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Conservation fishing license proposed

Feb. 18, 2008

by Chris Schultz

Press Release

State Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and State Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, Feb. 14 introduced in the Minnesota Legislature a bill creating a new, reduced-fee, fishing license named the Conservation Fishing License.

The license would cost two-thirds the price of a standard fishing license.

Anglers who purchase a conservation license would be allowed to take one-half the daily and possession limits of a regular-price license.

“This lower-priced license will not only provide more people with the opportunity to get out fishing, but it will also help conserve our fish populations,” Bakk said. “It’s a win-win for both the environment and anglers. Catch-and-release is great, but a lot of people want to take a few home to eat too; this would accommodate both. Why should anglers who voluntarily want to conserve fish populations be forced to pay for a full-priced license? The current situation provides no incentive to conserve. There’s also been discussion by the DNR about increasing the cost of fishing licenses. If that happens, sportsmen will feel a familiar frustration, pay more, get less,” said Bakk.

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, is the author of the companion bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“A similar license is available and popular in Canada. The Canadian license is the genesis of our idea to lower costs and conserve fish stocks,” Dill said.

Recently, the Minnesota DNR discussed the idea of decreasing walleye limits throughout the state, which would be a drastic change and has the potential to hurt tourism businesses in the state.

“A reduced-limit, reduced-fee fishing license would give the Minnesota DNR another option in conserving fish populations and could help avoid statewide limit reductions,” said Bakk. “With fishing license sales going down every year, a conservation license could have the potential to change the culture of fishing for the better.”

2008 firearms safety training course in Delano

Correction: In last week’s outdoors, it stated that parents needed to attend all March classes. Actually, parents only need to attend the March 4 class.

The registration date is Monday, March 3, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Delano Sportsman’s Club for the firearms safety training course.

There is a $7.50 registration fee. A parent or guardian is required to register each student.

Students must be 11 years old by March 3, 2008. Adults are welcome and encouraged to take this course.

Class hours are 7 to 9 p.m. each night.

Saturday, April 5 is the field/range day from 7 a.m. to about 1 p.m.

A parent or guardian is requested to attend the March 4 class.

Class dates are as follows:
• March 4, 6, 11, 13, 18, 20, 24, 27, April 1, and 3; April 5 will be field/range day.

The firearms safety training course will cover hunter responsibility, firearms handling, archery, marksmanship, wildlife identification, game management and game care, survival, water safety, and first aid.

If you have any questions, call John McClay at (763) 675-2397, after 6 p.m.

State’s 2007 deer harvest ranks as fourth highest
From the DNR

Minnesota hunters harvested slightly more than 260,000 deer during 2007, the fourth-highest deer harvest ever recorded, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Once again, Minnesota deer hunters enjoyed another great deer season,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. “The last five years have yielded the top five harvests ever recorded, which not only indicates an abundant deer population, but also shows the great flexibility our seasons offer.”

Before 2003, Minnesota hunters never had killed 250,000 deer in any one season. But during the last five years, he said, total deer harvest exceeded 250,000 each year.

With nearly 500,000 deer hunters enjoying long seasons and liberal bag limits, DNR officials anticipated a strong 2007 deer harvest.

In total, firearms hunters harvested 224,250 deer while archery and muzzleloader hunters harvested 24,200 and 12,000 deer respectively.

During the early antlerless season, which was expanded to 23 areas in 2007, hunters tagged 7,166 deer.

Overall, the statewide firearms harvest was down 2 percent, archery was 4 percent lower and muzzleloader harvest decreased 11 percent from 2006.

Cornicelli said the declines likely were caused by management changes that reduced the number of deer that could be taken in some areas.

“Last year, the DNR finished a public process of setting deer population goals,” Cornicelli said. “Consequently, the DNR lowered bag limits and restricted what all-season hunters could harvest.”

The DNR’s goal is to manage for established objectives, which means annual adjustments to the number of deer an individual hunter can take in each permit area.

Final deer harvest numbers are computed using information provided by hunters when they register harvested deer.

A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer in the coming weeks.

For the 2008 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 4. Archery deer hunting will begin Sept. 13. The early antlerless deer season will be the weekend of Oct. 11-12. The statewide firearms deer hunting season will open on Nov. 8. The muzzleloader season will open Nov. 29.

The rabbit can stay
From Tom Conroy of the DNR

Up and out of bed, put on a robe, open the bedroom door.

