Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

August 11, 2003

Minnesota - from Walnut Grove to Split Rock

For two of the past four weeks, I was out on assignment. Actually, I was traveling some and finally getting a chance to spend time with my family.

During that time, I also had the chance to experience the great geographic diversity that Minnesota has to offer.

From the rolling prairie and farmland that surrounds Plum Creek, and the small town of Walnut Grove in southwestern Minnesota, to the rocky shores of the largest freshwater lake in the world, and the lighthouse at Split Rock in northeastern Minnesota, our state is truly one of great landscape and geographic diversity.

When you think about it, and compare our state to Iowa and the Dakotas, Minnesota is one amazing place. Just trying to imagine two areas that are more different than the north shore of Lake Superior and the prairie farmland of the southwest is almost impossible. But, their differences are that great.

In late July, I headed down to Walnut Grove with my sister and mother to take in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant. My mom, in her mid 80s, is a huge fan of the Little House book series and has always wanted to see Walnut Grove.

For the three of us, the most interesting part of the trip was seeing Plum Creek and the remains of the little dugout that the Ingalls family called their home in the mid 1870's.

A family vacation to Duluth on the north shore just a week ago took me to the far reaches of the northeastern part of the state. There, my kids searched for agates on the Lake Superior shore and were amazed by the thick forests and the big rocks.

In a span of two weeks, and without driving more than five hours from home in either direction, it was like I was in two completely different worlds.

In the upcoming weeks, I'll dive a little more into the details of Plum Creek and Split Rock.

The 2003 Waterfowl seasons are similar to last year

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing to open the 2003 duck season Saturday, Sept. 27, one day earlier than last year, and a week before the traditional opening date of the Saturday nearest Oct. 1.

This year's proposed opener, which is the earliest date allowed under federal framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was chosen to provide Minnesota hunters as much opportunity as possible before lakes and ponds begin to freeze.

The 60-day season and six duck daily bag limit are similar to last year's season, except canvasback and pintail seasons will be restricted to 30 days for each. Goose seasons will also be similar to last year; however, the Lac qui Parle harvest index and Lac qui Parle Goose Zone will be discontinued.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Saturday, Sept. 20, one week before the regular opener. Young hunters may take regular season bag limits, including one canvasback and one pintail.

Goose bag limits for youth hunters have been increased to five in most of the state Goose Zone, September goose hunters will be able to hunt within 100 yards of surface water, beginning this year in this zone.

A non-hunting adult must accompany youth hunters. Spinning-wing decoys will not be allowed during the Youth Waterfowl hunt.

The waterfowl season will once again begin opening day at noon, but the DNR has made a commitment to promulgate a rule that will open the season at 9 a.m. beginning in 2004, according to Tim Bremicker, DNR wildlife division director.

Bremicker said the following regulations are being proposed by the DNR, but will not be formally approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until late September. The 2003 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement will be distributed in early September.

Proposed duck season

Minnesota's duck season will be Sept. 27 to Nov. 25. The daily bag limit is six ducks, and may not include more than four mallards (only two of which may be females), three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, and one black duck.

The daily limit will also include one pintail and one canvasback during the limited 30-day open seasons for those species. One pintail may be taken during the 30-day open season from Saturday, Sept. 27 through Oct. 26. One canvasback may be taken for the 30-day season from Saturday, Oct. 11 through Sunday, Nov. 9. Possession limits are twice the daily bag limits.

Except for opening day, when shooting hours will be noon to 4 p.m., shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily through Saturday, Oct. 11, and from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset beginning Sunday, Oct. 12, through the close of the season.

Decoys with visible moving parts that are above the water surface may not be used, according to Minnesota law, to take waterfowl, except geese, on public waters from Sept. 27 through Saturday, Oct. 11.

Motorized "spinning wing" decoys are included under this definition, but swimming decoys or "shakers" are generally not restricted under this law.

Public water includes all water basins where the state or federal government owns any shoreline or provides public access, or the basin is listed in the Public Waters Inventory. County maps identifying public waters are available for viewing at all county auditors offices or on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

The estimated total duck breeding population of 36 million birds in the Dakotas, Montana, Alaska, and much of Canada was 16 percent above last year and nine percent above the 1955-2002 average.

In Minnesota, the number of breeding mallards declined 23 percent to 281,000. This was the first time since 1991 that the survey has indicated less than 300,000 mallards, but the estimate remains 29 percent above the long-term (1968-2002) average.

Blue-winged teal in Minnesota declined to 193,000 birds, similar to recent years, but well below last year's count, which was higher because of the late spring and delayed migration. Blue-winged teal were 15 percent below the long-term average in Minnesota, but increased elsewhere in surveyed breeding areas.

Proposed goose season

Minnesota's regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season Saturday, Sept. 27, except for Canada goose seasons in the West-Central goose zone, including the former Lac qui Parle Goose Zone, which will open Saturday, Oct. 11.

The Lac qui Parle goose zone and harvest index, setting a maximum quota on harvest, are being dropped this year. The quota zone was an important part of goose management for many years, but due to changes in goose hunter distribution and goose migration, it became less effective or necessary as a management tool.

Harvest will continue to be monitored in the former zone and hunting regulations on the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area remain unchanged.

The number of days of regular and special Canada goose hunting seasons will be the same as last year in each zone. Daily bag limits will be the same as last year.

Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada geese had a better nesting year than last year, but the number of breeding birds was lower. Seasons in EPP zones will be similar to last year. Resident Canada goose populations in Minnesota remain high, and excellent goose hunting should again be available for Minnesota waterfowl hunters.

Early September goose season

The early Canada goose season will open statewide Saturday, Sept. 6. The September season is designed to harvest as many Minnesota-breeding geese as possible, and hunter survey results show there is a large opening weekend harvest.

Opening on Saturday ensures that the most hunters can be in the field to maximize harvest effectiveness. The early season will close Monday, Sept. 22, except in the Northwest Zone where it closes Sept. 15. A special early and late goose-hunting permit is required.

Restrictions on hunting near surface water have been dropped in much of the state. The restriction against hunting within 100 yards of surface water continues in the Northwest, Southeast, and Twin Cities Goose Zones, and in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, and an area surrounding Swan Lake in Nicollet County.

Early season goose hunters should consult the 2003 Hunting Regulations Handbook for details.

Regular goose season

The regular Canada goose season will be 40 days in the Northwest and West goose zones, from Sept. 27 to Nov. 5. The daily bag limit will be one Canada goose in these zones.

In the West-Central Zone, the 40 day regular Canada goose season will be Oct. 11 to Nov. 19. Because the Lac qui Parle Goose Zone and harvest index have been dropped, the season in this former zone will be the same as the West-Central zone. The daily bag limit will be one Canada goose.

The remainder of Minnesota will have a 70 day Canada goose season, from Sept. 27 to Dec. 5, with a bag limit of two Canada geese daily.

Late goose seasons

Special December Canada goose seasons will be offered statewide, except in the West-Central Goose Zone, which includes Lac qui Parle. Late-season hunters must have a Special Goose Hunt Permit, which is valid for both early and late special goose seasons.

The late season will be open Dec. 6 to Dec. 15, except in the Southeast Goose Zone, where the season will be open Dec. 12 to Dec. 21.

Bag limits for Canada geese during the late season will be five per day, except in the Southeast Goose Zone, where the bag limit will be two. The Southeast Goose Zone includes an area south of the Twin Cities along the Mississippi River, extending westward to the Rochester area.

A map of the goose hunting zones is in the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook and will be in the Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement.

The season for light geese (snow, blue and Ross' geese), white-fronted geese, and brant will be Sept. 27 to Dec. 21. The daily limit will be 20 light geese, two white-fronted geese and one brant.

Overall conditions

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported improved habitat conditions and higher duck breeding population numbers on North America's major duck breeding grounds. Conditions improved dramatically in prairie Canada, especially in portions of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Much of the increase in duck populations occurred in the western portion of the survey area.

"Minnesota habitat conditions are again highly variable, but generally look better than last year," Bremicker said. "We are on track for a very good wild rice crop in many areas. The weather conditions during the next few months will influence fall migration habitat before the regular duck opener."

Other waterfowl information

Waterfowl seasons will not be finalized until after the comment period closes on the proposed federal migratory waterfowl rules in early September. However, it is unlikely that the federal waterfowl season frameworks will be different from those noted above.

To comment on the proposed Minnesota waterfowl season selections for 2003, send an e-mail to info@dnr.state.mn.us, or write to Division of Wildlife, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN, 55155-4007.

To comment on the proposed Federal waterfowl season frameworks, write: Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, ms 634 - ARLSQ, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.

More information about waterfowl status or Adaptive Harvest Management is available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Bird Management web site at www.migratorybirds.fws.gov/.

The Minnesota DNR will announce the final season dates and limits in early September. Waterfowl hunters should consult the 2003 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, which is now available from license agents and DNR offices, for basic waterfowl regulations and September seasons.

For details on regular and December season waterfowl regulations, consult the 2003 Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement, which will be available in early September.

Bremicker noted that all migratory bird hunters, including waterfowl hunters, must be enrolled in the Harvest Information Program (HIP). To legally hunt migratory birds, hunters must answer "yes" to the question on the small game hunting license about whether the hunter will hunt any migratory birds this year.

The license must say "HIP certified." Hunters who did not check "yes" when they bought their small game license, but who later wish to hunt migratory birds, may visit an Electronic License System agent to obtain HIP certification. There is no fee.

Outdoor Notes:

­ Waverly Gun Club will host a black powder shoot Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23 and 24, at the gun club one-and-a-half miles north of Waverly on Wright County Road 9.

­ The fall hunting seasons are fast approaching. Now is the time to finalize your fall calendar and all the details of your upcoming outdoor adventures.

­ The 2003 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook is out and available at area license vendors. Please take the time to read it. The new regulations for 2003 are listed on page 4.

­ The CPA retriever of the year dog trial will be Saturday, Aug 23 at Major Ave. Hunt Club near Glencoe.

­ The action for northern pike on several lakes in our area has been excellent. For lunker northern pike in late August, head to the shallow bays of Lake Mille Lacs.

­ Now is the time to get your dog in shape for the fall. Start out slow and gradually work the dog in hunting shape. Now is also the time to gradually change your dog's diet and move to a food that is higher in protein.

­ Take the time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer. The days are already getting shorter and soon school will be starting.

­ The Crow River South Fork Committee will meet Wednesday, Aug. 13 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Pizza Ranch on Highway 212 in Glencoe. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m., but feel free to show up early for the lunch buffet.

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