Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

September 24, 2007

Waterfowl season opens Saturday

The 2007 regular Minnesota waterfowl hunting season opens at 9 a.m. Sat., Sept. 29.

Although continental duck populations are up and breeding numbers in the Dakotas and Southern Manitoba were good, locally and in much of Minnesota the opener and season will be fairly quiet.

I tend to judge how local hunting will be based on water conditions and how many ducks I see in the air near dusk during the early and middle parts of September.

This year, along the south fork of the Crow River and in the shallow lakes areas between Howard Lake and Winsted, I have seen very few waterfowl in the air.

This year, in fact, I’ve seen only a few small flocks of wood ducks flying their usual pattern at dusk.

During years when the local hunting was very good, in September it would not be uncommon to see 20 to 30 small- to medium-sized flocks of teal, wood ducks and mallards cruising the skies along Wright County Road 6 south of Howard Lake. Based on those observations, this year’s local duck hunting could be sparse.

On the brighter side, or let’s say on the other side of the slough, low water levels and dry conditions may concentrate many of the local ducks to areas that have bigger bodies of water, improving the success for opening day hunters.

However, those same dry conditions could result in poor hunting during the fall migration.

It’s simple – if conditions aren’t good, the ducks just simply won’t migrate though our area and will continue to push their pattern farther west where conditions are better.

Although many waterfowl experts are predicting good bird numbers during the migration, we really won’t know until it happens.

Finally, remember safety first and be prepared to deal with low water levels and mud.

Getting your duck boat into your favorite slough may require pulling though 20 or 30 yards of mud and that can be a real nightmare.

For more information on the upcoming waterfowl season, make sure you get a copy of the 2007 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations supplement.

Waverly Gun Club news

• Conceal/carry classes will take place at the Waverly Gun Club Tuesday, Oct. 16, and Wednesday, Oct. 17 from 6 to 10 p.m.

For further information, call Russ Johnson at (763) 675-3527.

• Doubles league and 16-yard singles will start at the Waverly Gun Club Thursday, Oct. 4. Participants are welcome and invited.

• The Waverly Gun Club range will be open to the public for sight-in Saturday, Oct. 20, Sunday, Oct. 21, Saturday, Oct. 27, and Sunday, Oct. 28 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $7 per gun.

For more information about the gun club, visit its web site at www.geocities.com/waverlygunclub or call (763) 658-4644.

100,000 acres and counting
From Pheasants Forever

Minnesota’s Habitat Conservation Partnership, an Environmental Trust Fund supported effort, announced Friday that it has surpassed a significant milestone for the restoration, management and protection of Minnesota wildlife habitats.

A crowd of 50 people gathered at the Henry Lake restoration in Wright County Friday to celebrate and dedicate the 100,000th acre accomplishment.

“100,000 acres is truly awesome,” said Matt Holland, project coordinator for the partnership and senior field coordinator for Pheasants Forever.

“The Henry Lake restoration project is representative of how this partnership works. Multiple groups, doing habitat restoration in a focused area that builds upon existing conservation investments made by the state. By working together and bringing additional funding to bear on Minnesota resources, we are making a difference for wildlife, fish, plants, and the citizens of Minnesota.” Holland went on to say, “This event was organized to recognize the hard work, vision, and leadership of many people that have made this result possible.”

The work is not done however, “While the 100,000-acre milestone is a fantastic accomplishment, our needs continue to outpace our capacity to deal with habitat issues,” stated Jane Prohaska, project partner and executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust. “Tremendous pressure is being put on our grasslands wetlands, lakes and forests. The lottery proceeds allocated to the Partnership have provided a catalyst for good habitat work, and we need to continue being as efficient as possible with our limited habitat dollars.”

The Partnership currently reports 102,659 acres in over 650 wildlife habitat restoration, enhancement and protection projects for Minnesota.
Total expenditures to date exceed $85 million dollars. A total of $19.4 million came from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the remainder, $65.7 million, has come from the project partners.

“The collaborative effort and seed money from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources have been multiplied over three-fold,” said Tom Landwehr, project partner and assistant state director for The Nature Conservancy, “We have leveraged these dollars to bring over $65 million in federal and private sources to restore, enhance and protect Minnesota’s grasslands, forests, lakes and streams.”

