The geese are now flying

March 17, 2008

by Chris Schultz

Canada geese are back in the area and if you pay attention you will see them pairing up and establishing territories in preparation for the spring nesting season.

Much of the snow has melted, the days are getting longer in a big hurry, and the maple sap is running.

All these are sure signs of spring and with the first official day of spring set for Thursday, March 20, I think, after a long winter, we can all say – finally, it’s about time.

A few other things to look for include: wood ducks – wood ducks and other waterfowl will be arriving soon, and now is the time to get those new wood duck houses out and clean out the old ones.

The last few years we’ve seen a noticeable reduction in the number of wood ducks nesting in our area.

On larger lakes in our area look for flocks of diver ducks like blue bills and buffalohead to make some short stops on their way farther north.

As the ice on our area lakes continues to soften and melt look for migrating bald eagles along the shorelines and perched in trees.

The eagles love to follow the ice-out line on their way north because ice out provides them with a quick and easy meal of dead fish.

Average ice out for lakes in our area is about April 15. The earliest ice out ever recorded on Howard Lake was March 15 in 2000. The latest ice out occurred on May 2, in 1950.

With warm weather, rain, and wind, ice out could only be a week or two away.

With all the melting, you’ll often hear people say it, “ Smells like spring or spring is in the air.”

The smell, which actually does occur, comes from the melting of frozen ground or soil.

Last week, when the temperature hit 50-plus degrees, the smell of damp, heavy black soil was strong and, without question, spring was in the air.

As I enjoyed the smell, a flock of Canada geese flew directly over head.

Area firearms’ safety training courses

Most of our area towns have firearms safety training courses that are hosted by various sportsmen’s clubs..

Most of these classes fill up fast, as only a limited number of people are accepted in each class.

For that reason, it is a good idea to not wait, and instead, register early.

A couple of firearms safety training courses have either already started, or have already had their sign-up date passed – Delano and Waverly.

For additional information on the courses in Delano, contact John McClay at (763) 675-2397 after 6 p.m.

As for Waverly, you can contact Jim Woitalla at (763) 658-4272.

However, several area communities are still accepting registrations for their courses. Below is the information for these communities, and any additional information.

• There will be DNR firearms safety classes at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club Monday and Thursday nights starting March 31, and running through May 1.

The classes will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Class sizes are limited, so don’t wait to apply. To register, call Gary Godel at (320) 395-2561.

• The Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club is offering a firearms safety training course starting Monday, March 24.

The other dates for the classes include Monday, March 31; Monday, April 7; Monday, April 14; Monday, April 14; Monday, April 21; and Thursday, April 24.

Adults are welcome, while students must be 12 years old by Sept. 1, 2008.

Parents must accompany students the first night to sign permission forms.

The classes will take place at the community room of the Howard Lake Public Library from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $7.50.

For further information, contact Dennis Decker at (320) 543-2992.

• The Watertown Rod and Gun Club will be hosting a firearms safety training class that starts Thursday, May 1, and runs through the month of May. Classes are Tuesday and Thursday nights.

For additional information, contact Patrick Cole at (952) 955-2911 or Tom Radde at (952) 446-1471.

Pheasants Forever banquet April 12

The McLeod County chapter of Pheasants Forever will host its 22nd annual spring banquet Saturday, April 12 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

For additional information on the banquet or to register, call 888-462-6806 or (320) 587-0052.

Ducks Unlimited banquet April 8 at Blue Note

Ducks Unlimited will be hosting their 28th annual banquet and Crow River dinner Tuesday, April 8 at the Blue Note in Winsted.

For additional information on the banquet, call (612) 308-5275.

Carver County wood duck building day sponsors

The annual Carver County Wood Duck Building Day took place this past Saturday at the Watertown Rod and Gun Club.

A number of area organizations made very generous donations leading up to the event, led by Pheasants Forever, which donated 500 wood duck houses.

