Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

July 2, 2007

Copper joins the family

The Howard Lake Good Neighbors fishing contest produced more then some fishing fun for me. The biggest catch, and not the one that got away, was a hefty 8-week-old yellow Lab.

My other dog, Angus, is now pushing 9 years old and I had planned on getting a new pup back in March, but, between a kitten the kids wanted and a pet bunny, I just couldn’t make it work out.

That was until June 23, when a nice couple from north of Dassel walked up to me with a good-looking black female pup and a bulky ivory male pup.

I saw the dog, he saw me, and that’s all it took.

A few moments later, I was the owner of Copper, and my two daughters were screaming with joy.

This summer and throughout the fall, I’ll keep you up-to-date on Coppers’ growth and progress.

By the end of October, he should be well over 50 pounds.

The big one that got away

The Howard Lake Good Neighbors Days’ Fishing Contest was a tremendous success again this year.

Many fish were caught, entered, and released, the weather was beautiful, and the fishing comaraderie great.

However, and it’s one big however, my boat lost the big one.

After catching several small bass and walleye, our boat hooked into a beautiful 27- to 28-inch walleye; my guess would be seven to eight pounds.

It was one of the classics, a yell that it’s a big fish, trim up the motor, reel in all the other lines – get the net.

Well, the fish made it to the side of the boat a few times, but never in the net.

Two guys, the one with the rod – Larry, and the other with the net – Troy, could probably do a better job of explaining why the big one got away then I can.

Lake Ann

I received many calls and responses to the information on Lake Ann that was in last week’s column.

Many commented on the cormorants and pelicans that have seemingly invaded the lake and why they have become so numerous.

Regarding the pelicans; they go where there is an ample food supply and my guess is that Lake Ann probably had a pretty good bullhead hatch this year.

Often, thousands of schooled up baby bullheads look like black clouds in the water and make an easy meal for good numbers of pelicans.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll share more of my history of Lake Ann and dive into the cormorant issue.

Also, I’m still looking for the reason, the who or why, Lake Ann is named Lake Ann.

I can be reached at (320) 282-7865.

Keg’s Bar fishing league

The Keg’s Bar fishing league was at Lake Ann last week, its fifth week of competition.

Below are the overall standings after five weeks of fishing:

1. Troy Gille and Scott, 59 points.
2. Jason Kieser, 56 points.
3. Tom Schoenfeld and Tonia Radtke, 48 points.
4. Gus Schoenfeld, 45 points.
5. Mark Kieser, 44 points.
6. Mike Moy and Kim Moy, 43 points.
7. Tim Thul and Russ Chapek, 42 points.
8. Woody Langenfeld and Dave Fiecke, 40 points.
9. Jon Lambrecht and Brian H., 24 points.
10. Cory Zitzloff and Marcus Halverson, 22 points.
11. Mike Rathmaner, 19 points.
12. Justin Johnson, 18 points.
13. Joe Detlefsen, 14 points.
14. Dan Kieser, 12 points.
15. Bill Fiske and Tom Schlafer, 8 points.
16. Charlie Radtke, 1 point.

DNR taking applications for special youth hunts beginning July 1
From the DNR

Four state parks, two military reservations, two refuges and a nature preserve will provide high quality deer hunting opportunities for 475 young hunters this fall.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering ten special youth deer hunts in 2007, at locations with high deer populations that need to be trimmed.

Applications for the special youth deer hunts will be accepted beginning July 1 at any DNR Electronic License System (ELS) vendor, or at the DNR License Center.

The deadline for applications is Friday, Aug. 17. Successful applicants will be notified in early September.

There is no fee to apply, although successful applicants will have to purchase the appropriate deer-hunting license prior to their hunt.

The youth individual firearms and youth individual archery license costs $14, and are available to residents age 12 to 17.

There will be four archery and six firearms special youth hunts in October.

Eligible youth may apply for one archery hunt and one firearms hunt.

Youth age 12 to 15 are eligible for the firearms hunts, and youth age 12 to 17 are eligible for the archery hunts.