The Partnership was formed and funded by the 2001 Minnesota Legislature, as recommended by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, to work to restore fragmented landscapes and connect high quality habitat for the purpose of sustaining fish, wildlife and plant populations.

Funding is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the participating partners.

The partnership provides for a statewide coordination of existing federal, state and private land, and water conservation programs.

The project focuses these programs and resources on identified project focus areas that have high potential for restoring and enhancing functional habitats benefiting Minnesota.

The partnership is one of the largest and most unique conservation collaborations in the country.

• Minnesota Habitat Conservation Partnership

The mission of Minnesota's Habitat Conservation Partnership is to restore, enhance, and conserve habitat for the purpose of sustaining fish, wildlife and native plant communities for all generations.

• Member Organizations

Ducks Unlimited, Fond du Lac Reservation, Friends of the Detroit Lakes, Wetland Management District, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Land Trust, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust, Inc., National Wild Turkey Federation. Pheasants Forever, Red Lake Band of Chippewa. The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

New book introduced by DNR Nongame Wildlife Program
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Nongame Wildlife Program has introduced its newest publication: “Use and Conservation of Minnesota Wildlife, 1850-1900, by Evadene Burris Swanson.

Swanson, a history major, originally wrote this as her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Minnesota in 1940.

“She did an awesome job of capturing a huge volume of valuable and interesting data about historic wildlife, hunting, and conservation in Minnesota from a time in the ‘good old days’ when it was still possible to encounter bison, caribou, and passenger pigeons in the state,” said Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Program supervisor.

“There are references to early occurrences of trumpeter swans, whooping cranes, prairie chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, and a lot of information about trapping and the early fur trade,” he said. “A special touch to her work is that conservationist and author Aldo Leopold wrote the foreword to her book.”

Swanson gave the DNR Nongame Program copyright permission to reprint her work in the late 1970’s, but it is only now the DNR is able to provide this piece of Minnesota’s history for sale to the public.

“Upon reading her dissertation, I told her this was a wonderful work that needed to be published and made available to Minnesota’s hunters, conservationists, wildlife managers, conservation officers, and politicians,” said Henderson, who met Swanson when he began his job with the DNR in the late 1970s. “People can appreciate both the significant role that wildlife has played in Minnesota’s history, and realize they had an opportunity and an obligation to help preserve and restore that wildlife for future generations.”

The Use and Conservation of Minnesota’s Wildlife 1850-1900, can be obtained from Minnesota’s Bookstore, 660 Olive St., St. Paul, MN 55155.

The phone number is (651) 297-3000, or toll-free at 1-800-657-3757.
Their Web site is www.minnesotasbookstore.com

The price is $14.95 plus shipping, handling and tax.

Hunters asked to note errors in hunting regulations book
From the DNR

The 2007 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook is now available wherever hunting and angling licenses are sold.

Hunters are reminded to check regulations books before taking to the field this fall and note new regulations and a number of errors that occurred in printing.

“Hunters will notice new regulations affecting deer, furbearer trapping and hunting as well as licenses,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager. “We strongly encourage hunters to familiarize themselves with all the new regulations before the seasons begin.”

Notes on errors in this year’s regulations books include:

• The rifle/shotgun boundary now includes all of Clay County west of State Highway 32.

From the western boundary of the state, the rifle/shotgun boundary follows the northern boundary of Clay County east to Minnesota Highway 32, then south to Minnesota Highway 34 then east to Interstate 94.

The boundary is mislabeled on the back of the fold-out deer season map and on page 77.

• The Austin game refuge is open for small game and trapping.

It is also open to firearms deer and bear hunting and archery deer hunting with written landowner permission.

The refuge is listed as closed on page 109.

• The Lac qui Parle game refuge is closed to fishing and small game hunting other than waterfowl from Oct. 13 through Nov. 27, the end of the West Central Goose Season.

The information on page 111 is incorrect.

• From Dec. 1 to March 31, snares are allowed on dry land in the farmland furbearer zone except on public lands, road rights of way or in fence lines along road rights of way.

The information in the second bullet on page 50 incorrectly omits information about snares set in fence lines along road rights of way.

