Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

March 31, 2003

Ice-out on area lakes is on its way

Ice-out on our area lakes varies every year. On Howard Lake, the earliest recorded ice-out date occurred March 15, 1999.

The latest ice-out date is May 2, 1949. The average date, based on information from 1949 to 2001, is April 14.

This year, with many of the ponds and small lakes already opening up, the ice on Howard could be gone a bit sooner than April 14.

For now, it will all depend on weather and wind conditions in the next few weeks. If we have calm, cloudy days and cool nights, with no rainfall, the ice may hang on for quite a while.

If we have windy days with a lot of sunshine, warm nights, and some rainfall within the next week, the ice could be gone very soon.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other officials determine ice-out dates, kind of by this standard: if a boat can travel on open water from one shoreline to another, then the ice is considered to be out.

The process usually starts with the ice turning deep grey and soft. As that happens, the ice along the shoreline begins to dissipate and a ring of open water around the ice will appear.

The remaining ice then becomes pitted and even softer. At that stage, wind can really determine ice-out. If there is enough wind to stir the open water and move the ice, the ice can be gone in a matter of hours.

On many of our area lakes, especially the smaller ones, the ice has already dissipated from the shorelines, and the lakes could be ice-free by the end of the week.

Other factors, like creeks and streams that run into lakes, run-off, springs, and underwater currents can also affect ice-out.

No matter what the conditions are like in the next few weeks, our area lakes will be free of ice very soon, and the open water season will be upon us again.

As the ice does leave, look for dead fish along shorelines and the birds that feed on them. In our area, it is very common to see bald eagles hanging around lakes at ice-out.

The dead fish provide an excellent food source for them, and that is exactly why they are there. Many other species of birds, and often other wildlife like raccoons, take advantage of the same thing.

Finally, if you have the time or live on a lake, the process of ice-out can be a slow, but a wonderful thing to watch.

(Howard Lake ice-out dates can be found on www.herald-journal.com/outdoors and click on library.)

Winter hog roast

A winter hog roast, sponsored by the Winsted Sportsmen's Club, will take place Saturday, April 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Winsted Legion.

Activities include a membership drive, meat raffle, euchre tournament downstairs at 8 p.m., and a band upstairs at 8 p.m.

There will also be a Cabin "Up North" Silent Auction, with the winner receiving a one-week stay on beautiful Pleasant Lake in Hackensack in a three-bedroom cabin.

Minimum bid is $300, with increases of $25. Bids may be taken from now up until 10 p.m. at the winter hog roast.

Tickets are available at Winsted Farmers Co-op, Tom's Corner Bar, Keg's, and from Sportsmen's members

For more information or to place your bid, call Tom Kieser (952) 955-1704, or Kevin Kahle (320) 485-4495. Bidding sheets are available at Kegs or Tom's Corner Bar.

Crow River DU banquet April 8

The Crow River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its annual banquet Tuesday, April 8, at the Blue Note of Winsted, with social hour beginning at 5 p.m.

It's a great opportunity to raise bucks for ducks with a tremendously credible organization.

For more information or tickets, call Ken Durdahl of Howard Lake at (320) 543-3372.

Durdahl recently completed a one-year term as the Minnesota State Chairman of Ducks Unlimited.

Wright County Pheasants Forever

The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever (WCPF) will host its annual banquet Monday, April 7, at the Buffalo Civic Center.

The cackling hour begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets can be obtained by mailing to Wright County Pheasants Forever, 8626 15th Street SW, Howard Lake, MN 55349.

The following is a list of some of the accomplishments of the Wright County Chapter in 2002:

1. Purchased 18 acres of key habitat that allowed a lake restoration in Albion Township. This will become a wildlife management area, and be run by the Minnesota DNR. WCPF was contacted due to its reputation of "getting things done."

2. Donated $5,000 to the Minnesota Habitat Team. This Pheasants Forever (PF) organization was created to aid Minnesota farmers in native prairie restoration.

They have the equipment and training available to aid those that otherwise would not have the ability to complete their projects.

3. Sponsored a Leopold Education Project at the Ney Nature Center February of 2003. The purpose of the workshop is to help educators discover methods to educate youth in the importance of nature and habitat in everyday lives.

4. WCPF is the largest contributor to the Minnesota Habitat Fund. A PF fund dedicated to purchasing land within Minnesota.

5. Educated on the importance of habitat over 900 Wright County fifth graders at the Ney Nature Center during the fall education field day held by the Wright County Soil and Water District (WCSWD).