Youth who applied unsuccessfully in the past will have preference.

There is a mandatory orientation session for each hunt, and hunters must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or an adult authorized by the parent.

All youth hunters must possess a valid Firearms Safety Certificate.

According to Ryan Bronson, the hunter recruitment program supervisor for DNR, special youth hunts are a part of expanding efforts to get more kids involved in the outdoors.

“Competition for families’ limited leisure time is a big obstacle to participation in hunting, and having special events like these outside of the regular hunting season provide an extra opportunity for families to make time for each other,” Bronson said. “Plus these controlled hunts enable us to safely trim deer populations on chunks of public land that are not normally open to deer hunting. We get both conservation and recreation benefits.”

Camp Ripley and The Nature Conservancy will host archery hunts in Morrison County on Oct. 5 -7.

The Arden Hills Army Training Site will host two bowhunts over the Education Minnesota school break, Oct. 18-19, and Oct. 20-21.

The Minnesota State Archery Association and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association help sponsor the hunts.

The Whitewater Wildlife Management Area refuge will allow youth gun hunters over the entire Education Minnesota school break, while Rydell National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Bemidji State Park and Buffalo River State Park will be open Oct. 20-21.

Savanna Portage State Park and St. Croix State Park will welcome youth hunters on Oct. 27-28.

The Bluffland Whitetails Association and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association sponsor the hunts.

All of the hunts have a bag limit of one deer of either sex, with the exception of Lake Bemidji State Park, which has a bag limit of five antlerless deer.

There is no party hunting, so individual youth must tag their own deer, however they may purchase and use bonus permits for antlerless deer.

Deer harvested during the special youth hunt count against the yearly state bag limit of five deer.

More information about the special youth deer hunts is available on the hunter recruitment page of the DNR Web site, www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Firewood restriction reminder issued for Fourth of July
From the DNR

With the Fourth of July holiday fast approaching, the DNR reminds those who plan to camp and build campfires that firewood movement restrictions are in place now in Minnesota.

The restrictions have been imposed in an effort to prevent the importation of forest insects like the emerald ash borer (EAB), which has been devastating urban and forest trees in Canada and several Midwest states.

EAB is a tiny beetle that, to date, has killed more than 20 million ash trees and infested more than 40,000 square miles in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Canada.

“In early May, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law legislation that directs people to bring only approved firewood onto state lands,” said Department of Natural Resources (DNR) commissioner Mark Holsten.

Firewood may be obtained when a person arrives at a state park, or obtained from an approved firewood dealer. Approved vendors and locations are listed on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Use the bookmark tab at the left of the page to go directly to the list of approved vendors for a particular state park or state forest.

“Campfires are an important part of the outdoor experience for many people,” Holsten noted. “But it is also important that we take steps to reduce the influx of forest insects like EAB, European wood wasp and gypsy moth that are known to ‘hitchhike’ on firewood from infected areas. The bottom line is that we must protect our native trees and other vegetation as rigorously as we can.”

Many park visitors are used to bring firewood with them when camping in state parks or forest campgrounds, said Chuck Kartak, DNR Parks and Recreation Division deputy director.

“It’s important now that we enlist the help of the public to change old habits and leave firewood at home,” Kartak said. “By purchasing wood when arriving at the state campsite facility, or from an approved vendor on the way, the public plays a significant role in protecting the resources that make our state parks and forests so special.”

Since legislation went into effect in early May, staff at Minnesota state parks and state forest areas report that public reaction has been positive.
“We are finding that many park visitors are aware of the threat these insects pose for our trees,” said Kartak. “Many folks have told us they remember what Dutch Elm disease and oak wilt have done to our trees, so they are willing to do whatever is necessary to prevent further infestation by these insects. They are leaving firewood at home and purchasing their wood locally. Minnesotans have an excellent history of caring for the environment. They want to do the right thing.”

To be in compliance with the law, all firewood used on DNR lands must have been purchased on site or from an approved vendor.

Receipts of sale should be kept to confirm where the wood was purchased.