• The bobcat season is open Nov. 24-Jan. 6 north of Interstate 94 and U.S. Highway 10.

The bobcat season opener in the table on the bottom of page 43 is incorrect.

Online versions of the 2007 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook as well as the 2007 Waterfowl Regulations are available at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

DNR issues duck boat safety reminder
From the DNR

Many Minnesota duck hunters are preparing for the Minnesota waterfowl opener on Sept. 29 by packing their guns, shells, foul weather clothing, decoys and the many other items.

“Unfortunately, a number of them will forget to pack their life jackets,” said Tim Smalley, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) boating safety specialist and avid duck hunter.

“Since 1988, when life jackets were first required on duck boats, the lack of flotation devices is still one of the most common law violations among waterfowl hunters and the most common cause of duck hunter deaths,” he said.

In the 19 years since life jackets were first required on duck boats, 12 hunters have drowned in boating accidents.

“While 12 deaths in 19 years is 12 too many, three to six hunters died nearly every season before life jackets were mandated,” Smalley said.

According to national statistics, more hunters die every year from hypothermia and drowning than firearms accidents.

There were no duck hunter drownings last waterfowl season, but in 2005, two Minnesota hunters drowned in a single boat accident.

Apparently, the 12-foot boat they were in swamped and filled with water, but did not sink. Their guns were still cased and decoys were in the boat.

Minnesota law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest for every person on duck boats.

“Trying to put on a life jacket during a boating accident would be like trying to buckle a seat belt during a car crash,” Smalley said. “You just don’t have time.”

For boats 16-feet and longer, there also has to be one U.S. Coast Guard approved device on board like a seat cushion that can be thrown to a person who falls overboard.

Seat cushions are no longer approved as primary flotation devices though, so everyone on the boat needs a wearable personal flotation device of the proper size and type.

DNR water safety experts try to discourage hunters from wearing hip boots or waders in the boat due to safety concerns. Hunters have drowned while trying to take their waders off after they have fallen into the water or their boat capsized.

“That releases any trapped air in the boots and at the same time binds the victim’s feet together so they can’t kick to stay afloat,” Smalley said. “If you do wear that sort of foot-gear and you suddenly enter the water, remain in a sitting position so the air trapped in the waders or hip boots can act as a flotation device. You should practice that maneuver in warm shallow water before you need to do it in an emergency.”

The Minnesota DNR offers these safety tips:

• wear a life jacket to and from the blind, there are now life vests available for around $35 with mesh in the upper body that allow hunters to shoulder a gun

• don’t overload the boat, make two trips if necessary

• learn how to float in waders and hip boats or don’t wear them in the boat

• stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather

• let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return, tell them to call the authorities if you don’t return on schedule

• in case of capsizing or swamping, stay with your boat; even when filled with water, the boat will provide some flotation and is easier to see by potential rescuers

“If you are near enough to a cell phone tower, it’s not a bad idea to bring your cell phone along in a waterproof zip lock bag to call for help if you get into trouble,” Smalley said. “You can use the phone without removing it from the bag.”

The DNR has a free publication about waterfowl hunting boat safety called “Prescription for Duck Hunters.”

It is available by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-(MINNDNR) 646-6367.

Computer users may download a copy of the publication from the DNR’s Web site at www.mndnr.gov/safety/boatwater/publilcations.html.

Outdoor notes

• Don’t forget to wear your life jacket while duck hunting – it’s a must.

• The 2007 Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens Sat., Oct. 13.

• Fall fishing has been great on many of the lakes in our area, with several anglers reporting great fishing for big northern pike.

• Take the time to review the 10 commandments of firearms safety and make sure you keep your firearms and ammunition in locked storage, preferably in separate locations.

• I’ll be taking my 9-year-old daughter, Abbi, on her first North Dakota waterfowl hunting adventure this fall. I think I’m more excited about it than she is.

• Give your waders a test run before the Saturday duck opener. Make sure they still fit properly and don’t leak.

• A reminder to all those hunting dog owners that plan on hunting out of state this fall – many states, like North Dakota, require vaccination certificates to accompany the dog, and some states require complete health certificates.

Give your local vet a call for more information.

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

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