric pressure starts to rise again. The giant hand presses down harder, and the water becomes more compact. High pressure also brings clear, bluebird skies, and light penetration is often intense for the next several days. Fish feel the increased pressure and become less active. They move tight to cover or deeper, where the sun isn’t so bright. Their mood is lethargic. “With underwater cameras, you can watch fish come up to a bait and not bite it,” observes Heitkamp. “People don’t understand that, but when air pressure is high, fish become less aggressive. They just come up and look. They may eventually take it, but you have to work a little harder.” The effect of the pressure change is most pronounced on the first day after the storm passes. Heitkamp said time of year must also be considered. The impact of a change in barometric pressure is more severe in winter. For one reason, the swing between high and low pressure is more drastic during the cold months. For another, the same high pressure is affecting less water volume when part of it is locked up as ice. Heitkamp thinks fish like northern pike may be the least susceptible to changes in barometric pressure; they seem to be aggressive no matter what. But, the perch family, including walleye, may be the most impacted by the changes, followed by crappies and bluegills. Heitkamp doesn’t target muskies often, but anyone who does will tell you the best time to be on the water is when black clouds appear on the horizon. A barometer isn’t needed to know what’s happening with air pressure. Read the wind instead. “Anyone can play amateur weather forecaster,” says

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Heitkamp. “Before the (storm) front, wind is out of the south. When it switches to west-northwest, pressure begins to rise.” The old saying, “Wind from the east, fish bite the least,” has a basis in fact, he added. “Wind comes from the east the longer high pressure is in place,” he says. “By then, high pressure has taken a real toll on the fish.” Test the professor. Make your own fishing predictions for a year by looking up the barometric pressure on weather websites. Then, keep a log and see how often you’re right. Heitkamp is a busy guy, like all of us. He must go fishing when he can, whether he thinks the weather will cooperate or not. Even when conditions are less than ideal, the barometer can help put more fish in the boat if you’re willing to analyze the effect air pressure is having at that moment, he said. “When you get out on a body of water, people do what they normally have done,” theorizes Heitkamp. “We fish in a comfort zone. What they haven’t done is check the weather. If you don’t understand what the weather is doing, you’re already behind the eight ball on learning what the fish are going to want that day.” Storm coming? Then low pressure is on its way, and faster, aggressive tactics may be best. For walleyes, trolling or casting crankbaits at shallow structures may be the keys. Look for schools cruising up off the bottom. Note the changes in depth as time passes. Keep the Beckman handy. “When fish are aggressive,” he says, “you can drop anything down there.” Heitkamp likes to use live bait anytime, so he tends to be a little more conservative even when the barometer points to the aggressive end of the scale. When the barometer is moving downward, he uses bottom-bouncers and Red Devil spinners. If he must slow down, he uses Lindy rigs. He’ll slow down even more as the grip of high pressure takes hold. Jigs are one tool of choice. He’ll jig live bait on one rod to attract walleyes and use a dead-stick to get the bites. The approach works either in open water or through the ice. Because walleyes and other fish hold tight to cover, slip bobbers are another Heitkamp favorite. The lesson? You can’t do anything about the weather. But, you can watch the barometer and predict where fish will be, how they’ll behave and what tactics to use. Weather, if you understand it, can help you choose where and how to fish.

T E D T A K A S A K I is one of the country’s top pro walleye fisherman and a former PWT champion. Not only has Ted won many fishing tournaments, he is the CEO of Lindy Little Joe, Inc. maker of fine fishing products.

MUSKIE MYTHS AND LEGENDS NORTHERN MINNESOTA IS KNOWN FOR ITS DIVERSITY OF MULTI-SPECIES FISHING OPPORTUN I T I E S . In most places, walleyes are first and foremost on the hit parade, followed by pike, bass and panfish. In others, however, muskies rise to the forefront. Big, mean and frustratingly devious, their tendency to ride high in the water and follow lures to the boat, only to turn away at the last instant, drives some anglers to distraction. Fishermen return again and again, attempting

to convert follows into strikes using figure 8 maneuvers to swirl the lure at boatside before lifting it from the water. Sometimes, last-second changes in speed and direction trigger the fish into attacking. Many times, the fish simply don’t fall for it, and arrogantly turn and sink out of sight. While northern Minnesota hosts the lion’s share of natural muskie waters in our state, many other lakes have been stocked with muskies as well. Approximately

