Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Aug. 9, 2004

Duck season open earlier this season

The opening day of the 2004 Minnesota waterfowl hunting season is tentatively set for Saturday, Sept. 25, and shooting hours on the opener will start at 9 a.m.

Compared to previous seasons, this year’s waterfowl hunt would have opened Oct. 2, and shooting hours would have stated at noon.

I’m not sure if I agree with the earlier start to the season, but the change in opening day shooting hours from noon to 9 a.m. is great, and will be well received by most Minnesota waterfowlers.

At this point in time it’s hard to say what the season will be like.

Unfortunately, most Minnesota waterfowl hunters have learned to be less than optimistic when it comes to duck numbers, and harvest success.

Although optimism may be low, the season will be here soon, and it’s time to start thinking about ducks, places to hunt, and getting your gear ready.

The following is a press release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on the up coming 2004 Minnesota waterfowl hunting season.

Duck season similar to last year, but for changes to Minnesota goose seasons

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing to open the 2004 duck season Saturday, Sept. 25.

Hunter opinion surveys conducted in 2000 and 2002 indicate most Minnesota duck hunters would prefer the earlier opening date this year instead of delaying the opener to Saturday, Oct. 2.

The 60-day season and six duck daily bag limit are similar to last year’s season.

Seasons for canvasbacks and pintails will again be restricted to 30 days.

Goose seasons will be restricted in most zones due to record low production of young Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada geese that migrate through Minnesota.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Saturday, Sept. 18, 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 will be five, except in the Twin Cities, Southeast, and Northwest goose zones and Carlos Avery WMA and the Swan Lake area, where the bag limit is one.

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

The legislature passed a law that will open the waterfowl season at 9 a.m. instead of noon on opening day this fall, according to Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl staff specialist.

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 2004 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement will be distributed in early September.

PROPOSED DUCK SEASON

Minnesota’s duck season will be Sept. 25 to Nov. 23.

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 30-day open seasons for those species.

One pintail per day may be taken from Saturday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Oct. 24.

One canvasback per day may be taken from Saturday, Oct. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 7.

Possession limits are twice the daily bag limits. Except for opening day, when shooting hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., shooting hours will be from one half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily through Saturday, Oct. 9, and from one half hour before sunrise to sunset beginning Sunday, Oct. 10, through the remainder of the season.

According to Minnesota law, motorized decoys with visible, moving parts that are above the water surface may not be used to take waterfowl, except geese, on public waters from Sept. 25 through Saturday, Oct. 9.

Motorized “spinning wing“ style 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 .

Results from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys indicate the total duck population estimate was 32 million birds in 2004, 11 percent below the 2003 estimate of 36 million and 3 percent below the long-term average.

Mallard abundance, an important component for the Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) process, was similar (7.4 million) to 2003 (7.9 million) and the long-term average (7.5 million).

In Minnesota, the number of breeding mallards increased 34 percent to 375,000 and remains 9 percent above the 10-year average. Total duck abundance (excluding scaup) was the third highest on record (1,008,000 birds) between 1968-2004.

PROPOSED GOOSE SEASON

Minnesota’s regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season on Saturday, Sept. 25, except for Canada goose seasons in the West-Central goose zone.

Resident Canada goose populations in Minnesota remain high and excellent goose hunting should again be available for Minnesota waterfowl hunters.

However, EPP Canada geese, which nest near Hudson Bay and migrate through Minnesota had a “bust” production year in 2004.

Deep snows covered the nesting grounds until late spring.

Few geese attempted to nest and production of young geese is expected to be the lowest recorded since 1976.

“Without additional restrictions, and with no young birds in the population, we would be cutting directly into the breeding population,” said Ed Boggess, DNR fish and wildlife policy manager.

“Protecting this population is essential to maintaining future goose hunting opportunities at important EPP concentration areas, such as Lac qui Parle” he said.

The EPP Management Plan, approved by the Mississippi Flyway Council, calls for states and provinces in the EPP range (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Manitoba) to implement hunting regulations that will reduce EPP harvest by 25 percent in “bust” production years.

Based on goose band recovery data, the proposed restrictions in hunting opportunity in most Canada goose zones should reduce harvest this season and prevent over harvest of future breeding birds.

Restrictions to protect migrating EPP geese during the regular goose season will not affect the special September and December goose seasons, which are designed to reduce populations of resident giant Canada geese that nest in Minnesota.

Early September Goose Season

The early Canada goose season will open statewide on Saturday, Sept. 4 and run through Wednesday, Sept. 22, except in the Northwest Zone where it closes on Sept. 15.

The Saturday opening date ensures that the most hunters can be in the field to maximize harvest effectiveness.

This September season is designed to target resident giant Canada geese that nest in Minnesota.

The Special Goose Hunt Permit ($4) is required for both the early and late special seasons.

