Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

September 18, 2006

Local pheasant hunt should be excellent

Just over a week ago the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released the results of August roadside counts for pheasants and other wildlife.

Although pheasant numbers across Minnesota’s range, and locally, didn’t take the jump that myself and many other hunters expected, total population numbers are still about 75 percent above the long-term average.

Locally, that will mean some pretty good hunting again, and, in my opinion, better than last year.

Birds came through the winter in great shape and, except for a few days of cold, wet weather during the peak of the pheasant hatch in early to mid-June, nesting conditions were excellent.

Just like the rest of the pheasant range, in our area it’s all about habitat, and those hunters that have access to large chunks of quality grassland habitat in the area will find good bird numbers, and some super hunting.

Also, more of our roadsides are not being be mowed, and the dry summer created more nesting habitat for pheasants.

A large percentage of the wildlife habitat in portions of McLeod, Wright, western Hennepin, and Carver counties are comprised of small potholes and sloughs surrounded by cattails and a mixture of grasses.

The water levels in those areas typically fluctuate a lot and aren’t ideal nesting locations for pheasants. However, during dry summers, they can become excellent nesting sites that produce greater numbers of birds.

With some pre-season time put in finding good locations to hunt, and gaining permission from private landowners, hunting in our neck of the woods will be good.

However, the boom of Minnesota pheasants, the highest numbers we have had in 40 years, is really happening in the southwestern, and far western, parts of the state.

According to survey results the statewide pheasant range index is 113 birds per-100 miles driven, in the southwes. Let’s say, Windom and Jackson to Worthington, that number is 242 birds per 100 miles driven.

Birds number in those parts of the state are super, now throw in more and more acres of public hunting lands, and we’ve got the best pheasant hunting in Minnesota that most of us have ever experienced. The best since the early 1960s anyway.

Good luck and look for more on the upcoming pheasant season in the next few weeks. The Minnesota season opens at 9 a.m. Sat., October 14.

Keg’s Bar Fishing League

Bass & Walleye
Year End Final - Howard Lake

Results
1. Kim and Mike Moy
4 bass 15 lbs. 4 oz.
2. Brad G. and Al Q.
4 bass 14 lbs. 4 oz.
3. Corey Zitloff and Marcus Halverson
4 bass 8 lbs. 14 oz.
4. Tom and Gus Schoenfeld
4 bass 8 lbs. 10 oz.
5. Woody Langenfeld and Dave Fiecke
4 bass 8 lbs. 3 oz.
6. Dave G. and Todd P.
4 bass 7 lbs. 13 oz.
7. Tim T. and Russ H.
1 bass 3 lbs. 12 oz.
8. Mark and Jason K.
3 bass 3 lbs. 7 oz.
9. Jon Lambrecht and Brian Hankomp
0 bass
Big Northern
Kim and Mike Moy 4 lbs. 1 oz.

Hunters can locate public hunting land with DNR PRIM maps
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) can assist people in finding land open to public hunting this fall.

The set of 51 separate maps identify a wide variety of federal, state and county lands available for public recreation activities such as hunting, camping, hiking and boating.

“Maps are updated on a three- to five-year rotation, so they are kept as current as possible,” said Rick Brandon, DNR cartographer.

“Eighteen maps have been updated this year. That makes 37 of the 51 maps ‘GPS friendly.’ Latitude and longitude lines have been added to provide information to find an approximate location to plug into your GPS unit.”

Minnesotans who hunt are fortunate because the search for that place is not nearly as difficult as it is in many states, where public land is rare.

In this state, hunters can choose from 1,300 state wildlife management areas, 56 state forests, two national forests, federal waterfowl production areas and county lands.

Not all public lands allow hunting. It’s a good idea for hunters to check ahead and become familiar with boundaries of public-owned land so they do not inadvertently trespass onto private property.

Hunters can find information about these sites by picking up PRIM maps.

In addition to hunting opportunities, more specifically, PRIM locates campgrounds, trails, forests, parks, wildlife management areas and refuges, natural and scientific areas, and much more.

PRIM maps, which cost $5.95, are available from the DNR gift shop in St. Paul, Minnesota’s Bookstore, and sporting goods and map stores around the state.

PRIM maps may also be purchased online at www.cmm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/category.asp?category=F5&CatID=30.

Migratory bird hunters must get HIP
From the DNR

Migratory bird hunters prepare for the season by planning their hunt, cleaning their guns, checking their gear and buying their license. They also prepare by “getting HIP.”

Anyone who hunts migratory birds - not just ducks and geese, but mourning doves, woodcock or other migratory birds - must be HIP certified.

HIP stands for Harvest Information Program, through which hunters provide information that helps biologists manage North America’s migratory game birds.

