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Firearms deer season off to slow start

November 17, 2008

by Chris Schultz

According to most local deer hunters and those who headed farther north, the 2008 Minnesota firearms deer hunting season has gotten off to a slow start.

Cold weather, rain and strong winds in some areas put a damper on hunting success. The weather, basically, got hunters out of their stands early and probably kept a share of hunters at home on the couch. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said fewer hours spent in the woods usually means fewer deer harvested.

Locally, standing corn also hampered hunting success. Several hunters noted that, with the season lasting a full week this year, they were hoping a share of that corn would be cut by the end of the season. Also, many local hunters decided to stick with traditions of hunting the first weekend. This means local hunters, who in previous years hunted the second weekend (old 4b) of the local season rather than the first weekend, opted not to hunt on the opening weekend, instead sticking to their traditions. In our area, hunting pressure was probably greater the last weekend of the season rather than the first.

In the next few weeks I’ll take a look at total registration numbers from our area and compare the new season structure to the old one. For many local hunters and landowners the season structure change was significant.

Moving on, the ice fishing season is just around the corner, and maybe we will finally have a traditional season with good ice early and more than a foot of ice by the holidays. Look for lakes like Jenny and Buffalo to provide good early-ice walleye action, and remember that no ice, especially early ice, is ever completely safe.

Local pheasant hunters and those heading to western and southwestern Minnesota have reported good hunting now that a big chunk of the corn is off the fields. At this time of year the trick is to watch those last remaining cornfields and to hunt the closest cover to those fields right after they are harvested. Corn is the key.

Good luck hunting and remember to wear blaze orange.

Steak and shrimp dinner Saturday

Prairie Archers will host a steak and shrimp dinner Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Dodge House, Lester Prairie from 5 to 8 p.m.

Steak and shrimp combos are $12, steak $10, and pork chop or shrimp dinners $8.

Call in reservations before 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 to Jim Richardson (320) 395-2721.

Montrose Ducks Unlimited hosting fundraiser Dec. 4

The newly formed Montrose Ducks Unlimited chapter will host its first annual fundraising event Thursday, Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Montrose Community Center, located at 200 Center Avenue South in Montrose.

Every 10 minutes, an acre of wetlands is lost in the United States. In Minnesota, 80 percent of the wetlands have been lost.

Citizens can help protect and restore those valuable wetlands by attending a local Ducks Unlimited (DU) fundraising event.

DU has full time staff on the ground in Minnesota conducting the much needed wetland conservation work. All monies raised goes into habitat work.

More than 80 percent of the dollars raised through local fundraising events goes into conservation programs throughout Minnesota and North America.

Since 1937 DU has restored, enhanced, or protected nearly 12 million acres of habitat in North America. More than 200,000 acres of habitat have been directly impacted in Minnesota through DU conservation programs. In 2007 alone, DU conserved 24,000 acres in Minnesota.

The “Living Lakes Initiative” will restore and protect 300 shallow lakes in Minnesota over the next 10 years. This initiative will help preserve Minnesota’s rich water fowling heritage and fulfill some specific conservation needs.

For more information on the Montrose DU event, contact Ronald Carlson at (763) 221-4985 or go to mn.ducks.org.

“More habitat on the ground = more ducks in the sky.”

Donating deer hides helps habitat and educates kids

Since 1985, Minnesota’s deer hunters have unselfishly participated in one of the nation’s most unique recycling projects; Hides For Habitat, a project of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA).

Thanks to Minnesota’s deer hunters nearly 650,000 deer hides have been donated since 1985.

From the sale of those hides, MDHA chapters have generated nearly $3.5 million that has been used primarily for critical wildlife habitat enhancement and acquisition of new Wildlife Management Areas (all open to public hunting). Additionally, Hides for Habitat funds have been used in support of Whitetail Deer research and, most recently, to support MDHA’s Forkhorn Youth Summer Camp program and other youth education programs such as youth field days and the National Archery in the Schools Program.

According to MDHA Executive Director Mark Johnson, “The $8.50 that MDHA receives for each grade-one deer hide is not the key. The key comes as we are able to multiply hide dollars through leveraging federal, state, and other conservation dollars. Generally, by the time Hides for Habitat dollars hit the ground they have tripled by the leveraging of other funds. On top of that, Wildlife Research Center, the Ramsey based scent company, is again sponsoring Hides For Habitat billboards across the state, thus reducing advertising cost.”

