Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

October 29, 2007

Deer hunters encouraged to buy license early

From the DNR

With more than 475,000 firearms deer hunters in the state, the DNR is encouraging hunters to purchase their licenses early to avoid long lines and any system issues associated with the high sales volume.

The 2007 Minnesota firearms deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 3.

Deer licenses are available at approximately 1,800 license agents statewide or by phone at 1-888-MN-LICENSE (665-4236) or online at www.mndnr.gov.

There is a $3.50 convenience fee for telephone and Internet transactions.

Hunters who purchase licenses by phone and Internet will receive their deer tags by mail, which can take three to five days.

Staff members from the DNR Information Center and License Center will work extended hours next weekend to handle additional phone calls from deer hunters.

Phone lines will be open on Friday, Nov. 2, until 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 3, from 8 a.m. to noon.

The DNR Information Center phone number is (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Prairie Archers dinner at Dodge House Saturday

Prairie Archers will be having a steak/shrimp dinner at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie Saturday, Nov. 3 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The steak/shrimp combo is $10, while just steak or just shrimp is $8.

The dinner also includes baked potato, tossed salad, bread, dessert, coffee or milk, and a complimentary drink.

Call in your reservations before 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 to either Jim Richardson at (32) 395-2721 or to the Dodge House at (320) 395-2877.

Tough hunting at first Camp Ripley bow hunt
From the DNR

Archers took 231 deer during the first two-day bow hunt held Oct. 18-19, at Camp Ripley Military Reservation near Little Falls.

“Weather conditions were very wet, windy and resulted in extremely poor road conditions, but hunters stuck it out and did very well considering what they had to contend with,” said Beau Liddell, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Little Falls area wildlife manager.

“For the fourth year in-a-row, hunters at Camp were allowed to take up to two deer and to use bonus permits to increase harvest on antlerless deer, and this largely explains the strong harvest so far this year with fawns and does comprising about 69 percent of the harvest.”

The harvest represents the fourth-highest two-day take for the first hunt, and is 83 percent above the long-term average harvest of 126 deer for the first hunt.

“If weather cooperates next weekend, the total take for all four days should rank amongst the better harvests in history at Camp Ripley,” Liddell said. “The harvest thus far is only 49 deer below the long-term average of 280 for both hunts combined.”

There were 2,505 permits issued for the first hunt, with 2,142 hunters participating, for a participation rate of 85 percent.

Hunter success was about 11 percent (3 percent higher than the long-term average of 8 percent). Seven hunters took their bag limit of two deer.

“With 10 consecutive mild winters, Camp Ripley’s deer herd is in good condition. Most hunters that provided comments indicated they saw numerous deer,” Liddell said. “The good harvest experienced thus far is due to strong effort by hunters, high deer densities (estimated at 27 per square mile), and a high number of hunters in Camp.

Of adult bucks weighed, seven tipped the scales near 200 pounds.

The largest buck weighed 208 pounds, taken by Paul Hagen of St. Michael.

Chad Neuman of Young America took a buck nearly as large, weighing in at 203 pounds.

Richard Reginek of Hutchinson harvested the largest doe of the first hunt, weighing in at 121 pounds.

The second two-day hunt was this past weekend.

DNR encourages people to not put away camping gear just yet
From the DNR

Although most state park visitors associate camping with the season that runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Chuck Kartak, deputy director of Minnesota state parks, reminds people that excellent camping opportunities are available in state parks during the fall hunting seasons.

“Most Minnesota state park campgrounds remain open throughout the fall,” said Kartak. “They provide a great base of operations from which hunters can explore area wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas, and state and national forests in search of wily ringnecks, migrating waterfowl, ruffed grouse and woodcock, as well as deer.”

Beginning Nov. 1, all camping at state parks is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For current information on the seasonal availability of showers or modern bathroom facilities, people can check information for individual parks at www.mnstateparks.info.

Once the shower buildings in the campground are closed for the season, rustic rates of either $15 or $12 per night apply.

“In addition to our regular campsites for an overnight stay in the park, some parks have camper cabins available, especially during mid-week,” Kartak said. The heated cabins can be welcome for drying out gear after a long day in the marsh, field or forest.”

Autumn is also a favorite time of year for outdoor enthusiasts and for those who actively seek activities to help keep them fit – mentally and physically to explore state parks.

Kartak reminds visitors in the fall and winter, hikers, bikers, hunters and anglers should be ready for weather from 70-degree days to snowy 20-degree nights.

Kartak offered the following suggestions for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts looking for great places to stay during the coming season.

• Northwestern Minnesota

Big Bog State Recreation Area (Waskish) offers overnight accommodations in the campground and camper cabins where visitors will enjoy excellent fall fishing on Upper Red Lake for northern, walleye and crappies.

