Herald Journal Herald and Journal, July 29, 2002

2002 Minnesota hunting and trapping seasons announced by the DNR

Minnesota's 2002 hunting and trapping seasons were announced this week by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Allen Garber.

"Deer are abundant following a string of mild winters," Garber said. Deer hunting opportunities this fall in Minnesota will be unparalleled."

A record number of antlerless permits will be offered. In a number of permit areas hunters will be allowed to shoot more than one deer.

"While this is certainly good news for deer hunters, we need the cooperation of hunters and landowners to keep Minnesota's deer population at manageable levels," Garber said.

"Grouse hunters will likely find tougher hunting as we settle into the low of the population cycle," Garber said. "Heavy rains and cool weather also likely affected chick production and survival in some areas."

Other upland game such as pheasants and rabbits are generally doing well in areas with good habitat, but more will be known about the fall outlook after August roadside counts are completed.

While Minnesota's breeding waterfowl counts are very high compared with historical averages, fall hunting success in Minnesota will continue to depend on broader weather patterns and the longer-term effects of partnership plans and initiatives to improve fall waterfowl migration habitats and waterfowl security areas, Garber said.

Giant Canada geese that breed locally in Minnesota remain abundant and, along with migrant geese, provide Minnesota waterfowlers with excellent goose hunting opportunities. More Canada geese are taken in Minnesota than in any other state in the United States. However, the medium-sized Canada geese that migrate primarily through western Minnesota in the fall are not faring as well as their locally breeding cousins.

Those Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese, which nest near Hudson Bay and congregate in areas such as Lac qui Parle during migration, experienced a late spring but had a strong nesting effort.

Liberal September goose hunting regulations will continue in order to harvest as many local geese as possible before the migrant population begins arriving. But goose hunters in Minnesota's western goose zones can expect relatively restrictive regular season rules to continue, Garber said.

Black bear populations remain high. The DNR is once again doing a periodic population survey using a tetracycline marker to refine the state's bear population estimate. Bear hunters this fall will be asked to submit rib and tooth samples to help in estimating the population.

Wild turkey populations remain at all-time highs and their geographic range in the state continues to expand.

More details about waterfowl and upland game populations will be available in late summer, when summer wildlife production surveys have been completed.

Garber advised Minnesota hunters to be aware of several new law and regulation changes in effect this fall. They include:

· new restrictions on shining artificial lights in pastures or building sites,

· new restrictions on OHV cross-country travel in state forests,

· a new all-season deer license that allows taking two deer on a single license,

· a lifetime archery deer license, which has been added to the current option of a lifetime firearms deer license,

· certain motorized waterfowl decoys with moving parts visible above the waterline have been restricted on public waters through Saturday, Oct. 5,

· Deer Permit Area 247 near Brainerd has been split into two permit areas and the boundary of permit area 246 has changed,

· a special youth archery deer hunt has been planned for Camp Ripley,

· new waterfowl refuges are being developed,

· the fisher and pine marten limit has been increased,

· the bear season opener has returned to Sept. 1, and the limit in quota areas has been reduced to one,

· proposed regular waterfowl season regulation changes will be announced later this summer.

General hunting

Use of Artificial Lights

The 2002 Minnesota Legislature placed additional restrictions on shining artificial lights. The changes provide that:

· Between one-half hour after sunset until sunrise, a person may not cast the rays of an artificial light to spot, locate, or take a wild animal on fenced agricultural land containing livestock or poultry that is marked with signs prohibiting the shining of lights.

The signs must display reflectorized letters that are at least two inches high and be placed at intervals of no more than 1,000 feet along the boundary.

· Between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., a person may not project a spotlight or hand-held light onto residential property or building sites from a moving motor vehicle being operated on land, with some exceptions for emergencies or occupational uses.

Use of ATVs in state forests

State forest rules have been modified as required by laws passed by the 2002 Minnesota Legislature to prohibit cross country travel. Cross country travel is travel off roads and trails. Exceptions to the cross-country travel ban are:

· ATV use for big game hunting or constructing stands during October through December is allowed

· ATV use for retrieving harvested big game is allowed during September through December

· ATV use for trapping is allowed during open seasons

Deer

The firearms deer season will open Saturday, Nov. 9, archery deer Saturday, Sept. 14, and muzzleloader deer Nov. 30.

The 2002 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, including regulations, quotas and special hunt information, will be available at license agents by early August. Deer hunters interested in obtaining antlerless or special area permits are encouraged to apply early.

