Waconia conservation club is new formula for hunting, angling, and conservation success

December 29, 2008

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

A Waconia High School science teacher has discovered a winning formula to interest more young people in hunting and fishing, as well as conservation practices.

When not explaining photosynthesis or Mendelian genetics to students, Wayne Trapp is the Waconia High School Conservation Club advisor.

Started in the spring of 2007, the conservation club has grown from 20 members to nearly 100 and is evenly split between boys and girls.

Trapp’s formula combines outdoor activities with community service projects.

“I think some of the success and appeal of the club lies in the variety of outdoors events that the kids can do,” Trapp said. “I also think that the kids like to give back to their community.”

From September to July 2009, the Waconia High School Conservation Club calendar is full of activities ranging from recycling to bird banding to ice fishing to tree planting to several trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Trapp said it would all be impossible without the help from a small group of dedicated parents, the enthusiasm of the kids, and businesses and organizations willing to assist with this experimental outdoors initiative.

The club recently visited Wings of Watertown, a hunting club near Watertown, Minn., for a day of pheasant hunting.

Other groups, including the local Pheasants Forever chapter and local sporting goods store Cabin feature contributed to the event, making it free to club members. Eight teens joined the hunt and bagged 15 birds.

But before heading afield, a member of Carver County Soil and Water talked about habitat restoration and its importance to wildlife.

State Conservation Officer (CO) Steve Walter of Waconia also talked to the group about gun safety, hunting rules and ethics.

“CO Walter has been an amazing supporter and a great resource, not only for the club but also for the classes that I teach,” Trapp said. “He has been one of the driving forces that’s made the club a success.”

Trapp hopes the formula of combining outdoors events with service projects kicks off a new generation of community-minded anglers, hunters and conservationists.

“It’s important that hunters, anglers and conservationists come together as a united group to promote, preserve and restore Minnesota’s natural resources, support community initiatives and preserve our hunting and fishing heritage for future generations,” Trapp said. “The Waconia High School Conservation Club is already working towards that end.”

Area lakes fishing reports

After four or five years of poor ice fishing conditions over the holidays, the holiday ice fishing spirits and crowds are back with us this year.

Although there’s 6 to 8 inches of snow on our area lakes making travel a little difficult, ice conditions are good, anglers are driving on many lakes, and for most the fishing has been good.

Howard has been producing crappies off Judd’s bar.

The sunfish bite on Waconia has been super.

Diamond Lake near Atwater is giving up small walleye.

John has been hot for northern pike.

Ida has been giving small crappies at dusk and several other lakes in the Dassel area like Washington and Belle have been providing excellent fishing.

With activity growing, anglers do need to be cautious regarding the amount of snow on the lakes.

Just like any other year, ice conditions do vary from lake to lake and from one spot on a lake to another.

Now, because of all the snow, ice production has probably slowed and there may only be a few more inches of ice then there was two to three weeks ago.

Unconfirmed reports last week notes that an SUV broke though the ice in deep water on Diamond Lake, and several vehicles broke through the ice near the landing on Buffalo.

With a reminder that no ice is ever completely safe, ice conditions this year are better then they have been the past few years, so get out there, drill a hole or two, and enjoy some good old-fashioned ice fishing on one of our area lakes.

An old-fashioned barn-raising taking shape
From Tom Conroy the DNR

It’s 5 a.m. and cold, dark and quiet outside a western Minnesota motel. Cold and dark it will remain for a while longer. Not so the quiet.

In the warm glow of light from our motel room, my brother and I sip steaming coffee and load gear into the vehicle as Charlie the lab saunters off to sprinkle the snowy ground.

As more lights come on in rooms up and down the lodge, other sleepy-eyed souls and eager canines begin stepping out into the cold November air.

Soon, hunters are barking commands to dogs, dogs are barking at each other. Truck doors open and slam shut, equipment rattles about.

The commotion, the banter and laughter, doesn’t last long. Engines turn over and vehicles begin rolling out of the parking lot.

Another day of hunting is about to begin in the prairie pothole region of Minnesota.

Ducks, geese, deer and pheasants are on the minds of most who travel here to gladly spend time and money on outdoor pursuits.

The visitors are good news indeed for the local merchants Rural Minnesota needs every jolt of economic energy it can find.

Agriculture remains rural Minnesota’s lifeblood, yet it has changed dramatically over recent decades.

Many small-town economies struggle now. And as rural populations age and more young people are lured away by the promises of big city lights, the result is fewer people in church pews and classrooms and more empty storefronts on Main Street.

Small-town Minnesota is searching for inventive ways to reinvigorate itself. One way to do that is to take a page from the old barn-raising days, when folks came from miles around to lend a hand. Some were skilled carpenters. Others hauled timbers, cooked food, or pounded nails. Everyone pitched in, creating a social contract for the common good.

One such present-day example is taking place along the Minnesota River Valley corridor in Renville, Redwood, Yellow Medicine, Brown and Nicollet counties.

There, a diverse group of individuals, organizations, and agencies have joined hands to transform this region of the river valley corridor into a regional destination site.

Dubbed the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor project, the goal is to restore, conserve, and protect both the natural resources and history of the Minnesota River Valley.

Last year, that vision moved closer to reality when the Legislative-Citizens Commission for Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) appropriated $1 million through the Environmental Trust Fund to help finance a major project within the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor called The Minnesota River Valley Green Corridor Land Protection project.

The goal is to work with willing sellers, from Upper Sioux Agency State Park to Fort Ridgely State Park, to acquire high-quality natural resource or conservation lands not currently under a permanent protection program.

The Southwest Initiative Foundation is the fiscal agent for the project.

While the Green Corridor project focuses primarily on acquisition, the Tatanka Bluffs effort is considerably broader, with five focus areas: outdoor recreation; renewable tourism initiatives; community celebrations, gaming and special events; education opportunities; and economic development (especially ‘green’ energy).

Citizens living in all four corners of this corridor, from Sacred Heart, Walnut Grove, Morgan, and Redwood Falls to Belview, Buffalo Lake and others are invited to participate in town hall meetings to share their ideas and vision for the region.

Farmers markets, quilting shops, history of Indians in the area, bed and breakfasts, gift shops, vineyards, parks, cultural attractions, renewable energy sites, museums, cafes with locally grown products, and arts and craft shops are among the attractions either planned or already in place.

Outdoor recreation is intended to be a core component of this effort, ranging from camping, wildlife watching, hiking, and biking, to fishing and hunting.

The idea is to leverage funds to provide more and better wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities.

Hunting in Minnesota is big business, and with fishing factored in, the impact mushrooms.

Annual spending by Minnesota’s 1.28 million hunters and anglers is estimated at $3.5 billion, or $9.5 million a day. We rank fifth nationally.

Just imagine the potential of creating a place where hunting is but one of the many attractions.

For more information on the Tatanka Bluffs project, visit www.tatankabluffs.com.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Why does snow make different sounds at different temperatures when it is walked on?

A: The quality and amount of snow as well as air temperature all influence if snow will be noisy or quiet underfoot.

Snow has air trapped between each flake, and when stepped on, those air spaces absorb sound.

Dry, fluffy, new snow has more air trapped between each flake resulting in quiet footsteps.

Wet, hardened, old snow has less air trapped between each flake, which means that less sound is absorbed resulting in noisy or squeaky snow.

The amount of snow effects sound, too – the more it snows, the more air gets trapped, and thus, the quieter the snow is.

However, snow only makes sound when the thermometer dips below 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius).

Temperatures above 14 degrees allow the snow to melt just enough to slip silently under your boots as you walk.

So your boots can be a good indicator of just how cold it is outside in the winter.