Eight new camper cabins to open for reservations at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park

The new camper cabins at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park between Ely and Tower are ready for visitors. Campers can begin making reservations at 8 a.m. Monday, Dec. 28 for stays beginning on Dec. 31 (four cabins) and Jan. 13 (the remaining four cabins).
These eight new cabins, which will be open year-round, reflect the latest in green-building practices. The cabins feature rustic tamarack interiors and are equipped with heat, electricity and Wi-Fi, and an outdoor food prep counter, fire ring, and table.
Outfitted with either three full-size bunks, or two full-size and two twin-size bunks, each cabin can accommodate up to six people. A new shower and restroom building, as well as an adjacent vault toilet, serve the cabins.
In honor of the history and culture of the area’s Indigenous people, the cabins are named with the Ojibwe words for the four seasons and four cardinal directions.


DNR Conservation Officer weekly report for the week of December 14

District 6 - Two Harbors
CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) worked on Upper Red Lake with area officers and CO Lawler. High levels of activity were observed, and many violations were encountered such as extra lines, unattended lines, overlimits of walleyes, too many walleyes over 17 inches, possession of dressed fillets, unregistered recreational vehicles, no shelter tags, and drug paraphernalia. Additional time was spent checking anglers, grouse hunters, muzzleloader deer hunters, and ATV activity in the station, with enforcement action taken for insufficient blaze orange, land-use trespass, and youth ATV violations.

CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) attended in-service training and instructed firearm qualifications at Camp Ripley. He monitored ice fishing and followed up on complaints of early trout fishing and trapping violations.


Trail work continues until snowmobile season gets rolling

Reports from area trail administrators show work will continue on developing ATV trails until the snow is deep enough to groom for snowmobiling.
“Contractors are working on the Taconite State Trail from the Raven Lane crossing (2.5 miles west of Ely) going west on the trail for approximately four miles. Work will continue and this portion of trail will be closed until enough snow is received to pack and groom the trail,” said Brad Dekkers, Assistant DNR Area Supervisor.
The Taconite Spur from Babbitt is also under construction by Mesabi Bituminous as part of the Prospector Loop ATV trail system.
“We’re going to get as much done as we can as long as the weather holds,” said Prospector Alliance President Nick Wognum.


Deer harvest down heading into final weekend

The firearms deer harvest was down 23.1% in permit area 118, which includes much of the Ely area.
Tower area DNR wildlife manager Tom Rusch said, “Buck kill is down the highest in permit areas on the north and east end of the Tower area consistent with winter severity and deep snow winters over the last eight years.
“Hunting conditions improved considerably after the record setting high temperatures experienced on opening weekend. Colder temperatures improved day time deer movement and rutting activity after opening weekend
“Hunters who were persistent and continued to grind it out on stand had higher success rates than hunters on the opening weekend,” said Rusch.


DNR Conservation Officer weekly report for the week of November 24

District 6 - Two Harbors area
CO Sean Williams (Ely #1) reports hunting success continued to taper off at the end of the regular firearms season as we drifted further from the peak of the rut. More issues with hunters wearing very little or no blaze orange were addressed over the week and became the No. 1 violation seen for the season. Hunters are reminded that although they may feel like they have a wide expanse of wilderness to themselves, other hunters may be closer than they know. Blaze orange and pink laws exist to protect hunters from accidents.
CO John Velsvaag (Ely #2) checked deer hunters this past week.He also followed up on deer-baiting violations and had multiple questions on party hunting and using electronic devices while hunting. Hunting success was slow and a couple of people were seen out on ice fishing on thin ice.


Deer harvest down heading into final weekend

by Nick Wognum
Make no mistake, the 2020 deer season will go down as one of the tougher ones for firearms deer hunters.
The 2020 deer harvest is down 17.2% compared to 2019 in the nine Deer Permit Areas within the Tower DNR Area (117, 118, 119, 130, 131, 132, 176, 177, 178).
DNR wildlife manager Tom Rusch said the buck kill, the best indicator of population change over time, is down 16.4% in the same permit areas
Buck kill is down the highest in permit areas on the north and east end of the Tower area consistent with winter severity and deep snow winters over the last eight years.
In permit area 118, which encompasses much of the Ely area, there were 557 bucks shot at this point last year compared to 419 this year, a drop of 33 percent.
Buck kill is down the least in the more productive deer permit areas to the south and west consistent with winter severity and deep snow winters over the last eight years.


Despite nice weather, deer harvest way down

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources likes to point out that 50% of the firearms deer season happens in the first three days.
If that holds true this year, look for a drop of over 20% for the season.
Deer numbers are way down despite weather that was perfect for sitting in deer stands.
Hunters in the Ely area reported seeing few bucks and more wolves.
Statewide the harvest is down 16% and for permit area 118, the first four days of the hunt is down around 28% from last year.
“Two factors contributed to the poor opening weekend harvest,” said Tom Rusch, the DNR wildlife manager in Tower.
“Unseasonably warm temperatures reaching into the low 70s negatively impacted daytime deer activity and harvest on both Saturday and Sunday. And A low deer population and low numbers of antlerless deer permits resulting in a ‘bucks only’ season for the majority of hunters,” said Rusch.


Hook and Bullet Club

The weekend before deer season can be a busy one at hunting shacks. Luckily for Camp Cholesterol we were almost ready for the 2020 season to begin.
That’s a good thing because Saturday the Wild Bill Camp needed some help putting a platform deer stand together.
My buddy Jim Ronn didn’t have to ask, he’s helped me and I was happy to return the favor.
We started in his mom’s garage out on Farm Lake. The heated space was a blessing, especially when your sorting through over 200 bolts, nuts and washers.
I suggested laying the pieces out on a pool table so we could find what we were looking for. Jim put a tarp on top and we wrote the corresponding letter in the instructions to each piece.
From there it was insert bolt A into floor piece B and so on and so forth.


Tougher hunting in Rusch’s 2020 deer season forecast

Snow on the ground starting in mid-October may still be there when deer hunters climb into stands on Nov. 7. DNR Tower area wildlife manager Tom Rusch gave the following forecast for hunters:
The 2020 16-day firearms deer season will begin Saturday, Nov. 7 and end Sunday, Nov. 22.
• A deer population that is below population goals in all areas rebounding from the severe winters of 2013 + 2014 and 2018, 2019 and 2020 in permit areas in Northern St. Louis and Lake Counties.
• The deer herd is below established population goals in all nine local permit areas (117, 118, 119, 130, 131, 132, 176, 177, 178).
• On the positive side, opening weekend deer hunting should coincide with peak rutting activity and deer movement during firearms season. The opening weekend of the 2020 firearms season should catch the “chasing phase” of the rut as bucks seek out receptive does during the first week.


Elyite Pat Magie shares a chapter from his book

About author Pat Magie
Editor’s Note: Magie came to Ely in 1935 at the age of 5 and lived up the Echo Trail on Big Lake at what would become Whispering Pines Lodge. He operated seaplane businesses in Ely for 23 years, in Alaska for 20 year and in Hawaii for 23 years. He is now retired and lives in the state of Washington.


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