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It’s time to help your special place

October 13, 2008

by Chris Schultz

In the past months I haven’t had time to write much at all about the outdoors.

Family, work, community and it seems, a thousand other issues suck up all that time faster than a bluebill can buzz through a decoy spread.

Needless to say, it’s that time of year again; the waterfowl season is off and rolling, the pheasant season just opened, leaves are turning color, crops are being harvested, and in just a few short weeks the Minnesota firearms deer hunting season, with all of its changes, will kick off.

In November, there will be more people in the forests, wood lots, and sloughs across our state than at any other time during the year.

It’s a time when many of us get reconnected with the outdoors and that special place we all have.

That special place may be the slough on grandpa’s farm, the point on Lake Emma where wood ducks and late season divers like to fly, a fence line where a first rooster was taken, or that tree in a deer woods.

All of them are unique, all of them are more important to our entire society than most of us understand, and all of them need to be conserved, preserved, and enhanced.

Sadly, today we have fewer special places in the outdoors when the reality is, our society is in significant need for more of them.

Now, after years of hard work by those who care the most about it, we have a significant opportunity to preserve, enhance and create more special places in our sate of Minnesota.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, we can vote yes and help protect those special places in Minnesota that we love.

It’s a vote for clean water, clean air, and specifically, for the special place you are so connected to.

It’s also about getting that special place back that you may have lost in the past and sharing it with the next generation.

The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment will appear on the Nov. 4, 2008, General Election Ballot.

It dedicates a three-eighths of 1 percent addition to the states sales tax that will generate $300 million a year to these separate funds: $43 million to parks and trails, $59 million to arts and arts youth access, $100 million to clean lakes, rivers, and streams, and $100 million to game, fish and wildlife habitat.

The amendment will be phrased as follows:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water resources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?”

This amendment is the most significant opportunity to protect our outdoors that we will have in our lifetime.

It’s an opportunity to protect, preserve, and enhance your special place.

For more information on the amendment, go to www.sportsmenvoteyes.org.

• Dismal duck hunting:

Every single report I got last week regarding the opening weekend of Minnesota’s waterfowl hunting season reflected dismal hunting, poor hunter success, and lack of ducks in the air.

Locally, Saturday got off to slow start and the weather Sunday morning made hunting tough and kept many duck hunters at home.

The only modest report of success came from Little Waverly Lake, where one party of hunters bagged two geese and four wood ducks.

Hunters near Hutchinson, on a prime waterfowl lake, reported one duck harvested by six hunters.

In southeast North Dakota, where I was hunting with a good-sized group, duck numbers were fair, but much drier conditions, compared to a year ago, really impacted our success.

Many of the potholes were dry, and less water meant fewer places to hunt and fewer ducks.

No northern ducks were in the area yet. The same held true for our area.

The pheasant hunting season in Minnesota opened Saturday, Oct. 11. Look for a report in next week’s column.

Waverly Gun Club events coming up

The Waverly Gun Club will host a concealed carry class Monday, Oct. 20 and Tuesday, Oct. 21

For more information on the class, contact Les Johnson at (763) 675-3527.

The Waverly Gun Club has also set dates for its rifle range. The range will be open for site-ins on the following Saturdays and Sundays: Oct. 18 and 19, Oct. 25 and 26, and Nov. 1 and 2.

The hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

DNR’s Shoreland Rules Update Project address importance of keeing a natural shoreline
From the DNR

Are you concerned about fish and wildlife habitat in and along lakes and rivers?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is conducting a statewide study to update shoreland development standards that were established in 1970 and revised in 1989.

One of the issues being addressed is shoreline alteration.

“Natural shorelines are protected through local ordinances which affect shoreland property owners and the use and development of shoreland areas,” explained Paul Radomski, a research scientist with the DNR in Brainerd. “The future of aquatic habitat in Minnesota depends on whathappens above the surface of our water. The best way to minimize development impacts is to maintain natural shoreline. We need to bring citizens along, show them the effects of rainwater runoff and habitat loss, and work together to minimize the impacts.”

