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WILTZ: Erie walleyes, local pheasants and bad news about deer up north

Earlier this year I told you that I might be making a walleye trip to Lake Erie. Weather was unstable, April plans moved to May and May plans to June. Vern Carpenter, Ivan Lau and Marvin Lau, all of Armour, eventually made the trip, but I had a conflict I couldn’t resolve. As you would expect, the guys did just fine without me.

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Their first day on the water was June 15. They fished out of Ashtabula, not too far from the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. They spent the better part of an uneventful two days getting there. The weather cooperated more or less, although Vern’s seasickness brought them in early the first day — too many big waves. They spent a total of three days on the big lake.

The guys didn’t haul their own boat to Ohio. Instead, they fished with a charter service. For a “first-time” adventure, I think this was an excellent idea. Personally, I’d have some qualms about towing a boat through the Chicago area.

A Lake Erie charter boat is specially rigged for trolling. Down-riggers are mounted on the corners. These, combined with planer boards and Dipsy Divers, enabled the guys to troll 12 lines at one time. Again, going with a charter was a good idea as it took Captain Ed a half hour to get all the lines out.

How did the guys do? The daily walleye limit on Erie is six fish per angler. There is no possession limit. Size wise, their fish ran to 10 pounds in weight. The guys weighed an 18-fish limit that included some “small” 2-pound fish as shown in the photo. This limit averaged six pounds apiece. The guys felt that Captain Ed did an awesome job, and they highly recommend him. The Captain can also put anglers on hundreds of jumbo perch with no limit. He can be reached at 330-360-7744.

Though our government defines me as “elderly,” this column will never cater to senior citizens. It is for all ages. However, I must praise Vern, Ivan, and Marvin. I’m guessing that their ages ranged from the 70s to the mid-80s. No sitting around for these guys. Well done.

Habitat solution to low pheasant numbers

The word in my neck of the woods is the pheasant numbers are slightly up from last year. I know this is contrary to the overall state report, but areas differ.

Friends and I enjoyed great ring neck hunting over the weekend opener thanks to some great effort on the part of our hosts. Nine of us had our 27 birds by midafternoon on the Oct. 19, an absolutely beautiful day. The dogs, German Shorthairs and Brittany Spaniels, performed to perfection. We also shot well. I was especially impressed with the numbers of young birds and hens we saw.

In speaking of the work done by our Saturday host farmer, I know he hauled water throughout the hot, dry summer of 2012 to bird concentration areas. He also nourished a number of great food plots that offered habitat and protection.

On Sunday, in another area with different hosts, we averaged two birds apiece in windy, wet and cold conditions. Once again, well-designed food plots and half-mile long shelterbelts of healthy cedars and thick grasses spelled success.

It was obvious to me that habitat will be the solution to our pheasant problem. This is easy for me to say as my livelihood does not come from the land. Creating a network of well-managed food plots interlaced with water is a great plan, but the same land that gives birth to habitat and food plots also produces beans and corn. I can’t tell farmers to take money out of their own pockets. What we can all do is work together at keeping a lid on coons, skunks, coyotes and feral cats.

Speaking of pheasants, The Daily Republic has coined a new term. They write about “pregnant hen pheasants.” Had I not noticed this terminology myself, a number of readers did. Do biologists pregnancy test pheasants? Do pregnant hens “show”? Hmmm.

Still seeing effects of EHD

I might be a little paranoid. Whenever I receive a letter from South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, I immediately wonder if I said something in the column that irritated them. However, this wasn’t the case with their most recent mailing.

The GF&P acknowledged that I had received a West River deer license for Unit 20A-8, Corson County, and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease had taken a heavy toll on Corson County deer during the past summer. They offered to return my money for the tag. What would I do?

I couldn’t believe it. EHD relates to hot weather and dry conditions. This news was contrary to all I knew about EHD. The ranch had record rainfall and moderate temperatures. The Grand River was running over local bridges and there was an abundance of fresh water. I was devastated. It had been a while since I had an “any deer” tag, and my anticipation was soaring.

Two of my hunting partners, Dave and Jerry, have Standing Rock tribal licenses for Corson. Had the tribe notified them with regard to the die-off? No they hadn’t. I called Mike. He had a state tag like mine. Did he have any details? Nothing.

It was time to call Stuart and Lisa, owners of the ranch we hunt, and they had good news. The recent blizzard/flood had only cost them one cow. Yes, EHD had taken a toll, and they found a number of dead bucks with impressive antlers.

“Stuart, what do you want us to do? Maybe your deer need a break,” I said.

Stuart felt we should come up and hunt. There were still some good deer, and what we took wouldn’t make a difference. So, we will be making the hunt. If deer are scarce, we’ll hunt grouse, pheasants and coyotes.

See you next week.