Antlerless deer permits

The application deadline for antlerless and special hunt permits is Thursday, Sept. 5.

Hunters interested in these permits may apply at any of the 1,800 Electronic Licensing System (ELS) license agents throughout Minnesota, beginning in early August.

They may also apply over the Internet at www.dnr.state.mn.us or by ELS-Telephone by calling

888-665-4236 and paying an added $3.50 convenience fee.

After unusually mild winters four out of the past five years, Minnesota's deer population has increased dramatically, particularly in the northern forested areas hit the hardest by the back-to-back severe winters of 1995-1996 and 1996-1997.

A total of 363,765 antlerless permits will be offered this fall, an increase of 28 percent from 2001. This is the highest number of antlerless permits offered by the DNR in the 26 years since the antlerless permit system was first started in 1977.

The previous high was 322,030 available permits in 1992. Antlerless permits allow hunters the opportunity to harvest a deer of either sex. They are the main way that DNR wildlife managers control deer numbers throughout the state.

In Zone 1 (northeastern Minnesota), quotas increased from 71,850 in 2001 to 111,250 in 2002 (up 55 percent). Only one permit area in the state, permit area 116 in the Arrowhead Region, remains restricted to bucks-only hunting.

In Zone 2 (a transition band from the northern Twin Cities area to Lake of the Woods), permit numbers increased 38 percent, from 87,975 to 121,710.

Intensive harvest permits (which, combined with regular and management tags, authorize hunters to take up to five deer per year) are available in 18 permit areas across zones 1 and 2.

In agricultural areas of Minnesota, permit quotas increased slightly overall. There were some small quota decreases in parts of southeastern Minnesota, primarily in the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area block, which receives heavy hunting pressure due to the concentration of public land and proximity to large numbers of hunters.

Overall, in Zone 3 (southeastern Minnesota), antlerless quotas decreased three percent, from 37,500 to 36,525. Most permit areas in southeastern Minnesota will continue to have intensive harvest permits available in the late 3B (either-sex) season.

Quotas in Zone 4, which includes the extreme western and southwestern parts of the state, increased eight percent, from 86,885 to 94,280. Intensive harvest permits will be available in 13 permit areas during both the Zone 4A and Zone 4B hunts, primarily in northwestern and west-central Minnesota.

Overall, nearly one-third of the 128 antlerless permit areas in the state will have intensive harvest permits available in 2002.

All-Season Deer License

The 2002 Legislature changed the All-Season Buck License to an All-Season Deer License valid for taking two deer. This $75 license is good for hunting the archery, regular firearms (except Zone 3B) and muzzleloader seasons, using the appropriate legal methods for the respective season and area.

An All-Season Deer License holder may take and tag one buck by firearm (except Zone 3B), muzzleloader or archery during any season statewide. In addition, a resident obtaining this license may take and tag one antlerless deer in any of the following ways:

1. by firearms in the regular firearms season (except Zone 3B), only if the resident first obtains an antlerless deer permit;

2. by archery in the archery season; or

3. by muzzleloader in the muzzleloader season.

Lifetime Archery Deer License

The 2002 Legislature also added the option for deer hunters to purchase a lifetime archery deer hunting license. The original lifetime licensing options only included small game, fishing, and firearms deer.

Costs of lifetime licenses vary depending on the age of the person when the license is purchased. More information is available on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us

Management Permits

Deer management permits allow hunters to take a second deer in designated areas. The additional deer must be antlerless.

These permits are available for one-half the cost of a regular license. Archery and muzzleloader hunters should consult the deer hunting regulations available the second week of August for availability of these permits.

Firearms hunters should indicate their interest in a management permit, if available, when they submit their antlerless permit application.

Intensive Harvest Permits

Intensive harvest permits allow hunters to take up to a total of five deer (three antlerless deer in addition to one deer each on a regular license and a management permit) in areas with high deer populations. With a free landowner permit (where available), it would even be possible for an individual to tag six deer in a season. This year, intensive harvest permits will be authorized in nearly one-third of all permit areas in the state.

Camp Ripley Youth Archery Hunt

This year, a special youth archery deer hunt for youth ages 12-17 is planned Oct. 12-13 for the Camp Ripley military reservation.

The hunt will be cosponsored by nonprofit organizations. All youth participants will be accompanied by adult mentors. The application process for this hunt has not been finalized and will be announced later.