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100 waters are now managed for muskies by the Minnesota DNR. And, to the surprise of many, several of those lie within the Brainerd area. Several are well known; others, not so much. The granddaddy of all local muskie waters is Mille Lacs Lake, currently one of the best places on earth for a shot at a 50-pound-plus fish. Several muskies rivaling the 54-pound Minnesota state record have been caught here in recent years, and some feel it is strictly a matter of time until the record is broken here. In recent years, the hot ticket for summer fishing has been large, dual-bladed, straight-shaft bucktails like Cowgirls and Twin Turbos, retrieved fast to accentuate their extreme turbulence and commotion to trigger strikes. This past summer, however, was an oddity. The water never warmed to traditional summer highs, and the fish never really set up strongly in their usual areas. Muskie fishing was “off,” according to most enthusiasts. Which is why muskie nuts are eagerly anticipating fall trophy time, when muskies relate to the outer edges of midlake mudflats, typically at the 10- to 20 foot depths. Casting huge plastic softbaits like Bull Dawgs, deepdiving crankbaits, or hybrid lures like Storm Kickin’ Shads typically produces some of the largest fish of the year during this period. Also to the east of Brainerd, weedy Cedar Lake twists and turns its way across several separate basins forming a maze of small fish-holding spots. Most of the time, find healthy weedgrowth adjoining deep water and you find at least some of the fish. In addition to classic subsurface muskie lures, large topwaters are often effective here. To the west, lakes Alexander and Shamineau hold nice muskies as well. “Alex” is deep and clear, a multispecies lake with maze of offshore humps. A variety of techniques produce fish here: notably casting shoreline weedbeds, shallow rocks and reeds with traditional bucktails, jerkbaits or buzzbaits; and trolling diving crankbaits along deepweedges, and some 10- to 15 feet below the surface, around the perimeters of midlake humps where suspended ciscoes appear on your electronics. Shamineau, meanwhile, is known for expansive cane beds and shallow-water fishing patterns, such as casting oversized muskie tandem spinnerbaits and large softbaits rigged in weedless fashion. And last, but not least, the Mississippi River running right through downtown Brainerd, bisecting Crow Wing State Park and extending below the dam at Little Falls, hosts a surprisingly good population of muskies, with some of them big. (Note: The river is catch-and-release only for muskies.) Thirty pounds is not unusual, with the occasional fish pushing above. Focus your efforts along current breaks formed by

flooded wood cover, islands and shoreline points. And along eddies formed at channel bends — particularly on cloudy days, or just before sunset, when the fish are often more active than beneath a bright midday sun. Experiment with a range of baits — notably topwaters and large minnow baits ripped across the surface, which seem to produce better than most subsurface lures. Large softbaits also excel at times, however, especially as the water grows colder in fall. A word of caution, however. The upper Mississippi is no place for a large boat, and if you don’t know where you’re going and what you’re doing, you’re likely to tear off your lower unit on a rock or stump. Large expanses of the river are 3 feet deep or less, and during low water, you may have to get out and drag your boat over shallow sandbars. The few local river veterans who fish here generally use smaller boats and motors that draw little water, and learn to read the telltale signs of current deflection that reveal shallow obstructions and potential danger. In effect, the river is quite and peaceful for a reason. Most folks aren’t aware of its potential, equipped to fish it properly, willing to invest the time to unlock its secrets — or to risk the sudden appearance of a foot-deep sandbar, much less a nasty boulder field. If you like to go fast, go somewhere else. In the end, you needn’t head farther north to betterknown muskie waters if you’re after a shot at catching this elusive species. The Brainerd area hosts several excellent muskie opportunities, including a shot at some real whoppers. The fish do experience a fair amount of pressure, however, and getting follows from “educated” fish that have seen a lot of lures is more common than getting bites. Yet if you put your time in, fish prime conditions, and experiment with different lure styles and fishing areas, chances are you can fool one or more into taking a whack at what you have to offer. Catching the fish of 10,000 casts really boils down to making the right cast, in the right place, at the right time. And when the moment of truth arrives and your efforts are rewarded, treasure the moment, take a photo and gingerly let the fish go. Even in the best of waters, muskies are fairly rare and much too valuable to be caught just once. Releasing muskies to breed, to inspire and thrill anglers with their presence and potential, and to be caught again, is the backbone of maintaining nearly all muskie fisheries, far into the future. After 28 years as a magazine editor and TV angler at In-Fisherman, D A V E C S A N D A recently rejoined his old friends at Lindner Media, producers of Angling Edge Television, in Baxter.

