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2007 hunting season was a good one

Jan. 14, 2008

by Chris Schultz

Duck, deer, dove, pheasant, turkey, goose, grouse and more – for the most part, hunting in our neck of the woods and across much of Minnesota and the Midwest was excellent in 2007.

If you hunted pheasants in 2007, it was probably one of the best years you ever experienced.

Taking a look back, three or four consecutive mild winters, a relatively dry and warm spring in 2007, conservation efforts by many organizations, more available public hunting land and probably the largest amount of undisturbed grassland habitat we have had in many years added up to higher than normal population numbers for many species of wildlife and quality hunting for those that took to the field, slough or woods in 2007.

Pheasant numbers and pheasant hunting were great, the best I have ever experienced in my 30 years of pheasant hunting across the Midwest.

Without question 2007, along with the three or four years proceeding, will go down as the glory days of pheasant hunting like many refer to the Soil Bank days of the ‘60s.

Although deer hunting locally and across much of Minnesota’s southern farmland regions was down a bit this year compared to some of the big years in the ‘90s, as a total, I believe 2007 ended with the third highest deer harvest in Minnesota history.

If we compared this year’s harvest numbers to those of the ‘70s and ‘80s, we’d be calling 2007 the glory days of Minnesota deer hunting, too.

Locally, dove hunting grew by leaps and bounds this season. Compared to the first couple years of Minnesota dove hunting, ‘07 saw a nice jump in the number of hunters participating in the adventure. I also noticed a lot of kids in the field during the warm September days of the dove season.

Duck and goose hunting was pretty much left to the diehards again. Regarding ducks, local activity was again slim, but the biologists that predicted a strong fall flight because of excellent nesting conditions across the Canadian prairies were right.

In southeastern North Dakota, I saw more mallards this season than I had in 15 to 20 years.

The biggest disappointment of 2007 was the early Canada goose season. Goose numbers, apparently because of a spring freeze that destroyed many goose eggs, were down, the number of hunters in the field was also down compared to recent years, and so was hunting success.

I could go on writing about a perplexing grouse season in northern Minnesota forests and the continued expansion of Minnesota’s turkey population, but the real reason I decided to share these photos and text with you about the 2007 hunting season is because, especially for ducks and pheasants, we are all going to see the tide turn in the next few years.

Basically, because of changes in land use, the current farm economy driven by higher grain prices, a new federal farm bill, hunter access issues especially in northern Minnesota, and thousands of Conservation Reserve Program acres across the Midwest being converted from grassland cover back to row crops, the hunting landscape is going to change for a time, and in the near future, we’ll look back at 2007 and consider it to be one of the best years hunters across the Midwest ever experienced.

A common term may be the glory days of conservation reserve.

Opening dates announced for 2008 Minnesota hunting seasons
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced opening dates this week for many of the 2008 Minnesota hunting seasons.

The dates are being announced now for the benefit of those who must establish vacation or hunting plans well in advance.

Although these dates are tentative, pending final approval in June, it is unlikely they will change.

Small game
• April 16-May 29, Spring wild turkey (first season)
• Sept. 13, General small game opener, including grouse gray partridge, rabbits and squirrels
• Oct. 11, Pheasant
• Oct. 18, Prairie chicken opener
• Oct. 15-19, Fall wild turkey (first season)
• Oct. 22-26, Fall wild turkey (second season)

Big game
• Sept. 1, Bear
• Sept. 13, Deer, archery
• Oct. 4, Moose, northeast zone
• Nov. 8, Deer, firearms
• Nov. 29, Deer, muzzleloader

Furbearers
• Oct. 25, Fox, raccoon, badger, opossum
• Oct. 25 (north), Mink, muskrat, beaver, otter
• Nov. 1 (south), Mink, muskrat, beaver, otter
• Nov. 29, Fisher, marten, bobcat

Migratory birds
• March 1-31, Crow (first season)
• March 1, Spring light goose
• July 15-Oct. 15, Crow (second season)
• Sept. 1, Mourning doves
• Sept. 1, Rails, snipe
• Sept. 6 (tentative), Early Canada goose
• Sept. 20-21, Take A Kid Hunting Weekend
• Sept. 20 (tentative), Woodcock
• Oct. 4 (tentative), Waterfowl

The waterfowl season opener will not be finalized until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publishes proposed migratory bird hunting frameworks this summer.