Two dogs and a cat are waiting. Pour a cup of coffee as the dogs dash to the back door, hind ends shaking furiously.

Outside, they hope, the rabbit waits. It often does.

The dogs are always eager for this chase, even though they invariably lose. The rabbit typically ends the game by bolting through an opening in the chain link fence too small for the dogs or ducking into its’ hole beneath the shed.

It was late last fall when I first discovered the hole. Visions of next spring’s flowers and vegetable plants chewed down to nubbins flashed through my mind and I determined to plug the hole with rocks. But the nights were turning cold by then and I had a change of heart. And so, the lil’ rascal remains, safe and warm beneath the shed.

On a recent bitterly cold morning, sundogs trembling low in the sky, the dogs trotted back to the house, exhaling puffs of frosty air after yet another futile chase. As I opened the door to let them in, I wondered how many others would find this hound and hare game so entertaining. Rabbits are not always welcome in residential areas.

There are those, I know, who would set a trap to catch the bunny. And even within the city limits, the solution of some would be a pellet gun or .22 rifle. But I’ve decided the rabbit can stay. Even if there are three or four young ones come spring, they’ll disperse. And if I did get rid of this rabbit, another would soon take its place.

It’s this “carrying capacity” thing, nature’s way of finding a balance, filling voids. Take predators and prey. The relationship between them has been studied for hundreds of years and scientists have learned a thing or two along the way. Most notably, perhaps, is that predators and prey depend on one another for survival.

Predators, contrary to what some believe, rarely decimate the prey population they rely on as a food source. It will knock it down from time to time, sure. But when that happens, the predator population also begins to decline in response to the depleted food source. The prey population, in turn, then begins to increase. And so it goes, up and down, round and round – talons and teeth, life and death, day after day.

Coyotes are today’s bad boy predators in the minds of some. They’re falsely accused of wiping out local deer populations, killing entire flocks of wild turkeys, and destroying countless ducks and pheasants. They’re the black sheep of the carnivore family, at least in southern Minnesota where their population is increasing.

Truth is, coyotes can do more good than harm from a wildlife perspective. The coyote’s diet consists almost exclusively of small mammals such as voles, ground squirrels, rabbits and mice. Studies have also found that ground-nesting birds have better success bringing off a hatch in coyote areas than in fox areas. Part of the reason is that fox are far more likely than coyotes to destroy nest eggs and fox tend to stay away from areas inhabited by coyotes.

Watching a predator in action can be an intense experience. It’s one thing to watch a couple of short-legged pooches scurrying after a rabbit they aren’t going to catch. It’s quite another to watch a lion drag down and rip a zebra apart or to witness a pack of wolves encircle and kill a bleating deer. For some, even watching a hawk sink its talons into a mouse can be unsettling. It’s not always pretty but it’s nature’s way.

Since the beginning of time, nature has been studied, analyzed and researched. A wealth of information has been accumulated about the natural world in which we live. Too often, however, we disregard that information. Which may explain how man can make deserts bloom – but also cause lakes to die.

The rabbit beneath my shed will eventually be gone, done in by a car or a cat or perhaps just die a natural death. But soon thereafter another one will likely come along to take its place. Come spring, I’ll put a fence around the garden. No big deal, just a small acknowledgement that Mother Nature knows her business better than I.

Minnesota conservation officer tales – February
From the DNR

• 24 hours of bullwinkle

Conservation Officer (CO) Marty Stage (Ely) had an unusual number of moose incidents within a 24-hour period.

One involved two cars hitting each other and the moose. In another, a plow truck hit two bulls.

The last moose, found by a bulldozer operator, most likely suffered from brain worm.

• We didn’t think

CO Randy Hanzal (Brookston) activated the emergency lights on his snowmobile in an attempt to stop two oncoming speeding snowmobiles.

The second snowmobile drove off the trail and partially rolled to avoid running into the back of the first snowmobile.

The officer asked the operators if they thought they were traveling too fast for conditions.

They responded by saying they didn’t think they were until they tried to stop.

• I know what I saw

CO Matt Loftness (Marshall) reported that while working on a complaint of three pheasant hunters trespassing, one of the hunters was observed dropping a bag into the weeds.

When the hunters were approached, they were found to be within the legal limit. Loftness told the hunters what he had witnessed.

After a few moments of silence, a hunter retrieved the bag. It contained three more pheasants.

Enforcement action was taken for an over limit of pheasants and trespassing.