Also giving very generously were the Hollywood Boosters (300 houses), the Hamburg Hunt and Fish Club (250), Mayer Baseball Club (250), the US Fish and Wildlife organization, which donated 30 woodduck box kits, and the Watertown Rod and Gun Club, which donated all the food and pop, along with over $500 in advertising.

MN deer hunters donate 78,000 pounds of venison in 2007
From the DNR

In the first year of a new venison donation program, Minnesota hunters donated 1,977 deer, creating the opportunity for 97 food shelves located throughout Minnesota to distribute 78,000 pounds of venison.

“Overall, I think we had a very successful first year,” said Lou Cornicelli, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) big game program coordinator. “Most of the deer donated came from areas with overly high deer population densities, and the venison from those deer was put to very good use.”

The donations were made possible by a new venison donation program that allows hunters to donate harvested deer without having to pay processing costs.

Managed by the DNR and Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the program’s goal is to provide a sought-after food source to those in need while encouraging hunters to harvest additional animals to help manage the deer herd.

“Hunters always could donate harvested deer,” Cornicelli said. “But without funding, only a few deer were donated annually. The infusion of new money allowed us to greatly expand the program.”

The program is funded by a legislative appropriation, a non-resident license fee increase and voluntary donations when resident hunters purchase a deer licenses.

Cornicelli said the hunting portion of the program is designed to allow hunters to harvest extra deer in areas where deer populations are above wildlife management goals.

In 2007, permit areas that allowed individual hunters to take more than one deer provided 95 percent of the donations.

Nearly 70 percent of donated deer came from permit areas that allowed the harvest of five or more deer.

The program requires that hunters donate deer only to processors certified by the MDA and that deer be free from signs of illness, field dressed with the hide intact, free of visible decomposition or contamination and properly identified with a DNR registration tag.

In 2007, 72 certified processors distributed the venison to 97 Minnesota food shelves.

DNR launches redesigned Web site
From the DNR

A Web site that averages about five million page requests per month and provides outdoor enthusiasts 24-hour access to a wealth of information has a new look and feel this week.

People can check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) site at mndnr.gov.

“The new site is much easier to navigate, allowing visitors to quickly find the DNR information they are looking for,” said Jed Becher, DNR Web projects coordinator. “It’s mainly the look and feel of the site that will be different. The organization of the content has not changed.”

Highlights of the new design include a home page slideshow featuring images of timely topics; pull down menus to help locate content quicker; a new comprehensive A-Z list of DNR topics; a Find-it-Fast section with links to the most popular pages; a revised recreation compass utilizing a Google maps interface; and an updated office locator to make it easier to find local DNR offices.

Visitors also can purchase a hunting or fishing license, a state park permit or find information including lake data, current winter trail conditions, state park camping options or the latest hunting and fishing regulations.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: There have been a number of people calling the DNR Information about with questions about licenses and seasons.

When do the 2007-08 fishing licenses expire?

A: The 2007 resident and nonresident fishing and fish house licenses, trout stamps, sturgeon tags and the angling portions of the sport licenses are valid through April 30, 2008.

This does not mean that any of the fishing seasons have been extended, just the licenses.

The walleye, northern, large and small mouth bass fishing seasons closed on Feb. 24, except on a few of the border waters. (Check the fishing regulations, border waters section, for more information.)

We have also had several inquiries regarding the small game hunting portion of the sport licenses.

Those did expire Feb. 29, 2008 and a new 2008 license is required for anyone who is hunting furbearers (raccoon, red & gray fox, badger, and opossum) at this time.

Outdoor notes

• Surplus wild turkey tags go on sale at area license vendors today, Monday, March 17.

• In the next few weeks, before the ice out, look for great late ice pan fish action on many of the lakes in our area.

Recently, Howard, Dutch – which was hot for much of the winter, and Big Waverly have been producing super crappie action.

• Good luck to all of those lucky turkey hunters. The season kicks off April 16.

• A bill to end the dove hunting season in Minnesota died in committee a few weeks ago.

• Take the time to watch spring happen, before you know it the grass will be green and the trees will be full of leaves.