November 09, 2023
As the leaves fall, the month of November deepens and Thanksgiving Day approaches, the peak of the whitetail rut is happening across much of whitetail country. And while there’s plenty of 2023 Regional Rut Update news happening right now, there’s also some other news taking place.
Trick-or-Treat Walleye Record in South Dakota
Here’s a Halloween angling story from South Dakota that has both tricks and treats, and ended with a state-record catch.
"South Dakota has a new state record walleye in the 'hook and line' category," South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks reported on Facebook. “Aaron Schuck of Bismarck caught this 16-pound, 8-ounce walleye out of Lake Oahe! Congratulations, Aaron!"
According to writer Sam Fosness with the Mitchell Daily Republic newspaper, the details of this fascinating fishing story are as good as catching the big fish. That's because the North Dakota angler who caught the fish almost couldn’t claim it thanks to a strange odyssey where Schuck took the South Dakota fish to his home in North Dakota, thought about filleting it, and thankfully did not.
"We [Schuck and his fishing partner Jesse Schumaker] weighed it when we got back to the ramp, and his scale was saying 15 1/2 pounds," said Schuck via a podcast interview and Fosness’ newspaper story about the catch. "So we didn't really think anything of it."
After trying to find a scale in a nearby small town, Schuck crossed the state boundary between the two Dakotas and returned home. When he got back to Bismarck, he reweighed the fish in a more controlled fashion, and came up with a weight north of 16 pounds. Realizing what he might have a record, thoughts of what to do next started turning in the angler’s head.
"There I sit with the state record on my fish-cleaning table, and nobody is going to know about it," said Schuck in Fosness’ newspaper account. "Now I don't know where to go. The fish stayed in my fridge all day Sunday. It was just eating at me that this fish may be the state record, and I don't know where to take this."
Discovering that he could take it back south for an official weight, the big walleye spent the night in the refrigerator again, where it was potentially losing weight. Finally, on Monday, Oct. 30, Schuck’s on-again, off-again record-book walleye fishing odyssey came full circle with a revisit to South Dakota, where the fish was weighed and recorded according to SDFG&P rules. When all of details were sorted out, there was a new record walleye in South Dakota for the first time since George W. Bush was President of the U.S.
According to Dakota News Now, Schuck’s 16-8 fish breaks the previous state record walleye mark of 16-2 set in Nov. 2002 by Georgine Chytka at the Fort Randall Tailrace on the Missouri River.
Now, through a crazy fishing tale that spanned two states and several days, the now newly minted South Dakota state record walleye mark belongs to Schuck, who was reportedly using a Walleye Nations reaper crankbait and took the fish to Oahe Sunset Lodge for the certified weighing, where a South Dakota GF&P biologist also weighed it too.
"I was shocked," Schuck told Dakota News Now writer J.R. Haven. "It was a long-time dream of mine. All I wanted to catch was a 14 pounder and now I have my name in the record books."
Early South Dakota Pheasant Hunting Superb
If the walleye fishing is good in South Dakota, the state’s Game, Fish & Parks notes that the upland bird hunting this year is also nothing short of superb. And with the Mount Rushmore State enjoying an annual average of 1.2 million ring-necked pheasant roosters being harvested by bird hunters over the past decade, that’s saying something. We reported on a perfect storm of pheasant hunting prospects this year only a few days ago, and so far, it appears that the prognostication is looking good.
"Across the state, hunters are reporting excellent bird numbers," the SDGF&P said on Facebook about on the opening week results. "Bird numbers are consistent with last year’s successful season and exceeding these numbers in many areas as well."
South Dakota officials remind hunters and their bird dogs that the season is lengthy and there are a wide range of hunting options available through the state’s numerous public hunting areas including Walk-In Area (WIA) program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Game Production Areas (GPA), and Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA).
One final upland bird hunting note: "This has been a great year for grouse production," say South Dakota officials, noting that good nesting cover and favorable weather conditions led to high reproduction of sharp-tailed grouse and other prairie game birds.
Opening Weekend Deer Numbers Down in Minnesota
It's deer season in Minnesota, but so far early harvest results show that numbers are down from a year ago. That's according to MPR News, which quotes Minnesota Department of Natural Resources big-game program leader Barb Keller earlier this week after several Firearm Season and Metro Deer management hunts opened up on Saturday, Nov. 4. In the MPR story by Cathy Wurzer and Gracie Stockton, Keller is quoted as saying that 47,370 deer were taken by hunters over opening weekend, about 13 percent fewer than during the same period in 2022.
Keller also urges hunters to be safe in the North Star State’s vast deer woods after noting that two Minnesota deer hunters were hurt over the weekend (one in an accidental shooting and another in a fall from a treestand). Keller also said that crossbow hunting has gone up in popularity in the upper Midwestern state after a regulation change, reportedly accounting for roughly 40 percent of Minnesota's deer harvest during archery season.
Record Catch-and-Release Tautog in Connecticut
The Connecticut Fish and Wildlife reported on Facebook that a new state catch-and-release record has been set by angler Aiden Cole. Cole reeled in the record on Oct. 25, 2023—being dubbed "Taugzilla" by other anglers—when he caught a 36-inch, 25.78-pound specimen while fishing aboard the charter boat "Melissa Ann" with Capt. Luke Wiggins as they fished in the Thames River using a green crab for bait.
"Thanks to Karen Westerberg, the fish was measured and weighed at A&W Marina/Tackleshop," the CT Fish and Wildlife post reports. "This gigantic Tautog was immediately released. It was an exciting time for all parties involved including all the onlookers."
It’s worth noting that the C&R record that was broken actually belonged to Capt. Luke, if you can believe that! He landed the state’s previous catch-and-release tautog during the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020, a fish that was 32.5-inches long and weighed nearly 24-pounds. According to Fish and Wildlife officials, tautog range from Nova Scotia to Georgia but are most common between Cape Cod and the Chesapeake Bay. Biologists note that tautog are slow-growing and reportedly can live to be 35–40 years old.
Deer Food Plots and the Cowboy Code
Food-plot preparation videos are scattered all across the Internet, but Polaris has a new take on the deer country chore with a country music kind of twist. That's because country star Riley Green, who recently launched his latest album, "Not My Last Rodeo," teamed up with Team Polaris and rodeo champion, Tyson Durfey, to do a little food plot prep work by way of the time-honored "Cowboy Code."
In the two-part video series, which launched just before Halloween, viewers get to see the pair work towards deer season on Green’s multi-generational family farm near Jacksonville, Ala. Working hard to plow the ground for fall deer hunting food plots, the pair of hunters bonded over the values that Polaris is celebrating with the "Cowboy Code" series, including hard work, respect for community and being a steward of the land.
"I’m excited to be working with Polaris on its ‘Cowboy Code’ series because it’s a brand that I rely on to maintain my family’s farm," said Green, in a news release. "Polaris leads the industry in developing off-road vehicles to help those who take care of land and contribute to something bigger than ourselves. Understanding hard work, the connection with the land and the sense of community is something Tyson and I spent a lot of time discussing during the series."
"The ‘Cowboy Code’ to me is about eating, sleeping and breathing the ethics that every small town in America is made of and I can honestly tell you the Green Family embodies that,” added Durfey. “I’m honored to be able to work with Polaris to bring another short series of ‘Cowboy Code’.”
If you’d like to see Green and Durfey and what they deliver to the food plot preparation work that every deer hunter knows, as well as see the all-new Polaris RANGER XD 1500 hard at work in the process, visit the Polaris website.