That is only half of the story, as Johnson explains. “No matter how good our habitat and how large our populations of huntable game, it won’t matter if we do not lead our children to learn about our heritage of hunting and natural resources. Consequently, MDHA’s chapters also utilize Hides for Habitat funds to help provide money for camp scholarships and camp equipment for MDHA’s Forkhorn Youth Summer Camps. In 2008, over 600 kids attended Forkhorn camps, most of whom would not have been able to attend had it not been for the scholarships provided through MDHA Chapters with revenue from the donated deer hides. It all starts with deer hunters, like you and me, unselfishly donating their deer hide.”

To donate your deer hide this season, simply look for the MDHA Hides for Habitat orange signs located at Hides Drop Point Stations. To locate a official MDHA Hides Drop Station nearest you, log onto www.mndeerhunters.com or call MDHA’s State Office at 800-450-3337, ext 12.

However, Johnson cautions hunters. “Each year across the state, more imposter Hide Boxes are popping up. These are boxes that are not Hides for Habitat boxes but look like them and are sometimes positioned next to our Hides for Habitat boxes. Don’t be tricked! Be sure to only place your hide into boxes with “Hides for Habitat” or “MDHA” signs prominently displayed on them. Also, please thank the local business owner for donating the space for the Hides for Habitat Drop Boxes.”

Funding sources combined to improve five more west-central shallow lakes

WILLMAR – Many funding sources make light work. Ducks Unlimited is improving five more key shallow lakes in west-central Minnesota because local, state and federal partners joined forces to financially support these wetland projects.

“These complex wetland projects were implemented quickly this year due to the willingness of partners to provide the cost-share funding necessary for DU to tackle multiple projects at the same time,” said Jon Schneider, manager of Minnesota conservation programs for DU, based in Alexandria. “Without both state and federal funding partners and the support of local groups, only a few projects would be possible in a given year.”

Ducks Unlimited is adding water control structures and fish barriers to five large wetland basins on federal Waterfowl Production Areas near Willmar, Morris, and Fergus Falls. The new structures will improve the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to minimize fish and periodically manage water levels to rejuvenate wetland habitat in these basins for waterfowl and other wildlife. The clean, clear water resulting from temporary draw-downs will help produce plants and invertebrates that attract and feed ducks and other waterfowl.

The five projects include the 124-acre Olson Lake WPA in Kandiyohi County, the 162-acre Sherstad Slough WPA in Stevens County, the 102-acre Hanson WPA in Grant County, and two large wetland basins totaling 122 acres on Bah Lakes WPA in Grant County. Collectively, these five basins will provide over 500 acres of improved duck migration habitat in future years.

Over $500,000 in funding needed for these important wetland improvement projects was made possible through aggressive and innovative cost-share partnerships forged among DU and local, state, and federal organizations that all have a common mission of improving Minnesota’s water resources. DU received state funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and Department of Natural Resources, federal funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and USFWS’s Challenge Cost Share program to engineer and construct all six west-central Minnesota projects this fall.

DU’s Living Lakes Initiative aims to improve 400 shallow lakes in Minnesota and Iowa. This cooperative work between DU and Minnesota DNR will also help fulfill the shallow lake goals of DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan, which calls for the improvement of 1,800 shallow lakes across Minnesota. It will also help meet the wetland habitat objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan that calls for improved brood-rearing and migration habitat.

Shallow lakes are large wetland basins 50 acres or larger in size but less than 15 feet deep. When healthy, these wetlands often contain abundant aquatic plants and invertebrates sought by ducks (and duck hunters). Unfortunately, many shallow lakes in southern Minnesota and Iowa can no longer support these plants and invertebrates. They are in a turbid-water state brought on by invasive fish such as carp, excessive nutrients, stable water levels and increased drainage from land that surrounds them.

Water control structures allow agencies to temporarily draw-down water levels in wetlands to winterkill fish, such as minnows, carp, and black bullheads, consolidate sediments, and allow emergent plants to germinate. When reflooded, aquatic plants and invertebrates flourish in wetlands following draw-downs and fish barriers help minimize the number of fish getting back into the basin.