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A Passion for Deer Antlers: From Hunting to Collecting to Crafting




It occupies thousands of hours of planning, hiking, standbuilding, shooting and travel. It consumes millions of dollars in gear, clothing, lodging, leases, taxes, fuel and food. More Minnesotans deer hunt than attend all home games of the Minnesota Vikings. For Dale Livingood, hunting became a passion at an early age. He moved up from the Twin Cities eight years ago to live closer to the outdoors. He calls rural Crosslake home and doesn’t have to venture far from his front door. Those early years of deer hunting in Minnesota and Wisconsin, plus later trips to Alberta and Saskatchewan, kept him searching for bigger and bigger bucks. “A big buck is truly one of God’s incredible creatures,” he said, “It’s the only species on the planet that can grow such massive, unique and impressive racks.” They live in such varied terrain from the deserts in the south to the deep woods of Canada. “People love to eat them; they are a joy to watch as they gracefully slip through the woods or even through flower gardens,” Livingood said. He has no trouble seeing the beauty of whitetails every day. When he awakes, hanging on his walls are replicas of some of the largest whitetail racks in the world. He has the “Hole in the Horn” buck, a deer shot in Ohio that is the current No,. 2-ranked buck at 328 Boone and Crocket inches (a scoring system used to measure and compare the size, mass and scope of a d deer’s antlers). On another wall is the N No. 4 “Scott Dexter” buck aat 295 points. He also has tthe No. 1 pen-raised deer iin the world at 386 Boone aand Crocket inches. And, tthat’s not all, his replicas include a set of palmated antlers that scored 238, OLDEST AND MOST TRADITIONAL SPORTS.

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and a Missouri buck at 232 inches. Livingood points with pride to some of his trophies and other “original” racks on display, including a mule deer that scored 279; a 6 x 7 elk with 325 inches; his personal best buck at 165 inches with a bow; and a moose from Northwest Territories with a 63-inch wide rack. “I love to look at them, and think of hunts long ago and hunts to come,” he said. As each step of life leads to another — his business for many years was selling graphite fish reproductions— he recently purchased an antler replicating company with a partner. It seemed like a natural transition from one company to the other, and it moved him nearer to his passion for deer antlers. Replicating antlers is not an easy chore. “It’s not like taking a picture and easily reproducing a copy,” he said. But, before describing the process, Livingood talked about who purchases replica antlers and why. Some hunters want an extra copy just in case the original might be destroyed or stolen. The antler reproduction is a time-consuming and artistic effort, but the antlers look just like the original and become part of a normal taxidermy mount. He said some hunters showcase the original in a trophy room, with a replica in their office. They may provide a copy for their guide so he can take it to sport shows. Some hunters will sell the original and keep the replica for memories. The NRA, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and other retailers purchase replicas and originals for their stores. Livingood counts all three as customers. Museums and collectors buy replicas for their showrooms. “There are not enough real antlers to buy,” he said. Typical rates for a 180 Boone and Crocket rack are about $5,000; double that for a 190-class rack; and double again for a 200-plus rack. Livingood said deer breeders purchase replicas and display the mounted antlers in shows and ads to promote their genetics. “The Amish and Mennonite farmers are heavily into deer, especially from Pennsylvania and the East Coast to the Midwest,” he said, “They use the replicas to promote sales of semen from trophy-class

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bucks to other deer farmers.” Molding antlers is painstaking work, all done by hand, with only a few companies successfully creating life-looking antlers, he said. So far, he has done whitetail deer, elk, Dall sheep, Argali sheep, Marco Polo sheep, mule deer, red stag, kudu, fallow deer, elephant and walrus tusks, impala, black buck and antelope. After acquiring the original rack, Livingood establishes a work order with a completion date. Antlers are repaired, tines are replaced if necessary, holes and chips are filled in, sheds are added to skull caps, and all are cleaned. The antlers then go to the molding station where a totally enclosed jacket of fiberglass is applied over a rubber-liner. Polyurethane is poured into the mold, and after it cools, the fiberglass and rubber is removed to a gleaming white reproduction. The next step is the grinding station where seams and imperfections are removed. The paint station is one of the most intense stages, where exact coloration is critical. Antler color varies widely. Livingood is one of the artists. The company utilizes artists in Iowa and Kansas, also. Once the oil paint is dry, a matte finish is applied to seal the paint. The painted antlers are then shipped to a taxidermist for a shoulder or full-body mount. “The key when completed is for the replica to look even better than the real thing. I love presenting customers with the final product, and being asked if this is the ‘real’ or the ‘copy’ and having them tell me they look the same,” Livingood said. This interesting business demands perfection and Livingood is always willing to discuss antler reproductions, answer questions about collecting and buying antlers or creating antler furniture and lighting. He can be reached at 218-820-5053. J I M K A L K O F E N has been in and around

boats all his life. He has been director of the largest walleye tournament circuits for two decades, and was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

Photo provided by Jim Kalkofen

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Outdoor Traditions Fall 2009