According to Radomski, key factors leading to reduced water quality and loss of habitat include lawns stretched to the shoreline, removal of native vegetation, the use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, which increase rainwater runoff and soil erosion, contaminate the water, and obliterate the places that wildlife and fish need for reproduction and raising young.

“Lakes, wetlands, and streams need healthy, natural shoreline buffers to reduce rainwater runoff,” Radomski said.

The amount of rainwater runoff from mowed and manicured lawns can be as much as ten times more than from the natural shoreline.

In addition, a natural shore preserves the natural character and beauty of the shoreline by screening shoreland development from boaters on the water while adding privacy to the shoreland property owner.

“Natural shorelines are gaining acceptance as people understand that they play an important role in protecting the lakes and streams, and that buffers offer natural beauty to their yards,” Radomski said.

The Shoreland Rules Update Project, which started in January at the direction of the State Legislature, includes extensive public participation through written comments and public meetings throughout the state. More public meetings are planned for this fall.

The project embraces wide-ranging shoreland issues and nuances from diverse stakeholders.

When the standards are revised, the goal will be to have workable standards that are reflective of key resource values, based on sound science, and adaptable to a variety of local issues and needs.
For the latest information, visit www.mndnr.gov and enter shoreland rules update project in the search box.

DNR advises hunters of rare whooping crane presence
From the DNR

Of the less-than-500 surviving whooping cranes in the United States, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters to watch out for at least four that are currently visiting southwestern Minnesota.

These rare birds are on a temporary stopover during their fall journey to Texas.

John Schladweiler, DNR Eco Resources regional manager at New Ulm, said the presence of these birds in Minnesota at this time of year is both exciting and concerning.

“These rare cranes are likely to be here during at least part of the Minnesota waterfowl season,” Schladweiler said. “We encourage hunters to keep in mind that these birds are around and to be careful not to mistake them for geese.”

Whooping cranes are large birds that weigh between 14 and 17 pounds and have a wingspan of 7-8 feet.

With the exception of black wing tips and a black “mustache,” the body plumage is pure white.

The bird’s crown is covered with black, hair-like feathers. The long, pointed bill is yellowish.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the U.S. whooping crane population was on the brink of extinction, their numbers having dwindled to about 30 birds.

The crane has had a long, grueling road to a hopeful recovery, yet its future is still very perilous.

For additional information on whooping cranes and the story of the efforts that have been made to keep them from becoming extinct, visit www.savingcranes.org.

DNR bullet study arms hunters with information
From the DNR

With the “early antlerless” deer season opening Saturday, results of a preliminary study about how certain bullets break up and disperse on impact provide more information for hunters heading out to the field.

The results add emphasis to previous venison safety messages from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommending pregnant women and children under six do not eat any venison harvested using ammunition that results in deposition of lead particles in meat.

There is currently no health-based standard or guideline for consumption of lead fragments by older children or adults, according to the MDH.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conducted the research this spring to offer more detail to hunters in response to earlier concerns about lead particles in hunter-harvested venison donated to local food shelves.

The research indicates lead particles are commonly found farther from the wound channel than many hunters might assume and that the number of lead fragments varies widely by bullet type.

Hunters with concerns about these findings can use this information to minimize exposure to lead fragments through ammunition selection.

In addition to showing increased fragmentation by some lead bullets, the DNR study indicates that most lead particles in venison will be too small to see, feel or sense when chewing.

Results of the study showed that shotgun slugs and muzzleloader bullets generally fragmented much less than high-powered rifle bullets, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator and study participant. Much of southern and western Minnesota is in the shotgun zone.

“This research arms hunters with more information that they can use to make informed decisions,” said Dave Schad, director of the DNR Fish and Wildlife Division. “We’ve long known venison is a great source of lean, healthy protein. Our research will help hunters ensure that’s exactly what they are serving themselves and others.”

“We wanted to be as responsive as possible to hunters in providing this information before deer season,” added DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “However, everyone must use their best judgement about the ammunition they use and how they dress and process their own venison.”
The DNR’s announcement is timely as the state’s first firearms deer season opens Saturday.