6. Sponsor incentives to local Wright County farmers to establish buffer (or filter) strips along waterways to protect our water resources, as well as provide nesting habitat for wildlife through the WCSWCD.

7. Sponsor a corn giveaway each winter in which approximately 1,000 bushels of ear corn are distributed each year for winter feeding of wildlife.

8. Sponsor a pheasant pen and education booth at the Wright County Fair every year.

Minnesota bear hunt application deadline is May 2

From the DNR

Applications for the 2003 Minnesota black bear hunting season are now being accepted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources through Friday, May 2. This year's season, which will run from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, offers 20,110 licenses available in 11 permit areas.

Applications, which can be made through the DNR's Electronic Licensing System, are available from 1,750 ELS agents throughout Minnesota and the DNR License Center at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul. Applications can also be made by calling 1-888-MNLICENse or through the Internet at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Nonresident applicants can still mail in their applications, but they 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. Those licenses can be purchased directly from any ELS agent after July 1.

In 2002, there were 21,886 applicants for the available 20,610 permit area licenses. Hunters harvested 1,915 bears. Abundant natural foods contributed to the low harvest and success rates. Minnesota's bear population is currently about 20,000 and has been growing at a rate of 6 to 7 percent per year. Bear licenses cost $39 for residents and $196 for nonresidents. The bag limit for bears will remain two for the no-quota area, but one in the permit areas.

Northern cardinal voted Minnesota's most popular bird

From the DNR

The northern cardinal is Minnesota's favorite wild bird, according to a recent informal survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Non-game Wildlife Program. The black-capped chickadee placed second and was followed by the common loon as the third most favored wild bird in Minnesota.

Thousands of Minnesotans took part in this simple survey by listing their three favorite wild bird species online or by postcard to the DNR, according to Carrol Henderson, the DNR Non-game Wildlife Program supervisor. A total of 5,937 votes were tallied to determine Minnesota's 15 most popular birds.

The northern cardinal was selected as the number one favorite bird in Minnesota with a total of 1,214 entries. The black-capped chickadee received 1,030 votes, making it the second favorite bird in Minnesota. Minnesota's state bird, the common loon, took third place with 801 votes. The remainder of the top 15, in order, are American goldfinch, eastern bluebird, bald eagle, American robin, ruby-throated hummingbird, Baltimore oriole, pileated woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, rose-breasted grosbeak, wood duck, mourning dove and ring-necked pheasant.

Entries were received from individuals, nursing homes, school children and community event leaders on the DNR Web site.

"Survey participants were excited to share their love of nature and many expressed their difficulty in choosing only three species," Henderson said. "Possibly the most interesting choice was the archaeopteryx, an extinct reptile-like bird of the Jurassic Period, submitted by an eighth grade science class student in the Brainerd area."

This citizen survey will help the DNR Non-game Wildlife Program provide Minnesotans with information about their favorite birds, including how to attract some species to private property, and information on where to see and enjoy favorite birds.

For more information about this survey, visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us or call (651) 297-8040.

Funding available for waterfowl projects

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is making $165,000 available to local conservation organizations interested in working on water control structures on wildlife management areas throughout the state.

The funds, available through the Heritage Enhancements Grants Program, will cover the cost of adding or restoring water control structures, fish barriers, dikes, and related inlets and outlets that enhance existing wetland habitat.

"These additional dollars are available for large and small projects, so we're encouraging proposals from all size organizations," said Leslie Tannahill, a grants specialist for the DNR Division of Wildlife. "The main requirement is that the funds are used for water control structures on wildlife management areas."

The Heritage Enhancement Grants to Local Outdoors Clubs program provides funding to local conservation organizations for materials to work on state wildlife management areas. The program is funded through a bill passed by the 2001 Legislature that provides $2 million through 2003 to local outdoor clubs statewide.

Grants are administered through the DNR Division of Wildlife with input from local DNR wildlife managers.

A grant application and information package is available by calling Leslie Tannahill at (651) 284-0584 or via e-mail at leslie.tannahill@dnr.state.mn.us. Completed grant applications are due April 30. Work covered under these grants must be completed by June 30, 2004.

Outdoor notes

­ Please remember that no ice, especially ice at this time of year, is ever completely safe.

­ The hunting season for crow in Minnesota ends today, March 31.

­ ATV users should remember to be courteous and very concerned about the damage ATVs can do to wet and soft ground.

­ Large numbers of Canada geese and ducks have arrived back in our area. Wood ducks are also coming back in good numbers and using the numerous wood duck houses that have been placed in our area.

­ The 2003 fishing opener is set for Sat. May 10.

­ Take some time to enjoy the outdoors and watch spring happen.

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