Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

May 28, 2007

Nesting habitat and weather factors significantly influence fall pheasant populations

From Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever’s (PF) national headquarters receives plenty of phone calls this time of year, the question being –“What’s the hunting season going to be like this fall?”

The answer to that question depends heavily upon what happens the next two months.

Pheasants need mild weather conditions.

By the month of May, hen pheasants have laid their eggs and have entered the peak incubation stage of nesting.

Incubation takes approximately 23 days, and peak hatch will occur in early to mid June.

It is during this time period that pheasants need cooperation from Mother Nature.

The amount of moisture can greatly determine nesting success.

Moisture is essential in that it spurs vegetation growth, creating nesting cover and attracting insects for new broods to feed on.

However, heavy rains, or gully washers, can wash out nests before eggs hatch or wash away the young pheasants before they can escape the rising water.

“Rain is good, but excessive rains can be harmful,” said Rick Young, PF’s Vice President of Field Operations, “We don’t want those two, three or four inch precipitation events.”

As the nesting season progresses into June and chicks hatch, mild weather is key for pheasants.

Chicks become susceptible to exposure in elements that are too cool or too wet, and periods of extended drought can adversely affect cover quality, in turn making insects and food less available to broods.

“Mild climate conditions in the first part of June give hens a good chance for a successful nest,” Young said.

What you can do about nesting cover?

Nesting cover is the single most important limiting factor for pheasant populations.

Fortunately, it is a factor that we can directly impact with proper land management.

One nesting cover creation tool is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which provides large blocks of grasslands and good pheasant nesting cover.

Hen pheasants seek out the mixtures of grasses and forbs provided by CRP for nesting because the diverse vegetation reduces the density of the grasses, making it easier for the chicks to move around.

CRP also provides concealment from predators as well as abundant insects for newly hatched chicks.

“CRP is the most successful conservation program in U.S. history and annually produces 13.5 million pheasants given average weather conditions,” said Dave Nomsen, PF’s Vice President of Government Affairs, “Reauthorization of the program through the 2007 Federal Farm Bill is crucial to maintaining strong populations of pheasants, quail, ducks, and variety other wildlife.”

Pheasants Forever supports the reauthorization of the program and an expansion in overall CRP acreage to 45 million acres.

Pheasants Forever also supports an increase in the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) to two million acres per year.

Similar to CRP, the GRP restores grasslands and conserves prairie, critical to pheasant production.

Like CRP and GRP, roadside areas are also important grassland habitat, with up to five acres of potential nesting cover along each mile of rural Midwestern roads.

In some areas, 40 percent of pheasants in the fall population are produced in roadsides.

Mowing hayfields and grassy areas in June and July results in severe nest losses, and chick and hen mortality.

“Mowing of any type of cover should be delayed until after the nesting season has concluded in the middle of July, and preferably until August,” Young said, “Even with approaching mowers, tractors and machinery, pheasants are hesitant to leave their nests.”

Delayed mowing and spot mowing or spraying in roadsides will not only help accomplish weed control, but will do so at less cost.

Hens then nest undisturbed while roadsides achieve their maximum wildlife potential.

What’s the hunting season going to be like this fall?

Much more will be known about the 2007 pheasant hunting outlook in a few months following the nesting season.

Many states conduct pheasant roadside survey counts in August and those are the best tools at gauging what pheasant populations will be like in the fall.

The bottom line is good nesting habitat, combined with mild spring weather conditions, are the necessary conditions needed to create more pheasants.

If they occur, hunters can be cautiously optimistic about the 2007 pheasant hunting season.

You can influence your future autumn hunting success by contacting your elected officials and asking them to support strong conservation policy in the 2007 Federal Farm Bill.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education.

PF/QF has more than 115,000 members in 700 local chapters across the continent.

Waverly Gun Club to start ladies only shooting for summer

Ladies Only shooting practice will begin in June sponsored by the Waverly Gun Club, taking place once a month on the second Tuesday of every month.

The program runs from June to October with the first practice taking place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 12 at the Waverly Gun Club shooting range.

Those interested may bring their own gun and ammo, or it will be provided for them.

A league is being set up as well. Those with questions may call Allan Moy at (763) 658-4636.

Keg’s Bar fishing league

The Keg’s Bar fishing league began Thursday, May 17. The league competes every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m.

The season runs 14 weeks on 14 different lakes with walleye, bass, and northern pike what anglers are looking to catch.

There will be a season ending tournament for anyone that has competed on seven of the dates.

To participate, or for more information, stop by Keg’s Bar in Winsted and talk to Brian Langenfeld.

DNR seeks input on farmland deer populations
From the DNR

Public input on the future of deer populations in the state’s farmland zone is being collected through an online survey posted on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Web site.

The survey is the final part of a statewide deer population goal-setting project that began in 2005.

Last year, DNR wildlife managers collected nearly 1,700 online comments on deer populations in the forested zone through a similar survey.

Previously, comments on deer populations were collected at public meetings.

“By using the Internet to make the process more convenient, we hope to give more people a chance to comment,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager. “Public participation is a critically important component of this project and will help DNR make sound decisions on deer populations.”

Earlier this year, DNR worked with stakeholder teams to help set the future direction on deer populations.

The teams represented such interests as deer hunters, landowners, businesses, counties and conservation/environmental groups.

The teams met twice to recommend if deer populations should be increased, decreased, or stabilized for each of the farmland permit areas.

Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator, said public comments and recommendations made by the teams would be used to finalize deer population goals.