Numerous grouse and waterfowl hunting opportunities exist nearby.

At Itasca State Park (Park Rapids) exceptional accommodations are available in the park’s campgrounds and the Itasca Suites that include kitchen facilities.

Fall fishing for walleye and muskie in the park is excellent.

There are thousands of acres of state and county lands in the area near the park for hunting grouse, deer and waterfowl.

Overnight facilities at Glacial Lakes State Park (Starbuck) include camping and two camper cabins. Visitors should experience good fishing in Mountain Lake inside the park and on Lake Minnewaska just a few miles down the road.

Excellent pheasant and waterfowl hunting also are available nearby.

• Northeastern Minnesota

Bear Head Lake State Park (Ely) offers excellent camping with electric sites, a camper cabin and a guest house available for overnight accommodations.

There is excellent fall fishing on Bear Head and Eagle Nest Lake for walleye, northern pike and crappie.

Numerous grouse and deer hunting opportunities exist on state and national forest lands.

Scenic State Park (Bigfork) has camping with electric sites, a one-bedroom cabin, excellent fall fishing for walleye northern and crappie in the park and hunting for grouse on nearby state and national forest lands in the area.

Savanna Portage State Park (McGregor) offers camping, a camper cabin and a Garni Lake cabin.

Fishing in Shumway and Wolf lakes inside the park and on Big Sandy Lake just a few miles down the road can provide good action.

Grouse hunting has been on the upswing nearby on state forest land.

• Southern Minnesota

Sibley State Park near Willmar is located in the heart of the pothole region that offers great fishing and hunting for ducks, geese and pheasants.

Visit the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center while camping at the park on the shores of Lake Andrew. Lac qui Parle State Park (Montevideo) with its wetlands is a great waterfowl migration area that can offer hunting opportunities.

Fishing can also be great this time of year. Big Stone Lake (Ortonville) and Camden (Lynd) state parks are located in the heart of the pheasant range and provide quality campsites.

Lake Shetek State Park (Currie) offers great camping and fishing in a beautiful lake setting plus biking opportunities on the trail that connects to the community of Currie.

Blue Mounds State Park (Luverne) is always special with the chance to see its resident bison herd in the beauty of a fall setting on the prairie.

Some duck and pheasant hunting is available in that area.

• Central Minnesota

Mille Lacs Kathio (Onamia) and Father Hennepin (Isle) both have overnight facilities available in their campgrounds and camper cabins.

Hunting opportunities are available nearby at the Mille Lacs Wildlife Area, one of the largest wildlife management areas in the state, and the Rum River State Forest, especially good for grouse and deer.

At Wild River (Center City), Interstate (Taylors Falls) and William O’Brien (Marine on St. Croix) state parks, all located along the St. Croix River, fall fishing is a big draw. Camping is available at all the parks.

In addition, William O’Brien and Wild River have camper cabins for rent. Mississippi River Valley parks in southeastern Minnesota also offer great fishing opportunities and exceptional waterfowl hunting in the backwaters.

Parks with great camping accommodations include Great River Bluffs (Winona), Frontenac (Frontenac) and Beaver Creek Valley (Caledonia) state parks.

For more information about state park accommodations, activities and programs, visit www.mnstateparks.info.

“Minnesota state parks are open year round,” said Kartak. “Visitors are welcome during every season of the year.”

New venison donation program in place for deer hunters
From the DNR

Deer donated to food shelves will be processed at no cost to hunters this fall, thanks to a new program coordinated by the Minnesota departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture.

The program will provide venison to those in need while encouraging hunters to help manage the deer herd by harvesting additional animals.

Previously, hunters could donate deer to food shelves but had to pay processing costs themselves.

“DNR staff recognizes that ethically, hunters will not take more deer than they can consume,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. “Simply asking someone to take another deer to manage populations provides only half of the picture. The venison donation program was developed to provide hunters an avenue to donate, at no cost to them, the extra deer they harvest.”

Processing costs are being offset through a $160,000 appropriation approved by the 2007 Legislature as well as an increase in nonresident hunting license fees.

Hunters may also donate to the program. When purchasing a deer license, hunters will be asked if they want to voluntarily donate $1, $3 or $5 to the program.

People can also donate by visiting one of 1,800 Electronic License System agents statewide.

This year, a minimum of $280,000 is available to the program and will pay for processing more than 4,000 deer.

Additional donations will allow for more processing.

“DNR has been working closely with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to create a program that is easy for all parties involved,” Cornicelli said.

More details, on the venison donation program including a list of participating meat processors are available online at www.mndnr.gov.

Outdoor notes

• The 2007 Minnesota firearms’ deer hunting season opens Saturday, Nov. 3.

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