“DU relies on strong public and private partnerships to keep our Living Lakes Initiative moving forward,” said Josh Kavanagh, DU’s shallow lakes field biologist based in New London. “Without strong support and involvement from all partners, including both state and federal agency field staff and private landowners, DU would not be able to implement this many shallow lake improvement projects.”

Two North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants secured by Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota DNR funded the engineering and water control structures DU is providing for Olson Lake, Sherstad Slough, and Hanson WPA. On Olson Lake, DNR also awarded a $15,000 “Environmental Partnership” grant to DU from the Minnesota Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund as approved by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

Importantly, a generous donation of $10,000 in pipe material costs was made to the project by Prinsco, Inc. To help round out the funding, the Hawk Creek Watershed Project pledged to helped DU pay remaining project costs on Olson Lake.

To make Sherstad Slough and Hanson WPA possible, federal NAWCA grant funds were secured and made available by the Minnesota DNR from their $1 million “Upper Minnesota Valley Phase 1” grant. The Service is also funding the work, and DU augmented those federal funds with state grant funds it received from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund through the Habitat Conservation Partnership as approved by the LCCMR. The Stevens Soil and Water Conservation District also provided funding for Sherstad Slough to complete the funding necessary to design the project.

To fund the Bah Lakes WPA project, DU is matching federal USFWS funding through a federal Challenge Cost-share grant with state grant monies from Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund that DU leveraged through the Habitat Conservation Partnership. Bah Lakes WPA is visible from I-94 and features a disabled accessible hunting blind. All the WPAs are open to public hunting and wildlife viewing.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.

For more information on DU’s programs in Minnesota, www.ducks.org/livinglakes.

DNR announces 2009 grant applications now available

Applications are available now for grants that help local governments, organizations, and individuals throughout the state partner with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to fund a variety of conservation projects.

This round of grant applications are for 2009 projects such as:-
- acquisition of natural and scenic areas
- remediation fund projects
- local trail connections and federal recreation trail projects
- regional trail creation (outside metro area)
- fishing pier and public boat accesses projects
- Metro Greenways land protection and restoration projects
- Metro Greenways community conservation assistance projects
- community forest bonding
- aquatic invasive species prevention.

Although funding amounts for some of these programs is uncertain at this time, it is anticipated that both federal and state funds will be available during 2009. Initiating the application process now provides more time for DNR staff to assist in developing project ideas and for project completion.

Grant application information is available on the left hand side of the DNR Web site under “Find it Fast” at www.mndnr.gov. For more information, contact the grants staff listed in the program descriptions.

To obtain the application packet by mail, write to: Local Grants Program, Minnesota DNR, Office of Management and Budget Services, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4010.

Water quality is top concern in new DNR shoreline report

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released a report documenting public input that will aid in the creation of new standards for lake and river conservation. The Issue Identification Report, a compilation of issues discovered through public open houses, advisory committees, and other feedback, is on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov.

“Attendees said they were very concerned about water quality impacts from stormwater, impaired waters, and on-site sewage,” said Project Manager Peder Otterson. “Other key issues included rule administration, rule philosophy, lake/stream habitat, and density of shoreland developments. All this feedback will certainly help us review and develop alternatives for current shoreland standards.”

Those wishing to provide additional feedback can do so on the project Web site, and they can sign up for a listserve to receive project updates.

Among the critical water quality issues is stormwater management, according to Paul Radomski, research scientist for the project. The solution is getting the water into the ground near where it falls, reducing the chance for pollutants and nutrients to enter lakes and rivers through runoff. He said effective approaches include infiltration basins, rain gardens, grass overflow parking areas, grass swales, porous pavers, parking lot infiltration islands, and the overall reduction of hard or “impervious” surfaces.

One voluntary step that individuals can take to reduce stormwater runoff is installing a rain garden.

“Rain gardens are really catching on,” Radomski said. “A neighborhood with numerous rain gardens is reaping positive environmental benefits.”

Rain gardens are landscaped areas planted with wild flowers and other native vegetation that soak up rainwater coming right from the roof and driveway. The rain garden fills with water after a rain, so water slowly infiltrates into the ground rather than contributing to runoff problems.

For information on creating a rain garden, go to http://mndnr.gov/waters/shoreland.html