The ice was gone by April 4 on many of Minnesota's northernmost lakes, including almost all hereabouts. Pickups were trailering boats and motors a short time later. Angling when the weather is still very chilly can mean large crappies to most anglers. Crappie action has been good at Rush Lake south of Perham, and at Marion Lake and Battle Lake.

Action for sunfish has been slower. The transition from ice to the open water at Lake of the Woods saw little interruption in the action for walleyes. And in three more weeks, we'll all be out for walleyes.

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Hevi-Shot is great for tom turkeys

The non-toxic shells you have on hand for waterfowling are excellent for downing a wild turkey. Sure, they're expensive, about $20 for a box of five shells, but when you go for turkeys, one, maybe two cartridges will do. Federal's Black Cloud is another good choice. Fleet Farm in Fergus Falls has all varieties on hand.

Wild turkeys are expected to be in good supply on Minnesota's woods and fields again this spring. The numbers are very good in the Detroit Lakes area, where they quite unexpectedly established themselves after releases 25 years ago. About 57,000 permits will be available this year, compared to 43,200 last year. Taking a tom turkey last year with Don Lefebvre doing the shooting, everything went great, although it was not any Butterball on the dinner table.

Shells for trap league

Lower cost promotion 1 shells are being offered for sale at all retail markets at about $52 for a case of ten boxes. Top of the line ammo like Winchester's AA and Remington's STS line go for about $15 more. The promo loads are entirely satisfactory so if you don't reload -- they're the way to go. Reloading doesn't save as much money as it formerly did, but if you have a press and components on hand, by all means, reload 'em. You can order shells by the case at the Gun Club and save quite a bit. I'd predict that trap shooting will continue to be a lessened activity this year due to ammo prices and the economy in general.

Urban deer problems

Minneapolis-St. Paul has a lot of deer -- far too many. The Minnesota DNR has offered unlimited tags to antlerless deer hunters to be taken by archers or by selected sharpshooters. In the suburbs, homeowners plant the kind of stuff that deer like to eat. And we remove big predators. The deer-car collisions are a constant problem. People really like to see the deer in the wild and sometimes they act negatively. So, the problem continues to multiply. The liberal hunting permitted doesn't reduce the deer numbers significantly. The anti-hunting public reacts negatively to hunting in their backyards, and this is becoming an increasingly large issue.

Science has come up with a contraceptive method in which a chemical contraceptive is given to captive deer, but those in the Twin Cities area are wild deer. It reduces testosterone levels and reduces aggressive behavior in bucks. It may be tried here.

Your attitude, if you're a person living in a Twin Cities suburb, may be influenced by seeing deer, or just having paid a collision center some money after a deer-Ford collision.

A "Walk In" program for Minnesota

Scores of Minnesota waterfowl and pheasants have returned home to Minnesota extolling the advantages of having hunted there in the Dakotas on land the state had leased for their benefit. Neighboring states provide an atlas so hunters can easily find the available tracts. Many acres of farmland are thus made available to hunters. Could such a program be established in Minnesota? The idea has been on the minds of certain legislators for some time. Kansas was the first state to introduce the idea. After 10 years of operation 10 million acres had been enrolled. Michigan's program is 30 years old but has only 20,000 acres enrolled. Wisconsin doesn't have a program. Senator Chadbury wants to take $2 million from the Game & Fish Fund to get one started in Minnesota. It could involve much of those lands that were once in our state's CRP programs. The state could also be in line for Federal dollars aimed at hunter access programs. Are landowners interested in leasing lands to the state, after receiving a fee? They've been quiet on that issue.

The programs have worked well in the Dakotas. There are fewer people living on rural lands there, land prices are lower and more land is available. Minnesota could raise some funds for this with a license surcharge. Would a "walk in" program in Minnesota work out and would it be worth the cost? The idea is being considered, but there seems to be a lot of unanswered questions that seemingly weren't there when both Dakotas initiated programs. We'll see. I'm enthusiastic and hopeful that answers can be met and Minnesota can have plots of land open to hunting.

Benelli's Montefeltro

Once every decade or so, a firearm appears on the market that is clearly superior to whatever else is available. Such is Benelli's 12 or 20 gauge Montefeltro shotguns. Weighing but 6 1/2 pounds, perhaps a bit light for the 3" shells they're chambered for. They're ideal, in 20 gauge for uplands, when pursuing pheasants or ruffed grouse and great for skeet. Both gauges have a kit of shims and spacers of varying designs which, when assembled in the butt stock, will result in exact fitting dimensions to fit the fussiest shotgunner.

The exterior finish? Well there are three choices, my own being the traditional hand rubbed, dull oil finish. But you may prefer, the camouflage, or dull, non-lustrous black. In any case, here is a super reliable shotgun that has tamed the recoil, and won't kick you all over the place, in spite of the aforementioned lightweight. Look and handle one at any of the big gun outlets.