Called the “early antlerless firearms season,” it is open only in certain locations and attracts about 5 percent of total deer hunters.

Schad said by releasing the information before the early antlerless and Nov. 8 general deer season hunters will “be able to act on this new information if it is it appropriate for their situation.”

• Study design

The controlled study, the first of its type, involved the shooting of different types of .308 caliber rifle bullets, a 12-gauge shotgun slug and two types of .50 caliber muzzleloader bullets into the carcasses of previously euthanized sheep.

Sheep were used surrogates for white-tailed deer because they have similar anatomy and weigh about the same as mid-sized deer.

Researchers then shot deer from a standard distance. Sheep were x-rayed at the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital to determine the number of fragments and the degree of fragmentation.

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory completed the chemical analysis of lead levels.

• Health implications

Exposure to lead can be harmful for both children and adults, and it may not always produce visible symptoms, according to the MDH.

Pregnant women and younger children are especially sensitive because they absorb most of the lead they take in, and the brains of infants and young children are still developing.

Although lead is also toxic for adults, they are less sensitive to the effects of lead and absorb less of the lead they take in.

Older children and other adults can continue to enjoy hunting and eating venison.

However, they should take steps to minimize their potential exposure to lead, and use their judgment about consuming game that was taken using lead-based ammunition.

• Venison donation program

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) recently announced a series of changes in the state’s venison donation program to help prevent the donation of meat contaminated with lead fragments.

One of the new safeguards is a requirement that processors participating in the program attend a training seminar focused on best practices to prevent contamination.

According to MDA Dairy and Food Inspection Director Heidi Kassenborg, the response from processors has been positive.

“Everyone involved in the program has a responsibility to help address this issue, and processors are interested in doing their part to ensure consumer safety,” Kassenborg said. “To verify the effectiveness of the changes we’ve made, MDA will be testing random samples of donated product by X-ray to detect any lead fragments.”

Hunters are encouraged to continue to donate to this important program, she added.

For further study details, see the attached PDF summary. For more information on lead in venison, go to http://mndnr.gov/lead.

Safe shooters are never sorry
From the DNR

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers (CO) found themselves looking for cover during the recent moose and waterfowl openers, and remind hunters to always follow safe firearm discharge procedures.

While pulling up to check some moose hunters, CO Darin Fagerman of Grand Marais came across a couple of hunters with angry looks on their faces and another who looked a bit confused.

One of the men explained to the CO that the confused-looking man had an accidental discharge of his rifle just as the CO pulled up.

“Everyone was fortunate that the rifle was pointed in a safe direction, but there is no excuse for what happened,” Fagerman said. “This makes every CO a little nervous as they approach people with guns during the hunting season. Safe handling of firearms is a must at all times.”

CO Luke Croatt of Wealthwood was working with CO Candidate Craig Miska when they discovered a group of waterfowl hunters trying to shoot a cripple shot in the direction of the officers, spraying pellets all around them.

The officers explained to the group the importance of knowing where to shoot safely.

CO Thor Nelson of Bloomington was working with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officer when shotgun pellets struck their boat, nearly wounding the USFWS officer.

Nelson urges everyone to make shooting safety a priority, always.

“Always know what lies behind your target,” Nelson said. “Make sure you check before pulling the trigger.”

Hunting remains one of the safest outdoor recreational activities.

Hunters contribute to this safety record by practicing good firearm etiquette.

Taking your best shot at the right time ensures a safe and productive hunt

“Until your target is fully visible and in good light, don’t even raise your gun,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “Know what is in front of and behind your target and determine that you have a safe backstop or background since the bullet or pellets may pass through or around the primary target and strike whatever is behind it. Safety is your primary concern, bagging game is secondary.”

Hunters also must keep track of buildings, roadways, and other hunters.

Don’t ever shoot at sound – it may be a child, a hunter, or an innocent bystander.

When hunting, know the identifying features of the game you’re after.