HIP certification provides contact information so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USWFS) can survey selected migratory bird hunters throughout the United States.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other state wildlife agencies collect the name, address and some additional information from each migratory bird hunter when those hunters get HIP certified.

The USFWS then randomly selects a sample of those hunters and asks them to provide information on the kind and number of migratory birds they harvest during the hunting season.

Those reports are used to develop reliable total harvest estimates of all migratory birds throughout the country, according to Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the Minnesota DNR Section of Wildlife.

“In this way, hunters serve as biologists’ eyes and ears in the field, helping to improve wildlife conservation efforts and protect the hunting heritage,” Cordts said.

To comply with HIP, hunters must identify themselves as migratory bird hunters when they purchase their licenses.

They must do this in every state in which they hunt migratory birds. Hunters are also asked to voluntarily answer several questions about their hunting experience during last year’s season.

Answers to these questions are not used to compile harvest estimates, but are used to identify what types of birds they usually hunt.

This allows the USFWS to mail its surveys to the appropriate hunters. For example, most surveys about dove harvest are sent to hunters who usually hunt doves, while most waterfowl harvest surveys are sent to hunters who usually hunt ducks or geese.

Minnesota hunters are required to be HIP certified if they hunt ducks, geese, mergansers, coots, mourning doves, woodcock, rails, snipe or gallinules.

For more information, visit the DNR Web site or the USFWS Web site.

Hunters key to keeping deer populations in check
From the DNR

When Minnesota’s 500,000 deer hunters take to the woods and fields this fall, there’s more at stake than putting venison in the freezer.

Hunters, including the archers whose season begins Sept. 16, play an important role in keeping the state’s deer population manageable, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Minnesota’s deer herd has been holding steady at about 1.2 million for the past several years.

However, deer population density in some areas is higher than wildlife managers, residents and landowners would like.

In those areas, the DNR has streamlined regulations to provide additional opportunities to harvest antlerless deer.

“Hunters are our best tool for managing the state’s deer populations and we’re making it easier for them to harvest antlerless deer where densities are high,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. “In recent years, we moved zone boundaries, eliminated the lottery in many areas, adopted an early season antlerless hunt in limited areas, and liberalized hunting in the greater metro area.”

Statewide, opportunities for hunters to harvest deer should be plentiful once again, thanks in large part to a series of mild winters. Last year, hunters harvested nearly 257,000 deer in Minnesota, the third highest harvest on record.

The key to managing deer numbers, Cornicelli said, is getting more hunters to harvest does.

“Taking a buck out of the population does little to lower overall numbers because one male can breed several females,” he said. “If you want to control deer numbers, you need to reduce the number of females available for breeding.”

This year, there are 58 intensive harvest deer areas, roughly two-thirds of the state, where hunters may use bonus tags to legally harvest up to five deer (only one buck).

There are 43 managed deer areas where hunters may use a bonus tag to harvest up to two deer (only one buck).

In 38 lottery deer areas, hunters need to apply for a permit to harvest antlerless deer during the firearm season.

To further encourage the harvest of additional deer, hunters may once again arrange to have deer donated to food shelves and other food distribution programs through approved meat processors.

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Bluffland Whitetails, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, and the Safari Club are currently cooperating in the program.

More details are available online at www.venisondonationmn.com or the venison donation page of the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

• Outlook in northern deer areas

Paul Telander and Jeff Lightfoot, regional wildlife managers in the northwest and northeast, respectively, expect a similar season to last year, when firearms hunters harvested 83,379 deer in Zone 1 and 62,066 deer in Zone 2.

“Barring poor weather, hunting is going to be good again this year,” Telander said. “As usual, we encourage hunters to talk to landowners to get permission to hunt prior to the opener of deer season.”

Telander also urges hunters to check the regulations book for changes and additional hunting opportunities. The early antlerless deer season will be held Oct. 14-15 in deer areas 209, 210, 225, 236, 252, 256 and 257.

In addition, deer areas 410, 411, 413, 414, 415, 419, and 429 have been moved to Zone 2 and renumbered.

This creates one continuous nine-day season instead of the current split seasons of two and four days.

Hunters who previously purchased a multi-zone buck license for these areas now need only purchase a Zone 2 firearm license, which is half the cost. In addition, hunters with a Zone 2 license may take a deer of either sex in one of these areas.

Once again, DNR staff will collect samples from hunter-harvested deer in the Roseau area to test for bovine tuberculosis (TB).

Additionally, the USDA is requiring a one-time, statewide sampling of 4,000 hunter-harvested deer this fall.

Statewide sampling will be concentrated north of Brainerd and based on deer densities and proximity to the bovine TB-infected area.

