Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

April 15, 2002

Take a long look at your surroundings

With the snow gone, no crops growing in the fields, and the landscape basically bare and waiting for new spring growth, now is the perfect time to take a hard look at the landscape.

Things are easy to see and pick out. Large amounts of waterfowl in our area are easy to see sitting on sloughs and in field potholes.

Pheasants, especially roosters, stand out like a sore thumb when loafing in a field or in the road ditch. Whitetail deer are easy to spot when traveling across a bare field.

Other wildlife and song birds are also easy to spot. Now, in early spring is just a great time to watch wildlife. It's also a good time to look at habitat and how little of it is left out there.

Wood lots, grass lands, tree lines, brush piles, road ditches, sloughs ringed with cattails, brush filled groves on an old farm site ­ sorry to say, as land values go up, farming practices intensify, and suburban development moves forward and farther west, there is less habitat.

Noticeably gone from our area are any sizeable patches, fields, or pastures of grass land. Important nesting habitat for many forms of wildlife, and undisturbed grass land is now almost nonexistent in our area.

These areas are so rare that when you drive by one it sticks out like a red fish house in the middle of a frozen lake.

One day last week, I pulled over on the side of the road to get a good look at a small flock of diver ducks in a field pothole. Blue bills aren't something you see very often in a small bean field pothole, so I had to take a look.

Along the pothole was a small field of switch grass about three-acres. Along the switch grass, I saw five or six pheasants, mostly roosters.

After a few minutes of pleasant viewing, I drove from the low area, about a half mile or so up to the top of a hill. From the top of the hill I watched more ducks and a flock of Canada geese fly into the pothole.

From the top of the hill, I also noticed I could see for miles, and the pothole below was the only water I could see. The small three-acre patch of grass was also the only piece of wildlife habitat I could see.

I was amazed at how barren the land really was. There was no cover in the ditches, fence lines were gone or bare of cover, five or six woodlots in the area all contained county homes ­ clean, neat, and free from even a mistaken blade of long grass.

Fields were black or mowed to the ground, and the little pothole and patch grass looked incredibly out of place ­ like they weren't supposed to be there at all.

It was odd but, sorry to say, normal.

We all need to remember that habitat and grass lands are the key to the quality of our water, soil, and wildlife populations. A drive in the country right now will tell you that most of us have forgotten that.

Minnesota bear hunt application deadline Friday, May 3

Applications for the 2002 Minnesota black bear hunting season are now being accepted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through Friday, May 3.

This year's season will offer 20,610 licenses, available in 11 permit areas, and will run from Sept. 1 through Oct. 13.

Applications can be made through the Electronic Licensing System (ELS) and are available from 1,750 ELS agents throughout the state, plus the DNR License Center in St. Paul.

Applications can also be made by calling 1-888-MNLicense, or through the Internet at www.dnr.state.mn.us. Non-resident applicants can still mail in their applications, but are encouraged to use the phone or Internet.

Licenses may be purchased for the no-quota area, an area outside of the 11 permit areas where the number of licenses is not limited, and can be purchased directly at any ELS agent after July 1.

In 2002, the bag limit for bears will remain at two for the no-quota area, but one in permit areas.

In 2001, bear hunters harvested 4,936 bears. There were 26,824 applicants for 20,710 permit area licenses that were available. Minnesota's bear population is currently about 30,000, and it has been growing at a rate of six to seven percent per year. Bear licenses cost $39 for residents and $196 for nonresidents.

Attract more wildlife with food/cover plots

The Wright Co. Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is distributing free seed corn, sorghum (both forage and grain), and sunflower, for the Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever for the purpose of wildlife cover and food plantings. Again there is no charge for the seed.

Pheasants, deer, turkeys, songbirds, and other wildlife also use these areas for protection against predators and harsh winter weather conditions.

These food and cover plots are a welcome addition to your backyard acreage or any set aside land including Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Wright SWCD has information on the placement and maintenance of these plots.

Please call the SWCD office at (763) 682-1970 to verify the type and amount of seed we have available. We are located at 306C Brighton Avenue in Buffalo near the Target Store.

Outdoor notes

­ The trap shooting season at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club begins Wednesday, April 17. Teams interested is shooting can call (320) 395-2258, or stop out at the clubhouse Wednesday evening.

­ The stream trout fishing season in Minnesota opened Saturday. Conditions for fishing on southeastern Minnesota streams were reported to be excellent.

­ Look for the larger lakes in our area to become completely ice-free sometime this week. Smaller bodies of water in the area are already ice free.

­ With spring here, be kind to our lakes and rivers by using phosphorus free fertilizer on your lawn and clean up your grass and lawn clippings.

­ Don't forget to purchase your new 2002 Minnesota fishing license.

­ Look for some good fishing on the Crow River this spring. If water levels on the river stay stable, fishing for walleye and northern pike could be very good.

­ The Minnesota fishing opener is set for Saturday, May 11.

­ Good luck to area wild turkey hunters.

­ Take some time to get outside and pick up a little garbage. A lot of junk can accumulate over the winter and a little garbage pick-up is a great way to get a kid interested in conservation and the responsibilities that go along with it.

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