Never shoot at flat hard surfaces, such as water, rocks, or steel because of ricochets.

“Be certain of your target and your line of fire,” said Hammer. “Keep your safety on, finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.”

Hunters are also reminded to:

• treat every firearm with the same respect due a loaded firearm; always keep muzzle pointed in a safe direction

• be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions

• never load or unload firearms around others

• always ask permission before entering private land, and as a guest of the landowner, act accordingly

• store firearms and ammunition separately beyond the reach of children and careless adults

• avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood-altering drugs before or while shooting.

Hunters should refer to the “2008 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook” for detailed information concerning hunting regulations or call (651) 296-6157 or 888-MINNDNR (646-6367) for more information.

Deer lottery results mailed to winners, available online
From the DNR

Successful applicants for both lottery deer areas and special hunts are being notified this week via postcard, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Hunters can visit http://mndnr.gov/hunting/deer to check the results.

Hunters who were unsuccessful in the lottery will be awarded a preference point for next year.

For 2008, leftover either-sex permits will be available on a first come, first served basis at 5 p.m. today (Monday, Oct. 13).

Either-sex permits are available statewide at all 1,800 Electronic License System (ELS) agents.

To obtain a permit, a hunter must have a valid firearm or muzzleloader license or purchase one at the time. There is no additional cost for the permit.

An individual can only have one permit, which is valid for that area only.

The permit allows a hunter to take one antlerless deer in that deer area only.

As illustrated in the 2008 hunting regulations handbook, the bag limit for lottery deer areas is one deer.

This permit simply authorizes a person to take an antlerless deer during the firearm season or muzzleloader season.

The deer areas with leftover permits are:

• Area 215 - 1,859
• Area 219 - 52
• Area 232 - 201
• Area 234 - 199
• Area 247 - 38
• Area 254 - 963
• Area 255 - 233
• Area 273 - 1,136

Hunters younger than 18 do not need a permit, since they can take an either-sex deer without applying.

In lottery areas, it is illegal for adults to take antlerless deer for youth hunters.

Adults who hold regular statewide firearm licenses - and muzzleloader hunters who also hunt deer during the firearm season in a lottery deer area and want to take an antlerless deer - must possess an either-sex permit.

Otherwise, they are restricted to bucks-only hunting in lottery areas.

Hunters encouraged to avoid parking on roads
From the DNR

With Minnesota’s major hunting seasons underway, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging hunters to avoid parking on rural roads whenever possible.

“Right now, farmers are out in the fields trying to get the crops out and it’s important they be able to freely travel down the road,” explained Paul Hansen, DNR Southern Region assistant wildlife manager at New Ulm. “Parking cars and trucks on these roads can present a real problem for a farmer trying to get by with large machinery.”

Hansen said the DNR provides parking areas off roadways adjacent to state wildlife management areas.

When hunting private land, Hansen said, it’s a good idea to ask the landowner where parking off the road might be available.

Otherwise, park as far off onto the road shoulder as possible.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: A telltale sign that winter is approaching is the ongoing wildlife activity.

Although birds migrate to warmer climates, many wildlife species stay put, including the creepy, crawly, and slithery critters.

What do reptiles and amphibians do to prepare for winter?

A: Since Minnesota’s 50 species of amphibians and reptiles can’t migrate south to escape the wrath of winter, these cold-blooded animals search for sites in the fall that meet their over-wintering needs.

Strategies for surviving the inevitable chill are interesting and varied.

Some seek safety underground, traveling deep into rock crevices or burrows to escape the frost line.
Others take refuge in aquatic habitats, remaining submerged throughout the winter.

Wood Frogs and members of the treefrog family are truly hardcore, nestling themselves under a thin blanket of leaves on the forest floor, freezing solid.

They protect vital organs by creating their own antifreeze.

These frozen frogs do not breathe or have a pulse, yet recover quickly when spring returns.

Amphibians and reptiles typically settle in to their winter home by late October, however global climate change could alter seasonalpatterns in animals whose activities are closely linked to temperature.