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Ron Hustvedt

Ramsey, Minn.

Bear hunting expert Mike Antonson presenting at Cabela's Tuesday


          One of the most cunning animals roaming the woods is the elusive American black bear. With a powerful sense of smell and excellent ability to hear, Ursus Americanus is a challenging creature to hunt.

            Minnesota does not suffer from a lack of bears roaming the woods, in fact the population is strong. In recent years, there has been a lack of bear hunters, however.

            Avid bear hunter Mike Antonson of Ramsey, MN would like to see more hunters out there, which is why he spends a lot of his time educating bear hunters and folks interested in bear hunting. As one of the founders of the Black Bear Research and Education group, he puts on seminars for the DNR, sporting goods retailers and is featured at events around the country.

            He is hosting a black bear clinic at Cabela’s in Rogers Wednesday,July 22 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in conjunction with the DNR. The cost of the clinic is $5 and is ideal for first time bear hunters or anyone wanting to add to their bear hunting knowledge.  

            Antonson is passionate about bear hunting and has been in pursuit of black bear for nearly 40 years. “It gets into your blood and it’s just like any other type of hunting where you are constantly learning new things every season,” he said.

            One of questions bear hunters always ask Antonson about is in regards to using scents as an attractant. “When you make a change to your scent, a bear can become a little suspicious or cautious of the change and become leery,” he said.

            It’s a realization he made not because he wasn’t doing as well in the woods each year, but because he wondered if there was an even better way.  “You hunt and you hunt and you hunt and then you start looking at it and saying ‘what you’ve been doing has been bringing them in so why change it?’

            What he’s found out is that while what he did before wasn’t preventing him from being a successful bear hunter, it was making his hunt more work.

            “When you introduce a new bait you create a situation similar to when you first started baiting. It can take a bear a few days to a week to come in after the change and it might take a few more days if you make drastic changes during the hunt—when you do that you are effectively taking yourself out of the game,” he said.

            Antonson spends a lot of time in the woods and dedicates a lot of the season in pursuit of bear. For hunters who can’t spend as much time in the woods, his realization about scent could be the difference between success and failure.

            “There’s only so much time that can be spent hunting and if your time is limited you want to make sure you are baiting so that you’ll have the best chance for success when you are out there.”

It's the most 'bassiest' time of the year

I pride myself on being a multispecies angler, but if I had to choose one species to go after in the summertime it wouldn’t even be a debate. This is the best time of the year to be a bass angler. I wouldn’t want to, but f I had to, I’d trade in all that time spent chunking muskie baits, cranking for walleye, and speedtrolling pike.

Trade it all for a summertime sentence of working the weedlines for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Better yet, give me a pair of polarized sunglasses and let me work the shallows for the most explosive action you can find on inland waters. Tarpon, redfish and other saltwater creatures might be tougher than bass, but why waste all that travel time when I could be bass fishing?

The cool shallows of lakes throughout northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are perfect throughout the summer months, but no better time than in June. The lily pads are emerging and not yet so dense that you can’t see largemouth bass lurking through them. Smallmouth bass are still close by their beds and their dark silohuettes stand out so nicely against the sandy backdrop. 

Both conditions are great for throwing on an unweighted worm and doing whatever it takes to entice a bite. Sometimes a slow lift and drop retrieve does the ticket, other times it requires a more aggressive walk the dog. Either way, a tussle is awaiting.  Sometimes a Texas rigged worm on a 3/0 or 4/0 hook is best while other times those bass can’t resist a wacky worm wistfully wiggled in their presence.

            Fishing is so visual this time of the year and it’s fun to see your lure a work through the cover. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you see that bolt of lightning and watch the strike. Smallmouth bass swing in and hit it as they turn sideways while largemouth dart up and open their gaping mouth, inhaling your lure.

            As you work the miles of shoreline on a big lake like Leech, you’ll find little pockets of weeds and there are almost always bass cruising the area around it or hunkered down in the weeds. Either way, it’s time to slow down and fish the location thoroughly. If you spook one as you roll into the area, don’t worry about it. If that largemouth saw you, often they’ll tuck back under the cover and await your lure once you toss it out there.

            On a small body of water, like the hundreds of Forest Service lakes chock full of bass, you’ll find rock piles, sparse pockets of lily pads at the edge of a bog, submerged timber, and plenty of weedlines. If there’s a dock, skip cast under it and let that worm settle. If you don’t pull a fish from under there cast again. If you don’t pull one out on the second cast, curse under your breath and move on.

            The best worms are ones that fall nice and slow undulating the entire way down. Any self-respecting bass in the area is going to feel compelled to at least check it out if not absolutely inhale it. Don’t be afraid to use five or six inch worms, even in early June. Four-inch worms work great but bluegill and rock bass go crazy for these too and you’ll have to beat them off with a stick unless there’s a tough bite, then downsizing seems to be best.

            Cabbage is king, but don’t overlook coontail clumps. If you don’t know the difference, grab an aquatics plant book or google it and learn the difference. Cabbage weeds are like tall forests with a lush understory while coontail are like a alder swamp. If you deer or grouse hunt, you know which one is best even though it’s the tougher option. You must go where the beasts reside.

            When the cover is thicker then it’s time to throw on a skirted-jig tipped with a trailer of plastic. For jig colors don’t get too fancy. Clear water means black and blue while stained water is best with green and brown. For the best results, don’t follow that rule everytime. Just when you think you have it all figured out, bass will change the game on you so be versatile.

            Keep an eye on your electronics as you work those shallows and mark those spots with the best weedbeds. Oh sure, it’s a leisurely outing but when you need to cover water quickly you are going to want these spots pinpointed. Weedbeds that hold bass today will usually hold them tomorrow and the next day—especially coontail clumps.

            It’s amazing how many weeds you find across the hundreds of yards of a large flat. Each of them are going to be good to fish and especially take note of those that are away from the edge of the flat. Those patches are going to be the most under fished throughout the summer and if you mark them now, the more you can keep coming back again and again and pull fish off that structure.

            As the water warms up, those bass will begin chasing faster moving lures. That’s when most bass anglers toss spinnerbaits or horizontal swimbaits. My favorite is swimming a jig with a four-inch grub. This works great in the lake and phenomenally on the river.  

Warmer water also means a stellar topwater bite is sure to follow. Work topwater across the water’s surface and you’ll be rewarded with a bassy explosion of power.  My favorite topwater times are dusk and dawn, especially when the water is glass calm. Remember that jumping bass are awesome, but bass that slurp a topwater under are real trophies so keep your eye on that bait.

            The great thing about the summer bite is that on most lakes you can catch plenty of fish both shallow and deep. Some of the big bass slide up to the slop where they get most of their food and others move out to the breakline to cruise the deep weedline.

            A few anglers I know like to eat bass, and more power to them. Don’t beat anybody up if they put a knife to a legally caught fish because that’s what limits are for. Unless I am in a survival situation, I myself will never put a knife to either species of bass. If catch and release isn’t your cup of tea, at least practice selective harvest and let the big ones go back.

            It’s summertime. Get out there and do some bassin’!

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