Other Special Deer Hunts

Twenty-nine special hunts are planned for parks and other areas where hunting is not normally allowed, except as necessary to manage deer populations. The application deadline for most firearms, muzzleloader and archery special hunts is Thursday, Sept. 5.

Exceptions

The Camp Ripley archery hunt applications must be received by Friday, Aug. 16, and city of New Ulm archery hunt applications must be postmarked by Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Bear, moose, elk

Details of the bear season were announced previously. The bear season will begin on the traditional Sept. 1 opener.

The season limit is one bear per hunter in quota areas, but remains at two bears per hunter in areas outside the primary bear range known as the "no-quota" area. Bear baiting can begin Friday, Aug. 16.

The moose season is again open in northeastern Minnesota beginning Sept. 28, with a total of 208 party permits offered. Moose numbers in northwestern Minnesota remain low, so the season will remain closed there.

There will be no elk hunt again in 2002 because the small northwestern Minnesota elk population remains within the goal range.

Small game

Wild Turkeys

Fall wild turkey hunting information was announced earlier. Fall seasons are Oct. 16-20 and Oct. 23-27. The deadline for submitting applications through ELS is Friday, July 26.

Spring wild turkey hunting application information for the 2003 season will be available in November. The application deadline will be Dec. 6.

Woodcock

Restrictive federal frameworks on the hunting of American woodcock continue in response to a long-term population decline. Minnesota DNR is cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Minnesota on a multi-state research project to study the effects of hunting on declining woodcock populations.

The three-year study, which began in 2001, will use radio-tagged birds to investigate woodcock populations in areas that are hunted and in areas that are not hunted.

As part of the study, the Four Brooks Wildlife Management Area in Mille Lacs County is closed to woodcock hunting for three years. This area is open for all other types of hunting, including ruffed grouse hunting.

Woodcock hunters are reminded that they need to be certified for the Harvest Information Program (HIP) to legally hunt these birds. The woodcock season is Saturday, Sept. 21 through Monday, Nov. 4, with a daily bag limit of three.

Pheasant and Gray Partridge

Pheasant production was likely affected in some localized areas by heavy rains. However, the weather during peak hatch and early brood rearing was warm and dry throughout much of the pheasant range; those are good conditions for production.

Weather the remainder of the summer will affect renesting success and brood survival for hens that failed to successfully produce broods earlier.

A better indication of fall pheasant and gray partridge numbers will be available after the DNR assesses production following completion of roadside counts in late August.

Conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Reinvest in Minnesota Program, which provide more habitat in grassland areas, should provide long-term benefits to pheasant populations.

The pheasant season will be Saturday, Oct. 12 to Sunday, Dec. 15. The gray partridge season will be Saturday, Sept. 14 to Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed grouse are likely at or near the low point of their roughly 10-year population cycle. Minnesota's ruffed grouse drumming counts declined last spring for the third year in a row.

Statewide, drumming counts were down 11 percent compared with 2001. The northwest, north and central hardwoods regions all showed similar declines of eight percent, nine percent and 14 percent, respectively. The northeast and southeast zones remained stable.

Drumming counts provide an index to breeding populations, but do not provide a measure of grouse production and survival during the later spring and summer.

The cool spring and flooding in portions of the grouse range will not bode well for good chick production and survival in those areas this summer. However, other areas experienced more favorable weather conditions.

It is likely that the ruffed grouse population cycle will enter an upturn within the next couple of years.

Despite the decrease, there still should be some reasonably good grouse hunting in better habitats throughout much of the grouse range this fall, according to Garber.

Minnesota continues to be a leader in ruffed grouse hunting opportunity, with cyclic lows here often exceeding peaks in other regions of the country. The ruffed grouse season will be Saturday, Sept. 14 to Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Sharp-tailed grouse numbers dropped for the second consecutive year, with counts declining 13 percent in the east-central range and 10 percent in the northwest range.

Sharp-tailed grouse need open brushland habitats. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keeps trees from overtaking the open brushlands that sharp-tailed grouse need to survive.

The sharp-tailed grouse season will be Saturday, Sept. 14 to Saturday, Nov. 30.

Other Small Game

Squirrels and rabbits have benefitted from the series of relatively mild winters the past few years. Populations of these species are generally good. Snowshoe hares traditionally exhibit an approximate 10-year population cycle, similar to that of ruffed grouse.