Those who bring unapproved wood to a site will not be allowed to bring it into the park or on to DNR land.

Staff will dispose of the wood to ensure it will not be a source for the introduction of forest insects or disease.

Pallet boards or other types of solid wood packing materials are not permitted.

For more information about firewood on state lands, call the DNR’s Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367), or visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Upswing in ruffed grouse counts continues
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) spring ruffed grouse drumming count survey shows a 30 percent increase over last year and the highest level in seven years, confirming the population continues to grow.

Populations of ruffed grouse, one of the state’s most popular game birds, rise and fall on a 10-year cycle.

Counts had been at the low end of the cycle for four years before increasing slightly last year.

“It’s encouraging to see ruffed grouse populations increasing again,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “This is an important bird for Minnesota hunters as well as those who travel to our state to experience some of the best ruffed grouse hunting in the nation.”

Drumming counts went up 40 percent in the northeast survey region, the core of grouse range in Minnesota, to 1.5 drums per stop.

Grouse populations along the periphery were similar to last year with 0.9 drums per stop in the northwest, 0.8 drums per stop in the southwest and 0.5 drums per stop in the southeast.

“Much of the periphery is a transition from forests to more open landscapes, and the tree species are often different from those in the northeast,” said Mike Larson, DNR wildlife research biologist. “Those are two reasons that surveys in the periphery result in lower counts that vary less from year-to-year.”

Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s ruffed grouse range.

Throughout the year, but primarily during mating season, a male ruffed grouse stands on a downed “drumming log” and beat its wings in five- to eight-second intervals.

The drumming, which sounds like a muffled lawnmower, is meant to attract female grouse and warn other males away.

This year, observers recorded 1.3 drums per stop statewide. Last year’s average was one drum per stop.

Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

Minnesota is frequently the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer.

On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, also making it the state’s number one bird in the bag.

During peak years, such as 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse.

Michigan and Wisconsin, which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota, round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.

One reason for the state’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests, where public hunting is allowed.

Private lands, including large industrial forests, historically have provided good grouse habitat and hunter access.

As these large industrial landowners consider breaking up their holdings and selling small parcels to private individuals, public access and grouse habitat are likely to be affected.

DNR is working strategically with its partners and large private landowners to secure large-scale, long-term conservation easements that would preclude development, preserve access and provide wildlife benefits.

According to the DNR’s ruffed grouse management plan, 11.5 million of the state’s 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.

DNR officials are taking steps to prevent a decline in grouse populations.

In 2004, the DNR established a goal of increasing the annual ruffed grouse harvest to 650,000 birds.

To accomplish that goal, wildlife managers will continue to work closely with forest managers to find ways for timber harvest to benefit grouse habitat, according to Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife programs manager.

“You can improve grouse habitat by managing for the right mix of aspen age classes and the position of aspen stands in relation to stands of other tree types,” Merchant said. Spruce and other conifers, for example, can provide important thermal cover for grouse in winter.

Starting in 2006, the DNR changed the boundaries by which drumming count results are reported.

Drumming routes in the northeast, where the 10-year grouse population cycle is most evident, are now reported as a single group.

Grouse populations along the periphery of the range – the northwest, southwest and southeast – do not cycle as dramatically.

For the past 57 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations.

This year, DNR staff and cooperators from 15 organizations surveyed 131 routes across the state.

• Sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens increase.

Sharp-tailed grouse counts in both the northwest and east-central survey regions increased between 2006 and 2007, Larson said.

Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds.

This year’s statewide mean of 11.7 grouse counted per dancing ground was as high as during any year since 1980 and well above last year’s average of 9.2.

During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

Sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration.

In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keeps trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.

Counts of prairie chickens at their leks, or booming grounds, in western Minnesota were about 45 percent higher this year than they were in 2006.

In survey blocks representing relatively good prairie chicken habitat observers counted 14.5 males per booming ground and one booming ground per 2.4 square miles.

The population recently has been greater than during the 1980s and 1990s.

The DNR’s grouse survey report, which contains information on all three species is available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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