Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

September 10, 2007

Pheasant count remains at highest level in two decades

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) pheasant index remained near its highest level in 20 years, thanks to favorable weather and habitat conditions in portions of the state’s pheasant range.
The pheasant index (107 birds per 100 miles of survey driven this year) topped 100 for the third consecutive year.

In each of the past two years, hunters harvested nearly 600,000 roosters, the most since 1964.

Last year’s index of 115 birds per 100 miles driven was the highest in 20 years.

“Strong pheasant populations are the result of favorable weather and abundant habitat,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Management Section chief. “As we approach next year’s 25th anniversary of the pheasant habitat stamp, it’s important to recognize that our abundant habitat is in part the result of support from groups like Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and many others who continue to make grassland habitat conservation a priority.”

The best opportunities for harvesting pheasants will likely be in the southwest, where observers reported 223 birds per 100 miles of survey driven.

Good harvest opportunities might also be found in the west central and south central regions, where observers reported 118 and 121 birds per 100 miles driven, respectively.

Mild winter weather boosted hen counts to 56 percent above the 10-year average.

The number of broods was also well above average, but the number of chicks per brood was below average, despite apparently favorable spring weather, said Kurt Haroldson, DNR wildlife research biologist.

“The combination of high hen and brood numbers compensated for small brood size,” he said. “The result is a high pheasant population in Minnesota.”

Furthermore, a cock index 57 percent above the 10-year average will contribute additional birds to the fall population.

Gray partridge, cottontail rabbit, and white-tailed jackrabbit indices were also similar to 2006, whereas mourning dove indices decreased from last year, but remained similar to the 10-year average and the long-term average.

One key to increased pheasant populations is grassland habitat, Haroldson said.

Within the state’s pheasant range, protected grasslands account for about 6 percent of the landscape, the highest number since the mid 1990s.

Farm programs make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.

Sign-ups for the Minnesota CREP II, targeting enrollment of up to 120,000 new acres of environmentally sensitive cropland in the Red River, Lower Mississippi, Missouri and Des Moines River watersheds, have been lower than hoped.

Although progress continues on CRP and CREP II, the potential expiration of a large proportion of existing CRP contracts beginning this fall is still a major concern for future wildlife populations.

“If Minnesota is to avoid a drastic decline in pheasant and other farmland wildlife populations, hunters, landowners, wildlife watchers and conservationists must make the case for farm programs,” Simon said. “CRP is being debated by congress right now and could be decided by the end of the year. Conservation organizations like Pheasant Forever, Ducks Unlimited and many others can help hunters and wildlife enthusiasts stay informed of the latest developments.”

The DNR is a major partner the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership to expand the habitat base through marketing of farm bill conservation programs in partnership with Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Pheasants Forever, and county Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

In addition, DNR is continuing a focused habitat effort to develop large grassland-wetland complexes through a “Working Lands Initiative” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners.

The annual roadside survey, which began in the late 1940s, was standardized in 1955. DNR conservation officers and wildlife managers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first two weeks in August.

This year’s survey consisted of 170 routes, each 25 miles long, with 151 routes located in the ring necked pheasant range.

Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number and species of wildlife they see.

The data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long term trends in populations of ring necked pheasants, gray partridge, eastern cottontail rabbits, white tailed jackrabbits and selected other wildlife species.

The 2007 August Roadside Report and pheasant-hunting-prospects map can be viewed and downloaded from www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Minnesota’s pheasant season is Oct. 13-Jan. 1. The daily bag limit is two roosters with a possession limit of six. Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset.

DU banquet in Winsted Tuesday at Blue Note

Quack, quack, it’s back, the Winsted Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its annual banquet at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted Tuesday evening, Sept. 11.

For tickets or more information, contact the Blue Note.

Conservation officer tales – September 2007
From the DNR

• Take me to my hairdresser

CO Greg Abraham (New Ulm) investigated a call that led to discovery of a car that had gone off the road and rolled into a ravine.

The 89-year-old female driver crawled up the ravine to the road, flagged down a passing motorist, and demanded to be taken to her hairdresser for a perm.

The motorist complied with her wishes. When checked the woman was not injured, but the car was totaled.

• Stupid is as stupid does

CO Chris Vinton (Perham) assisted an outraged neighborhood capture two suspects in the killing of an albino squirrel.

The squirrel was a neighborhood novelty and treasure. A witness observed the two parked near a tree when they shot the squirrel.

The officer went to the residence of one of the suspects and asked, “I guess you know why I’m here?” The suspect responded, “It was a stupid thing to do.”

A year ago the suspect took a black squirrel and wanted a white one to go with it.

• It wasn’t a wild animal, but the family dog that did it

CO Mark Fredin (Aurora) received a call from a concerned family that an animal went through a window screen and defecated in the living room.

It was later determined the family dog got out of its sleeping quarters and attempted to get out of the house by clawing out the window screen.

Not being able to get out, the dog did its business on the living room floor.

• Life jackets and nothing else

After a recent discussion about wearing life jackets while tubing, CO Tim Collette (Longville) said it was encouraging to note one couple on Leech Lake was safety minded.

Even though they did not have any other clothing on, the person being pulled on the tube was at least wearing her life jacket.

• Either way you’re wrong

CO Greg Oldakowski (Wadena) observed a man angling with two lines from a boat.

When questioned about fishing with extra lines the man stated, “I wasn’t fishing with three lines.” He admitted to two lines, and was written a citation.

• Definitely not ‘Minnesota Nice’

CO Darin Fagerman (Grand Marais) said reports of improper boat ramp etiquette have come in over the summer.