Additional details on season lengths, quotas and bag limits will be announced this summer, after the 2008 seasons are finalized.

Carver County Pheasants Forever banquet

The Carver County Pheasants Forever banquet is Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Hamburg Hall.
Doors open at 5 p.m. For ticket information, contact Chip Hentges at (320) 395-2875.

Waverly ice festival and fishing derby Jan. 26

The somewhat annual, third Waverly ice festival and fishing derby will be Saturday, Jan. 26.

The festivities begins at 9 a.m. and will run through 3 p.m. at Waverly Legion Memorial Park.

For additional information, contact Kent at (763) 658-4471, ext. 35 or Jim at (763) 675-3121.

Registration for the fishing derby begins at 9 a.m., with weigh-ins running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Besides the fishing derby, there will be many more fun, outdoor winter activities taking place.

Howard Lake ice fishing contest coming up

The 62nd annual Howard Lake Fishing Derby will be Saturday, Feb. 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. on Howard Lake.

Look for additional information on the derby in the upcoming weeks in this column.

MN PF state convention to be held in conjunction with National Pheasant Fest 2008
From Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever’s (PF) 74 Minnesota chapters completed 841 habitat projects in 2007, which are benefiting 6,720 acres for wildlife.

Minnesota PF will hold their annual state meetings in conjunction with PF’s National Pheasant Fest 2008 and 25th Anniversary Convention at the Saint Paul RiverCentre in downtown Saint Paul.

National Pheasant Fest takes place January 18th, 19th and 20th. The Minnesota state meeting and awards banquet will take place Friday, January 18th from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. in rooms 10 and 11 on the Ballroom Level of the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

Since its first project in 1984, Minnesota’s 74 PF chapters and one Quail Forever (QF) chapter (PF’s quail division) and 23,000 PF/QF members have completed over 21,500 projects affecting more than 184,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

In fact, Minnesota PF chapters have spent more than $33.7 million on habitat and conservation education in the state.

Minnesota chapters have also participated in land acquisitions totaling 37,735 acres since 1982.

In conjunction with the 2008 state meetings, PF has announced total habitat accomplishments in the state.

“After 25 years, PF members and volunteers continue to put in pheasant habitat one project at a time,” explains Matt Holland, PF’s senior field coordinator. “This weekend we’ll celebrate the rich history of PF’s on the ground accomplishments in Minnesota, but also look forward to address the significant challenges and future threats to our habitat.”

National Pheasant Fest 2008 presented by Cabela’s will combine a national consumer show, habitat seminar series, and family event complete with puppies, tractors, shotguns, and art.

In fact, the Fest promises to be the country’s largest event for upland hunters, sport dog owners, and wildlife habitat conservationists.

For more information about National Pheasant Fest 2008 presented by Cabela’s, please contact Pheasants Forever toll free at (877)773-2070 or log onto www.NationalPheasantFest.org.

For information about attending this year’s PF state meetings in Minnesota, please contact Eran Sandquist at (320) 236-7755 or via email at esandquist@pheasantsforever.org.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Now is the time of year when Minnesota residents can contribute to the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund. What is this money used for and how does it help wildlife?

A: Donations made to this fund are used by the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program for a number of comprehensive statewide efforts to help protect and manage the state’s “nongame” wildlife species, which includes more than 700 kinds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies and selected invertebrates that are not traditionally hunted or harvested.

This also includes conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species.

Specifically, the species that have benefited from these efforts are bald eagles, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, eastern bluebirds, Blanding’s turtles, bats, timber rattlesnakes, great blue herons and other colonial water birds like egrets and grebes.

The money raised also helps acquire land and easements to protect habitat, manage prairies, forests and wetlands, create buffer zones along lakeshores, assist to private landowners and local governments with habitat management, and fund educational programs.

Contributions to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund can be made on your 2008 Minnesota tax form.

Outdoor notes

• The next monthly meeting for the McLeod Pheasants Forever Chapter will be Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the backroom of the Biscay Liquor store.