Snowshoe hare counts on spring grouse surveys indicate that they are likely at or near a modest peak in that cycle.

More information on upland game populations will be available following completion of August counts. Rabbit, hare and squirrel seasons will be Saturday, Sept. 14 to Saturday, Feb. 28.

Furbearers

There are only a few changes for taking furbearers this fall. Site tagging for fisher, pine marten and otter remains repealed by the Minnesota Legislature for this year, but registration within 48 hours after the close of the season is still required.

The combined limit for fisher and pine marten is being increased from four to five. This year the muskrat, mink, beaver and otter season openers again split by north and south zones, with the north zone opening Saturday, Oct. 26 and the south zone opening Saturday, Nov. 2.

Ducks and geese

All licensed migratory bird hunters, including waterfowl hunters, are reminded that they must be certified for the Harvest Information Program (HIP) to legally hunt these birds.

To become certified, anyone intending to hunt migratory birds must identify themselves as migratory bird hunters when they buy a license and have the "HIP Certified" evidence of compliance printed on their electronically issued license.

Hunters who did not get this certification when they first purchased a license can get it for no charge at any ELS license agent.

Early Canada Goose Season

The DNR will again hold an expanded early September Canada goose hunting season this year. Hunting on or near water will be allowed in the West Goose Zone for the entire early September season.

Controlled hunt zones will be open at Talcot Lake and Thief Lake for the early September Canada goose seasons, subject to controlled hunt regulations. The early Canada goose season will open Sunday, Sept. 1, the earliest date allowed under the federal season framework.

The season in the Northwest Zone will close Sunday, Sept. 15. The season in the remainder of the state will run approximately three weeks, with the specific closing date announced after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the final proposed late season waterfowl framework dates.

The daily bag limit will be five geese per day in most of the state and two geese per day in the southeast and northwest zones.

These seasons are intended to increase the harvest of locally breeding giant Canada geese by timing the harvest before the migrant Eastern Prairie Population geese arrive in the state from Canada.

Ducks

The duck season this fall will be based on duck population status and duck regulations packages proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in early August. The opening date will be either Saturday, Sept. 21 or Saturday, Sept. 28, but a proposed date will not be announced until early August after the late-season framework proposals are announced.

The special youth waterfowl hunting day is planned for Saturday, Sept. 14. Although the Fish and Wildlife Service offers states two days for this hunt, Minnesota plans to continue with the one-day hunt.

Results of the Minnesota waterfowl hunter survey and comments from public meetings held around the state continue to indicate strong public support for this hunt, but there is a significant level of concern expressed by some waterfowl hunters who believe it is affecting their success in the regular seasons.

General waterfowl season dates and bag limits will not be official until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the federal framework within which states must select their regulations. The framework includes the earliest opening date, bag limits and the maximum numbers of days allowed for hunting.

Minnesota's breeding duck populations this spring were higher than any previous counts since surveys began in 1968, but the late spring delayed migration of some duck species so there were likely more migrant birds still in the state during the time the counts were done.

The mallard breeding population in Minnesota this spring was estimated at 367,000, 14 percent greater than last year. Mallard populations in Minnesota have been above 300,000 since 1992, and are 72 percent above the average since the current waterfowl survey began in 1968. A few mallard flocks were seen in the mid-May survey, indicating birds still in migration, but the majority of the birds counted will breed in Minnesota.

Blue-winged teal numbers increased to near-record high numbers, 430,000, up 217 percent from last year and 94 percent above the long-term average. Minnesota's blue-winged teal numbers have declined since the early 1990s, but teal are more mobile than some other species in selecting breeding areas and their numbers continentally have been high.

Part of the large increase in teal was due to delayed migration and displaced birds from dryer areas elsewhere.

Combined populations of other ducks, such as wood ducks and ring-necked ducks, increased to 375,000 and were 126 percent above the long-term average.

Some of these were delayed migrants ­ for example, there were some large flocks of ruddy ducks and other species that typically breed in relatively low numbers in Minnesota.

This provided one more indication that the delayed spring inflated the counts of a number of duck species in Minnesota this past spring.

Geese

Canada geese are becoming one of the most abundant breeding waterfowl in Minnesota. Current resident Canada goose breeding populations are estimated at approximately 315,000, with an additional 20,000 or so in the Twin Cities metro area. Resident goose counts across much of the state increased 16 percent compared with 2001.

This was the second year of a helicopter survey that provides more accurate monitoring of Canada goose population trends.

Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese, which breed in northern Manitoba and migrate through western Minnesota, experienced a very late spring and a delayed nesting season.

However, the annual June aerial survey of geese in the northern Manitoba nesting grounds indicated a stable population (estimated at 216,000) and a strong nesting effort this year, especially given the late initiation of nesting.

The Mississippi Flyway Council will make recommendations in July to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on hunting seasons for Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese, given the current population status.

The general goose opener will be announced along with the duck opener when more information on final frameworks is available in early August. The season in the West-Central and Lac Qui Parle zones will again likely open at least one week later than the general opener.

A 10-day special December Canada goose season will likely be open statewide again this year, except in the West-Central and Lac qui Parle zones.

The status of North American waterfowl populations will be discussed during a late July meeting of the Mississippi Flyway Council, an organization of waterfowl biologists and administrators representing 14 states and three Canadian provinces.

This group will develop recommendations on waterfowl hunting regulations to be presented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in late July and early August in Washington, D.C.

The DNR will make final decisions on Minnesota's regular goose and duck seasons later this summer, after consultation with the Mississippi Flyway Council and in compliance with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service frameworks.

More information about the status of ducks and geese and predicted fall flights will be available in late July, when summer waterfowl production estimates are available.

Crows

The crow season is March 1-March 31 and July 15-Oct. 15. The current 124-day crow season is the maximum allowed by federal law.

Additional info

Additional information about fall seasons will be available at ELS license agents or from the DNR in the 2002 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, available in early August, and the Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement, available in early September.

Garber said that hunters should check the actual regulations in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook and in the Waterfowl Regulations Supplement before going afield.

Additional information will also be posted on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us as it becomes available.

Minnesota hunting and trapping seasons

Small game hunting

Cottontail rabbit, jackrabbit, snowshoe hare, Sept. 14 ­ Feb. 28; gray and fox squirrel, Sept. 14 ­ Feb. 28; ruffed and spruce grouse, Sept. 14 ­ Dec. 31; sharp-tailed grouse, Sept. 14 ­ Nov. 30; gray (Hungarian) partridge, Sept. 14 ­ Dec. 31; Take a Kid Hunting weekend, Sept. 21 ­ Sept. 22; ring-necked pheasant, Oct. 12 ­ Dec. 15; crow, March 1-31 and July 15-Oct 15; woodcock, Sept. 21 ­ Nov. 4; common snipe (Wilson's of Jacksnipe), Sept. 1 ­ Nov. 4; Sora and Virginia rails, Sept. 1 ­ Nov. 4; early Canada goose (statewide, except Northwest), Sept. 1 (close to be announced); early Canada goose (Northwest Zone), Sept. 1 ­ Sept. 15; youth waterfowl hunt, Sept. 14 (tentative); waterfowl opener, to be announced.

Big game hunting

Deer ­ Archery: Northeast border zone (permit areas 116 and 127), Sept. 14 ­ Nov. 24; remainder of state, Sept. 14 ­ Dec. 31.

Deer ­ Firearms: Zone 1 (northeastern Minnesota), Nov. 9 ­ Nov. 24; zone 2 (Lake of the Woods to Twin Cities), Nov. 9 ­ Nov. 17; zone 3A (southeastern Minnesota), Nov. 9 ­ Nov. 17; zone 3B (southeastern Minnesota), Nov. 23 ­ Nov. 29; zone 4A (southern and western Minnesota), Nov. 9 ­ Nov. 10; zone 4B (southern and western Minnesota), Nov. 16 ­ Nov. 19.

Deer ­ Muzzleloader: Nov. 30 ­ Dec. 15; Black Bear: Sept. 1 ­ Oct. 13; Moose (northeast zone only): Sept. 28 ­ Oct. 13; Elk: Closed.

Furbearer hunting/trapping

Raccoon and red fox ­ continuous; gray fox, badger, opossum, Sept. 14 ­ March 15; bobcat, Nov. 30 ­ Jan 5; pine marten and fisher, Nov. 30 ­ Dec. 15; mink and muskrat (north zone), Oct. 26 ­ Feb. 28; mink and muskrat (south zone), Nov. 2 ­ Feb. 28; beaver (north zone), Oct. 26 ­ May 15; beaver (south zone), Nov. 2 ­ May 15; otter (north zone), Oct. 26 ­ Jan. 5; otter (south zone), Nov. 2 ­ Jan. 5 ­ 30.


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