The restriction against hunting within 100 yards of surface water remains in the Northwest, Southeast, and Twin Cities Metro Goose Zones and in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area and an area surrounding Swan Lake in Nicollet County.

September goose hunters should consult the 2004 Hunting Regulations Handbook for further details and zone maps.

Regular Goose Season

The regular Canada goose seasons in Minnesota will be:

Northwest Zone (40 days): Saturday, Sept. 25-Wednesday, Nov. 3; one bird/day

West Central Zone (25 days): Thursday, Oct. 21-Sunday, Nov. 14; one bird/day

West Zone (35 days): Saturday, Sept. 25-Friday, Oct. 29; one bird/day

Remainder of state (60 days): Saturday, Sept. 25-Tuesday, Nov. 23; two birds/day

The season for light geese (snow, blue and Ross’ geese), white-fronted geese, and brant will be Sept. 25 to Dec. 19.

The daily limit will be 20 light geese, two white-fronted geese and one brant.

December Goose Seasons

Special December Canada goose seasons will again be offered statewide except in the West-Central Goose Zone, which includes Lac qui Parle WMA.

The Special Goose Hunt Permit ($4) is required and valid for both early and late special goose seasons.

The late season will be open Saturday, Dec. 4 to Monday, Dec. 13, except in the Southeast Goose Zone, where the season will be begin Friday, Dec. 10 to Sunday, Dec. 19.

Bag limits for Canada geese during the late season will be five/day, except in the Southeast Goose Zone (which includes the Rochester area), where the bag limit will be two/day.

December goose hunters should consult the 2004 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook and the 2004 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement for zone maps and additional details.

OVERALL HABITAT CONDITIONS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported drier habitat conditions in 2004 across most of the key breeding areas than during 2003.

Numbers of ponds in prairie Canada (2.5 million) declined 29% from 2003 and were 25% below the long-term average.

Pond numbers in the north central U.S. declined 16% from 2003 and were 8% below the long-term average.

Southern Manitoba, eastern Montana, and western North Dakota were the only regions with improved pond conditions from the previous year.

“Habitat conditions in Minnesota were below average in May, but improved in many areas by mid-July,” Cordts said. “We expect another good wild rice crop on most of our rice lakes but weather conditions over the next few months can greatly influence fall migration habitat before opening day.”

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 2004, e-mail to info@dnr.state.mn.us or write to Division of Fish and 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 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 2004 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 2004 Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement, which will be available in early September.

All migratory bird hunters (doves, waterfowl, woodcock, etc.) 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 intends to hunt any migratory birds in Minnesota this year and “HIP certified” will appear on the license.

Hunters who did not answer “yes” to this question when they bought their small game license, but who later wish to hunt migratory birds, may visit any Electronic License System agent to obtain HIP certification at no charge.

Special hunts, youth season provide numerous opportunities for inexperienced hunters in 2004

From the DNR

According to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials, a booming deer herd and a strong commitment to the future of hunting, have led to the expansion of special youth deer hunting opportunities this fall.

Seven special youth deer hunts and one special youth deer season will be held in October at locations throughout the state.

“Youth hunts are a tool for recruiting and retaining young hunters because they give us an opportunity to provide high quality, safe, mentored hunting experiences,” said Ryan Bronson, coordinator of the DNR’s recruitment and retention program.

“With all the competition for kids time these days, providing positive experiences early in a hunter’s development are critical to keeping them involved. Plus, by holding these hunts outside of the regular hunting season frameworks, it is easier for adult mentors to participate.”

Applications for the three archery hunts and four firearms deer hunts are available on the Electronic Licensing System.

Applications for the hunts are due Aug. 20. Lotteries will be held to select participants.

Youth ages 12-17 as of Oct. 7, who have their Firearms Safety Certificate, are eligible to apply for one of the special youth archery deer hunts.

Hunts will be held at: Camp Ripley, Oct. 9-10; Arden Hills Army Training Site A, Oct. 21-22; and Arden Hills Army Training Site B, Oct. 23-24. Participants will have to obtain a valid archery license at least two days prior to the hunt.

Youth ages 12 to 15 as of Oct. 20, who have their Firearms Safety Certificate, are eligible to apply for one of the special youth firearms deer hunts.

Hunts will be held at Whitewater Wildlife Management Area Refuge near Winona Oct. 21-24; Lake Bemidji State Park, Oct. 21-24; Rydell National Wildlife Refuge near Crookston, Oct. 30-31; and St. Croix State Park near Hinckley, Oct. 30-31.

Blaze orange requirements will be in effect for these areas during the youth hunts.

Participants will have to obtain a valid firearms license prior to the hunt.

Youth may hunt with bow and arrow or a shotgun in the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area Refuge hunt.

Participating youth must attend a pre-hunt orientation and safety session, and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the hunt.

If the parents or guardians are inexperienced hunters and would like help during the hunt, volunteer mentors from sponsoring organizations are available to accompany the hunter/parent teams in the field.

