Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Jan. 12, 2004

Pheasants forever makes big strides

After a year where conditions in Minnesota and across the midwest were excellent for pheasants, and pheasant hunting in general was excellent. the following questions still loom.

What will next year's pheasant population and pheasant hunting be like, and what will the future hold?

One Minnesota pheasant hunter posed those questions to me last week.

The hunter also noted that if pheasant hunting next year in Minnesota, or hunting in the next ten years, would be as good as it was this past season, we would all be happy.

For many Minnesota hunters, the pheasant season of 2003 set the mark and was the best year of Minnesota pheasant hunting they had ever experienced.

With that said, the expectations for upcoming years are now much higher.

Hunters will now expect to see the same number of birds they did in 2003.

More days will be spent in the field by more hunters and, in general, the prospects of good pheasant hunting in Minnesota will be bright.

Much brighter then what most Minnesota hunters had come to expect.

Moving on, and in simpler terms, there is only one answer to the questions posed above, and only one thing that will ensure good pheasant numbers and quality hunting in the future.

That one thing is habitat. Undisturbed grasslands for nesting, heavy winter cover like tree lines, brushy fence lines and cattail sloughs, and of course, lots of it.

Habitat is the key to all of our wildlife populations and, when it comes to pheasants, no group or organization understands that more than Pheasants Forever.

Across Minnesota in 2003, Minnesota's 66 Pheasants Forever chapters completed a total of 908 projects, which now provide more than 5,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

In 2002, Pheasants Forever completed 971 projects in Minnesota and has completed 18,000 during the organizations 21-year history.

Here are a few of the details of the Pheasants Forever projects that were completed in Minnesota in 2003:

· 641 food plot projects covered 1,791 acres

· 87 nesting cover projects added 1,772 acres

· Seven wetland restorations covered 121 acres

· 32 controlled burns accounted for 463 acres

· 132 winter cover projects planted 88,609 trees and shrubs

· Nine land acquisitions totaled 1,013 acres

Over its 21-year history in Minnesota, Pheasants Forever has spent more than $18 million to complete more than 140,000 acres of habitat projects in the state.

Pheasants Forever also spent an additional $2 million on youth conservation education and public awareness programs in Minnesota.

Lands purchased and developed by Pheasants Forever become enrolled into the State Wildlife Management Area System and are open to public hunting.

There are about 120,000 pheasant hunters in Minnesota, approximately 18,000 of them are Pheasants Forever members.

Pheasants Forever and its dedicated volunteers have been creating habitat in Minnesota that benefits pheasants, and other wildlife, and with the help of pheasant hunters, they have plans for much more.

In Minnesota, that good habitat mixed in with a mild winter and a fair spring creates pheasants, and the kind of pheasant hunting we had in 2003.

If Pheasants Forever continues to make strides in habitat development, Minnesota pheasant and wildlife numbers will only get better, and the pheasant hunting season of 2003 will become the norm and not the exception.

Think twice before feeding deer

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) encourages people who feed, or are considering feeding deer to think twice before starting or continuing the practice.

White tailed deer are highly adaptive animals that are "designed" to survive the most harsh Minnesota winters.

The insulating qualities of their hair and body fat, behavioral changes related to deep snow and cold temperatures, and the metabolic slow down that occurs as winter progresses, all aid in their survival over winter.

During mild winters, such as the ones we have experienced the past few years, deer winter mortality has been extremely low, resulting in some of the highest deer populations in history.

Artificial feeding tends to congregate deer in numbers higher than would occur naturally.

Bringing individual animals into close contact with one another has consequences.

This contact increases the chance for the spread of disease.

In addition, the concentration of deer in relatively small areas resulting from feeding puts increased pressure on the vegetation in the immediate vicinity.

This often times results in over browsing of plants such as white pine, northern white cedar, jack pine, and numerous shrubs.

If feeding is occurring in a residential area, this browsing often times focuses on neighbors' gardens, ornamental trees and shrubs.

Because most of us live on or near well-traveled roads, feeding tends to put deer, and motor vehicle operators, in situations where collisions are much more likely to occur.

Few people consider this very real safety hazard for our neighbors, friends and deer when they start feeding the animals.

If you are already feeding deer or consider starting, the DNR encourages you to consider these ramifications.

Keep in mind the impacts to neighbors, vehicles, gardens and the deer themselves.

Driveway obstacles dangerous to snowmobiles

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges landowners to remove obstacles from driveway right-of-ways this snowmobile season.

"Conservation Officers are receiving increased complaints of landowners putting obstacles in road ditches to discourage snowmobilers from operating on lawns and driveways," said Lt. Ken Soring, DNR Enforcement Division district supervisor in Grand Rapids. "It is illegal to block a road right-of-way, and it creates a liability risk for the landowner."

Snowmobilers may ride in the bottom or outside slope of a ditch along a county or state road.

However, it is illegal to operate on the inside slope, shoulder and roadway of state and county roads.

Additionally, municipalities, counties, school districts, and other political subdivisions or state agencies may impose further restrictions on snowmobiling on property not owned by the operator.

Snowmobilers should check local ordinances by contacting the city or municipality where they wish to ride.

But, conservation officers say landowners also have some responsibilities.

"I have received two complaints recently about landowners blocking the road right-of-way at the end of their driveways, which is illegal," said Conservation Officer Dave Olson of Grand Rapids.

"It's only a matter of time before a snowmobiler hits one of these barricades and is seriously injured."

Snowmobilers should contact local law enforcement officials to report road right-of-ways containing obstacles or others obstructions.

DNR question of the week

From the DNR

Q: Minnesota has gone through unusually dry winters, and even drier summers in recent years.

What sort of impact does this apparent climate change have on the state's forests?

A: A shift in climate will alter Minnesota's forests, which, over time, may change their composition and how they are managed.

For instance, a warmer, drier climate will favor tree and plant species that can tolerate heat and drought conditiions, such as those that currently grow in southern and western states.

New species will migrate northward and replace native plant communities.

As a result, a warmer climate will favor the expansion hardwood forests rather than the coniferous forests we're accustomed to seeing.

Along with the new species come their disease and insect problems as well.

Those changes will have adverse impacts on Minnesota's forest industry and wildlife habitat, which could ultimately affect the state's economy.

That's the long-term perspective; in the short term, Minnesota could see a higher frequency in wildfires and increase in insect and disease outbreaks.

Pheasants Forever corn give away

The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will have a corn giveaway for pheasants and wildlife Saturday, Jan. 17.

The giveaway will be from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Lampi's Auction located at Hwy. 55 and Wright County road 6.

Please bring your own containers.

Quantities may be limited due to demand.

For additional information, please call (320) 274-CORN (2676).

Outdoor notes

­ This week, Jan. 11 ­ 17 is snowmobile safety week in Minnesota.

­ The cold weather last week gave a big boost to area ice anglers.

Larger houses are now hitting the lakes, anglers are driving out, and activity is picking up.

­ For information on the Prairie Archers Club winter archery league call (320) 395-2721

­ In next week's column, look for the scoop on the upcoming Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club annual Fishing Derby.

­ Crystal-Pierz Marine in Maple Lake is having its open house Friday through Sunday.

For additional details call Gary at (320) 963-3025.

­ Set your Christmas tree in the back yard next to your bird feeders. The tree provides good winter habitat for song birds.

­ Make plans now for the 2004 Minnesota fishing opener.

­ The days are getting longer. Today the sun will rise at 7:49 a.m. and set at 4:54 p.m.

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