• Central and southern deerk outlook

In central Minnesota, the DNR is encouraging hunters to shoot additional antlerless deer by offering hunting opportunities during the early antlerless season and in Metro Deer Management Zone.

In deer areas 228 and 337, the DNR has introduced a 22-day Metro Deer Zone to maximize harvest where hunting is legal around the Twin Cities. From Nov. 4-26 hunters in deer areas 228 and 337 may use a firearm license valid for any zone to legally harvest an unlimited number of antlerless deer using bonus tags.

“Essentially all of the Metro Zone is privately owned, so hunters will need to seek permission from landowners before hunting with shotgun or muzzleloaders and of course review the trespass provisions on page 12 in the 2006 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook,” said Tim Bremicker, central region wildlife manager. “But it’s a great opportunity for a few extra days of hunting. We encourage hunters to take advantage.”

In addition to the metro deer zone, three deer areas (225, 227 and 236) are included in the early-antlerless hunt on Oct. 14-15.

In southeastern Minnesota, hunters will be able to take one deer of either sex and purchase one bonus tag to harvest an antlerless deer during the Zone 3A season in deer areas 346 through 349.

Antlerless permits are available by lottery in the remainder of the zone. It’s the second year that antlerless permits have been available to hunters during the Zone 3A season, which has been traditionally a “bucks only” season.

“Aside from some deer areas in Zone 3, southern Minnesota deer harvest has been stable and we expect that to continue,” said Ken Varland, DNR regional wildlife manager. “We’re not dealing with exceedingly high deer numbers, but there are still a lot of opportunities.”

Because much of southern Minnesota is private land, Varland urged hunters to make arrangements with landowners in advance of the season.

• Evaluation of new regulations continues

The DNR will continue evaluating the effects of alternative regulations on deer populations. At the following parks, the DNR will evaluate how deer populations respond to regulations that put more pressure on antlerless deer and relieve harvest pressure on some bucks.

- Itasca and Savanna-Portage - bucks with at least a single three-point antler may be harvested

- Forestville - bucks with at least a single four-point antler may be harvested

- St. Croix, Maplewood, Wild River and Great River Bluffs - hunter must harvest an antlerless deer prior to harvesting a buck.

“We chose state parks to evaluate these regulations because they are typically special hunts with an application, Cornicelli said. “Because hunters are choosing the park specifically knowing there are special regulations, we can more effectively evaluate the regulation.”

The DNR will also conduct hunter surveys to assess support for deer management and alternative regulations. “While we may be able to implement a regulation that lowers populations, if it has no support from our hunting public we may go in the opposite direction,” Cornicelli added.

Painting by Thomas Moen of Montrose wins 2007 Minnesota Duck Stamp contest
From the DNR

The lesser scaup will be featured on the 2007 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp (Duck Stamp).

The painting by Thomas R. Moen of Montrose, was chosen as the winning design from among 26 entries in the stamp contest sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Nine entries advanced to the second stage of judging, from which four finalists were selected during the contest held on Sept. 7 at the DNR Headquarters in St. Paul.

The other finalists were Kevin Nelson of Burnsville and Scot Storm of Freeport who tied for second place and Mark Kness of Albert Lea, third place.

The five member panel of judges this year included DNR Conservation Officer Ross Opsahl, Mark Webster of Custom Art Concepts, in Oakdale, Mike Furtman of Duluth, Gary Moss of Cambridge, and Dave Soehren, DNR area wildlife Manager, Appleton.

The $7.50 Duck Stamp is required of all Minnesota waterfowl hunters ages 18 through 64.

Stamp sales generate between $500,000 and $900,000 per year for habitat enhancement projects in state wildlife management areas and shallow lakes.

The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work, which is usually done as limited edition prints.

The 2007 waterfowl stamp will be available for sale in March 2007.

Outdoor notes

• Get ready for some great fall fishing. The fall walleye bite on several lakes in our area has just gotten started.

As fall moves on look for good fishing along the high banks on the east side of Waconia, hit the shallow water in the northeast corner of Belle, find the deep holes in the Crow River, and make sure you don’t miss the October full moon.

• At its September meeting, members of the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s passed a motion to replace four trap houses along with adding four new automatic traps.

The decision was a major investment for the club and confirms the club’s commitment to shooting sports, trapshooting, and our outdoor heritage for many more years to come.

Look for a complete story on the project in Herald Journal in the next few weeks.

• The archery deer season and the small game hunting season in Minnesota opened Sat., Sept. 16.

• The duck hunting season in Minnesota opens Sat., Sept. 30.

• Take a kid hunting or fishing he or she will have fun and so will you.

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