Sponsoring organizations include the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota State Archery Association and the Bluffland Whitetails Association.

“The research on youth participation in hunting and fishing is conclusive,” Bronson said. “Youth become hunters and anglers because they are taught how by someone close to them, so we require a parent, guardian or other adult mentor to accompany kids on these hunts so they experience the hunt together. Usually participants report that the time they spend together is the most valuable part of the hunt.”

NORTHWEST MINNESOTA EARLY YOUTH ANTLERLESS DEER SEASON

A special youth antlerless deer season was established by the Minnesota Legislature for Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall and Pennington counties on Oct. 23-24.

Youth ages 12-14, with a valid Minnesota firearms deer license, valid for any zone or season, are eligible to hunt antlerless deer in these five counties.

Participating youth must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult and must get a free Northwest Minnesota Youth Antlerless Deer Season endorsement from an Electronic Licensing System agent prior to the hunt.

There are no limits on the number of youth who may participate. Participants may take only one antlerless deer during the hunt. Party hunting is not allowed.

While the special hunts have been on fairly limited parcels of land that are largely closed to hunting, the northwestern Minnesota youth season is open in an area that encompasses more than four million acres.

Deer hunting organizations in the area, including the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Minnesota Quality Deer Management, will be working to pair willing landowners with young hunters.

Later this summer, a Web site will be available that both landowners and potential hunters can access to get together.

Detailed information about the youth deer hunts and seasons are available on the DNR Web site at: www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Dutch elm disease on the rise

From the DNR

There is a large increase in the number of elms infected with Dutch elm disease showing up this season in the Twin Cities and other areas of the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Minneapolis, St. Paul and many of the surrounding suburbs are reporting diseased trees in numbers more reminiscent of yesteryear than today,” said Susan Burks, a DNR forest health specialist. “The disease has many communities struggling to find the time and funds to maintain their disease management programs.”

While there are a number of theories on why Dutch elm disease incidence has jumped so high, there are steps homeowners can take to limit the amount of future disease in their area, according to Burks.

First, a homeowners should remove an infected tree before the disease has a chance to spread to other elms.

The fungus that causes Dutch elm disease can spread through root grafts, the sharing of a common root system between “like” trees. Removing newly infected trees before the fungus has a chance to move into the roots of adjacent elms can save those trees.

Burks noted, however, that if new disease infections are caught early, pruning out the infected portion of the tree before the fungus moves into the trunk can sometimes save it.

The tree then has to be injected with a systemic fungicide for added protection.

A certified arborist should always be contacted at the first sign of wilting to have the best possible chance of saving the tree.

Removing all “volunteer” elms in alleys, fencerows and windbreaks is the second thing Burks advises concerned homeowners to do.

These volunteer trees are often Siberian elms, which are prolific seed producers.

Although Siberian elms are more resistant to disease than the American elms, which are most prevalent in people’s yards and on street boulevards, they still become infected and can maintain high populations of fungal spores and elm bark beetles. Removing them reduces the disease pressure in a neighborhood.

Homeowners also need keep their American elms healthy.

Trees stressed due to wounding, root disturbance or severe weather are much more likely to become infected because the bark beetles that are the overland carriers of the disease find them attractive in their weakened state.

Pruning of elm trees should therefore take place during the dormant season or at least after the trees begin to shut down for the winter, usually sometime in September.

Root disturbance around a desirable elm is always ill advised, so construction work and adding flowerbeds in the immediate vicinity of the tree should be avoided.

Keeping elms watered in drought years is recommended to keep them healthy and better able to fend off disease and insect attacks.

The last advice for homeowners is to plant a variety of tree species in their yards, including disease-resistant elms.

“Elms are an important component of our urban and community forests, so we shouldn’t give up on them,” said Burks.

Outdoor notes

• The Winsted Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its annual banquet Tuesday, Sept. 14 at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the group or helping with the banquet, the chapter will be meeting Monday evenings at 6:30 p.m. at the Blue Note.

The chapter will not be meeting today, Monday, but will resume meetings Monday, Aug. 16.

• The last weekend of Game Fair in Anoka is Aug. 13, 14 and 15.

If you have never attended, I highly recommend the event. Just watching the dog jumping competition is well worth the ticket, and the time.

• Look for the action on big northern pike to pick up on our area lakes very soon.

• Now is the time to start getting yourself, and your dog, in shape for the upcoming hunting seasons.

Pay special attention to your dogs diet, slowly work the dog into a higher protein food, and cut down, or get rid of, the table scraps.

If there’s one thing that will improve a dog’s health, and performance, it’ a good consistent diet.

• Sharpen your shooting eye, and get used to your firearms again, by shooting a round of trap at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club.

The club is open for practice shooting every Wednesday evening through early September.

• Today, Monday, the sun will rise at 6:08 a.m. and set at 8:28 p.m.

The days are stating to get shorter in a big hurry.

• Get outside and enjoy summer before its over for another year.

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