• How about some common sense

CO Dan Starr (Tower) found a 7-year-old driving an adult snowmobile in town while following his dad.

While it is nice to see youth getting involved with outdoor activities, it should also be done legally.

• Busted

CO Bret Grundmeier (Hinckley) reported a snowmobiler, who was giving his 5-year-old youngster a ride, was clocked at more than 70 miles per hour.

While the operator was claiming his speedometer was broken, the youngster, who was sitting in front, chimed in and told Grundmeier she had just seen the speed dial go past the 70 mark a little while ago.

• What’s my line?

CO Mike Martin (St. Cloud) watched an angler fishing with four lines on the Mississippi River in St. Cloud.

When Martin approached, the angler reeled in one of his lines, set the rod/reel on the ice and walked away.

Martin asked the angler how many lines he was using. The angler replied, “Just these three, but they’re not biting anyway.”

After admitting to using the fourth line the angler was issued a summons.

• Justice for everyone

Three individuals found breaking into cars at Jay Cooke State Park led CO Scott Staples (Carlton) on a high-speed pursuit.

It ended with the suspects’ car going into a ditch and the three people trying to run into the woods.

They gave up quickly because it was hard to run through deep snow. One person even lost his shoes, which made running more difficult.

All were jailed on numerous charges.

The victims had all their items returned except for a jacket that was thrown out of the vehicle during the pursuit.

• Underwater technology leads to a bust

CO Jim Guida (Nisswa) received information about a snowmobile going through the ice. He found the snowmobile while using an underwater camera.

Guida saw something else with his camera – three unattended lines in the water below the fish house. Enforcement action was taken.

• Something has got to change

CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) had an individual announce the presence of a conservation officer on the lake by going door-to-door telling people to reel up their extra lines and hide any extra fish.

Despite the warning, an overlimit case was still made.

• Some bad advice

CO Greg Verkuilen (Garrison) reported three nonresident snowmobilers were stopped for not having trail permits displayed.

They claimed when they bought the permits the store clerk told them not to bother attaching them because the DNR wouldn’t be out when it was this cold. That’s never the case.

• What are your kids doing?

CO Mike Shelden (Alexandria) responded to a complaint of a snowmobiler operating at high speeds across a lake.

The individual was clocked at 90 mph. It turned out the operator was a 12-year-old boy riding without a helmet.

• Look both ways before you cross

CO Marty Stage (Ely) came across a timber wolf, commonly seen outside of Ely, standing next to the road. Stage went to town to run some errands.

When he returned about a half-hour later, the wolf was still standing in the same exact place presumably waiting to cross the highway.

After a vehicle behind the officer went by, the wolf finally crossed the highway.

• This should be the usual, not the unusual

CO Karl Hadrits (Crosby) made contact with a large family that was having a get-together on an area lake.

They were using about 40 tip-ups, and had taken about the same number of northern pike (40) and several walleye from a small area on the lake.

Even with the large number of fish taken and lines out, they were well under their limit for both.

• Good thing I was there

CO Brent Speldrich (McGregor) clocked a snowmobile at 81 mph while the otter-type sled the operator was pulling was weaving back and forth about 6 feet off the ground.

The sled contained the snowmobiler’s ice fishing gear, which spilled out; obviously he forgot he was towing the sled.

Good thing the officer was following to pick up the equipment.

• A story this angler will be telling for years

CO Dustie Heaton (Willow River) reported an angler caught a northern on one of his tip-ups.

As he laid the fish on the ice, his other tip-up went up.

While he was tending to that fish, a bald eagle swooped down and grabbed the first northern off the ice and proceeded to drag the tip up across the lake.

The angler followed the eagle in his truck until it finally dropped the fish.

The angler got his tip-up and fish back, although the fish had a few extra puncture wounds.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: I recently noticed open water on my normally ice-covered lake. What is the cause?

A: My recollection is that there are periodically similar reports, lakes where areas of open water show up where they haven’t occurred in previous years.

I think the most logical explanation is a large influx of groundwater, probably associated with periods of above normal precipitation. Ground water is warm enough (about 50 degrees F) and if the inflow is sufficiently large, the “warm” groundwater plume will rise all the way to the lake’s surface before it cools to 40 degrees F (as long as the water is above about 40 degrees F, it is the least dense layer in the lake and will tend to rise).

If the “warm” ground water plume reaches the surface, the plume either erodes the ice or keeps it from forming.