One included a man cleaning his fish on the tailgate of his pickup while still on the ramp as others waited. Courtesy should be common sense.

• Bird tales

Officer Mike Scott (Marine Unit) received a call from a very upset person who reported they had a goldfinch with its head stuck in their feeder.

They were concerned the bird would die and wanted assistance in freeing the bird.

With the assistance of the caller, the feeder was removed from its location and the goldfinch was removed without incident.

After shaking its head, the goldfinch flew away no worse for wear.

Scott also received a call from a person who stated he had witnessed a peregrine falcon chasing a hawk in downtown Duluth, and that the hawk had flown into a window and was dazed and standing in the doorway of a local business.

The hawk was located, picked up and taken to a raptor rehaber in the area for treatment.

The hawk, which was an immature red tail hawk, was doing fine and is expected to make a full recovery.

• Hooked twice

While checking anglers, CO Mike Hruza (Bemidji) observed two anglers using too many lines and issued citations.

A while later the same boat flagged the officer over. One of the anglers had a hook stuck in his back.

The officer was able to dislodge the lure and everyone was fine.

• Loud and over the legal limit

Officer Neil Freborg (Lake George) was called to Itasca Park to assist with the removal of a group of campers from one of the remote walk-in sites.

Apparently, their language and illegal alcohol consumption the previous evening, had made the adjacent campers unhappy.

Freborg arrived at the campsite with park rangers just in time to see stringers of fish going into a cooler.

Not only was the group of four removed from the park, they were cited for an overlimit of walleyes.

Their fines and restitution was close to $1,700.

• While someone goes to bed hungry

Officer Dan Starr (Tower) would like to remind anglers that wanton waste of game fish is a very poor display of being a sportsman.

Two separate fish cleaning shacks were found to have wasted jumbo perch and hand-sized bluegills.

The fish were found to be perfectly good, just thrown away.

• Ashes to ashes

CO Stacy Sharp (Bemidji) responded to a fire caused by placing hot ashes (from a wood fired sauna) in a plastic bucket.

The ashes melted through the bucket and started the wooden deck on fire.

The fire spread through the yard and into an adjacent field.

• One friendly goose

CO Gary Sommers (Walker) received a call from a resort owner that a Canada goose showed up and was “very friendly.”

It was so friendly that one could pick it up, and when it came time to clean the cabins at the end of the week, it would follow the golf cart around that the resort staff was using for hauling cleaning supplies.

The resort owner was instructed to call if the goose became too much of a problem.

• You think crime pays

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) checked a couple anglers on an area lake who could not produce an angling license and said they didn’t need one because they were 16.

The only problem was 16-year-old anglers do need an angling license.

Furthermore, the anglers lied. They were actually 19- and 20-years-old respectively.

Mathy found it ironic that the anglers said, “Crime pays, too.”

• Bear bait boozers

CO Troy Ter Meer (Silver Bay) investigated a complaint about campers shooting guns late at night in a U.S. Forest Service campground.

It turned out a bear became curious, since their truck was full of bear bait.

They thought it would be good idea to scare it off by firing a pistol in the air, even though they all had a lot to drink. Charges are pending.

• CO was able to continue the pursuit

CO David Schottenbauer (Princeton) was on his way to get some work done on the radio of his 4X4 patrol vehicle when he ended up assisting with a multi-agency pursuit where the suspect was driving a truck with an off-road lift package on it.

The suspect fled into the woods and fields of Sherburne County only to find out the CO was able to do likewise.

Long story short, suspect lost his truck and went to jail, Schottenbauer went to get that radio work done.

Outdoor notes

• Reports from early season goose hunters last week weren’t great compared to recent years.

Hunters across our area reported fewer geese than normal and less hunting success.

The early goose season continues for one more weekend.

On the other side, the field dove hunters reported limits of birds taken and great hunting.

The best hunting is being found in chopped corn fields.

Although the official hunting season for doves lasts quite awhile yet, the birds migrate at the first hint of cold weather, and the good hunting will only last for another week or so.

• The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will meet tonight (Monday), at 7 p.m. at the clubhouse approximately one mile southwest of Lester Prairie on McLeod County Road 1.

The club recently completed its trapshooting league for the season – look for winners in next weeks Herald Journal newspapers.

• Pheasant numbers boom again – thanks to mild winters, better habitat, and good spring nesting conditions pheasant numbers are near or higher than they have been in 40 years.

If you read the press release in this column you know pheasant numbers in Minnesota are in great shape again.

That same statement hold true in the Dakotas, where surveys indicate that bird numbers could be at all time highs.

Without question we are in the midst of the good old days of pheasant hunting.

The Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 13; the North Dakota season also opens Saturday, Oct. 13; and the South Dakota season begins Saturday, Oct. 20.

• Displaced deer hunters – I’m hearing more and more cases of northern Minnesota deer hunters being displaced or moved out of there long time hunting camps because of land sales, leasing, new practices by logging companies, and development.

It’s a troubling issue because even in northern Minnesota it has become tougher and tougher to find a new area to hunt that provides a quality experience, and doesn’t compete or displace another hunter.

Unlike pheasant hunting, where new public hunting areas and programs are being developed every year, finding quality public hunting areas in Minnesota’s northern forests has become difficult.

• The regular waterfowl hunting season in Minnesota opens Saturday, Sept. 29.

• Look for fall fishing action to take off very soon. On our area lakes the best fishing for lunker walleye, bass, and northern pike occurs in late Sept. through early November.

Plan to fish during the full moon periods for the best action.

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

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