“Deer management today must take into account many social and biological factors,” he said. “This process goes a long way towards giving us some direction on where to take deer populations.”

The online presentation and survey may be accessed from the DNR Web page at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

DNR offers a guide to discover Minnesota’s watchable wildlife
From the DNR

Vacationers facing the high cost of gasoline can beat gas prices by cutting back on longer trips.

By staying closer to home, Minnesotans will discover some of the most exciting wildlife species and wildlife spectacles in North America.

“No matter where you are from, there are probably great wildlife destinations within an hour’s drive,” said Carrol Henderson, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor. “Minnesota’s wildlands offer countless opportunities that will meet your budget, time and travel requirements.”

Minnesota has thousands of acres of protected wildlife habitat that are open for wildlife viewing and photography.

Wildlife watching is a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone and can provide exciting experiences and a sense of discovery that is fun to share with family and friends.

Information on these areas, maps and tips for encountering some of Minnesota’s most sought after wildlife such as peregrine falcons, moose, common loons, trumpeter swans and bald eagles is available in the “Traveler’s Guide to Wildlife in Minnesota.”

The book is authored by Henderson, Andrea Lee Lambrecht, and regional wildlife biologists with the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program.

The collective knowledge of the state’s top wildlife biologists was used to select 120 hot spots to see and enjoy the best of Minnesota’s rich wildlife heritage.

There is also a section that gives viewing tips on unique opportunities for enjoying the state’s wildlife in each season of the year.

This book was made possible by donations to the Nongame Wildlife Fund Checkoff.

It is for people who enjoy nature and all forms of wildlife.

People can obtain a copy of the “Traveler’s Guide to Wildlife in Minnesota” for $19.95, plus shipping and tax, at Minnesota’s Bookstore by calling (651) 297-3000 in the metro area or toll free 1-800-657-3757.

DNR uses cameras to detect illegal ATV activity in WMAs
From the DNR

A Kittson County District Court judge has found a man guilty of illegally operating an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in a state wildlife management area (WMA).

Deploying cameras in areas where illegal cross-county ATV travel was occurring in three WMAs in Kittson and Marshall counties, DNR officials filmed Richard M. Bailey, 66, Mound, on two separate occasions illegally operating an ATV in the Beaches Lake Wildlife Management Area near Karlstad in northwestern Minnesota.

“Last summer, DNR used a number of cameras in various wildlife management areas to detect illegal ATV activity,” said State Conservation Officer Pat Znajda of Karlstad. “The deployed cameras were checked on a regular basis, pictures downloaded and digital evidence was gathered.”

One of the individuals participating in the illegal ATV travel showed up a couple of times on the photos.

After Znajda went through a lengthy process to identify the individual, Bailey was charged last November with one count of illegal ATV use in a WMA that occurred in June and one count that occurred in August.

Bailey pled not guilty, citing entrapment, invasion of privacy and use of the camera unconstitutional.

On April 20, Kittson County District Court Judge Donna Dixon ruled otherwise, finding:

- the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Bailey violated the ATV WMA law on June 27, 2006 and Aug. 7, 2006 and was found guilty of both counts

- that the defendant had no expectation of privacy under the laws of the state of Minnesota and the United States Constitution on land owned by the government

- that the argument of entrapment also failed because the state did not induce or coerce the defendant to operate the ATV on the WMA

- that the argument regarding the unconstitutional use of the cameras also failed and was not relevant.

Bailey was ordered to pay $364 in fines, fees, and surcharges within 30 days.

“While the court decision does not make case law it will definitely allow us to use one more tool to detect illegal activity in a wildlife management area,” Znajda said.

MN DNR recognized nationally for wolf recovery efforts
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior for leadership efforts in recovering timber wolf populations.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne presented the DNR with a prestigious Cooperative Conservation Award at a ceremony on May 9, in Washington D.C.

The national award recognizes the DNR’s achievements that involve collaborative work with a diverse range of federal, state, local and private entities.

“Removal of the wolf from the endangered species list was a significant conservation victory, accomplished through the efforts of numerous state, federal and private entities working toward a common goal,” said Mike DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research and policy manager. “We’re proud that the Minnesota DNR was recognized among the many organizations that made this happen.”

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said wolf populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan had increased enough to declare them no longer threatened or endangered.

Minnesota’s wolf population, estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has grown to its current estimate of 3,020.

There are approximately 4,000 wolves in the Western Great Lakes region.

Today, wolves in Minnesota are managed under state laws, rules, and a state plan designed to protect wolves and monitor their population, while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets more protection from wolf depredation.

Guiding the development of the plan were comments gathered during a lengthy public input process that involved 12 meetings across the state and a wolf management roundtable. The plan was completed in 2001.

In addition to developing the state wolf management plan, the DNR initiated research studies that received national attention, and cooperated on others, on wolves and their relationship to humans.

The DNR also provided law enforcement assistance prior to delisting.

“The ecology of wolves and their relationships to humans have been studied more in Minnesota than anywhere else in the world,” DonCarlos said. “We’ve gathered a wealth of biological, sociological, cultural and economic data.”

More information about Minnesota’s wolf management plan is available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Outdoor notes

• The fishing has been good on many of the lakes in our area, and should only improve as we move into June.

Look for the sunfish spawn to pick up steam and be in full swing by the second weekend in June.

• If there’s anybody out there that could provide me with some historical information on Lake Ann, specifically how the lake got its name, I would sure appreciate it. I can be reached at (320) 485-2535.

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

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