A trip down the Crow

February 16, 2009

by Chris Schultz

Winners of the Howard Lake annual fishing derby were the following: No walleyes were caught, Bass: Berwyn Schmidt, HL 5 lbs., Crappie: Jim Hermaning 14oz. Sunfish: LeeAnn Adickes, 12 oz., Northern: Craig Kjillahl, HL 13# 3oz. Fish house: Rich Winter of Lester Prairie (high school science teacher), Hand auger: Dan Zachmann, HL (1st); Pete Drusch, HL (2nd) Chisel: Bob Gruenhagen, Waconia (1st); Tom Bobrowske, HL (2nd), Electric auger: Dave Oestreich, HL (1st); don’t know 2nd not known, Power auger: Dan Zachmann, HL (1st); Dave Oestreich, HL (2nd). Photos of the event will print Monday, Feb. 28. To see video of a report from Denny Decker about the ice derby, click here.

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Until last week’s meltdown, the north and south forks of the Crow River in our area provided excellent trail riding for most of the winter.

Water levels were low, ice conditions were good, and several river riders worked diligently to remove downed trees and keep the trail open.

It was great riding for ATVs of various styles – snowmobiles, cross country skiers, and motorcycles.

One time this winter I even saw a few kids heading down the river on their bicycles.

Last week, on a warm Sunday afternoon, my 9-year old daughter and I hopped on the snowmobile, and from the property we have bordering the south fork of the river near Lester Prairie, headed out for a slow and peaceful ride down the crow.

We traveled five-plus miles down the river in each direction, bumped into other riders only one time, experienced a variety of wildlife, and soaked up a lot of serenity and beautiful scenery. It was a short trip close to home, well worth taking.

If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you know I have a long history with, and passion for, the Crow River.

I grew up on its banks, fished it, hunted it, explored it, photographed it, researched it, monitored it, and have helped clean it up.

I have a personal relationship with the river. It’s a part of me and always will be.

Last week’s little trip down the river confirmed once again just how beautiful it is and how important the river as a natural resource is to our entire area.

From Darwin to Dayton, or Lester Prairie to Delano, it’s a resource we should all cherish.

Included in this week’s column are several photos I took along the way.

Please note, as of Friday, Feb. 13, the river was mostly open and flowing and trail riding on the ice is over for another year.

Meeker County PF spends $1 million

Meeker County Pheasants Forever (PF) was recognized at the Minnesota Pheasants Forever state convention recently for spending $1 million on habitat and conservation education projects. Those chapter dollars completed 381 habitat projects, benefiting almost 3,000 acres within Meeker County.

Under the PF model, local chapter leaders determine how best to spend 100 percent of funds raised locally.

Public land acquisition has been a high priority for the Meeker County PF chapter, which has participated in six acquisitions, totaling 469 acres.

These acquisitions become open to public hunting as Minnesota DNR Wildlife Management Areas or U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Waterfowl Production Areas.

“The Meeker County PF Chapter does it all,” stated Eran Sandquist, regional biologist in Northern Minnesota for Pheasants Forever, “They throw a great fundraising banquet and put those dollars into the ground locally, but they also have helped other PF chapters in need, contribute to promoting conservation in the federal farm bill, and it all starts with their dedicated committee members.”

• Banquet

The chapter will host its 23rd annual habitat fundraising banquet Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Eagles Club in Litchfield.

All are welcome to attend and celebrate past accomplishments and future goals.

For more information on tickets, or to get involved with Meeker County PF, call Gary Duncomb at (320) 453-7465.

• Local chapter history

Since becoming the 123rd PF chapter in the nation in 1986, the Meeker County chapter has planted almost 5,000 trees in 18 wintering areas and created 1,315 acres of associated food plots.

The chapter has also taken an active in role in management of public Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and has restored or enhanced more than 1,050 acres of WMA throughout Meeker County.

In addition to habitat projects, the chapter also plays a key role in a Youth Conservation Day at Gopher Campfire, which has impacted 800 youth.

“MCPF is fortunate to have a passionate group of committee members,” said Gary Duncomb, Meeker County Pheasants Forever President. “We also want to thank our supporters who have enabled us to achieve this milestone. Without their support none of this would be possible.”

• Pheasants Forever history

Pheasants Forever was founded in St. Paul in 1982, and is still home to the organization’s national headquarters.

Of the organization’s 125,000 members, Minnesota accounts for 25,000 of them, making Minnesota the largest membership state. There are 76 chapters across the state, covering most counties within Minnesota’s pheasant range.

For information on PF in Minnesota, or on how to get involved, check out the state website at www.minnesotapf.org.

Watertown Rod & Gun Club to host annual sportsman banquet

The Watertown Rod & Gun Club will be hosting its 13th annual Family Sportsman Banquet Saturday, March 7.

Tickets for the event may be purchased by calling Gary Kubasch at (952) 807-2372. A limited number of tickets are available.

The banquet will take place at the Watertown Civic Center.

Snowmobile safety class in Carver County

Carver County Sheriff ‘Bud’ Olson and sheriff’s office personnel will be conducting a youth snowmobile safety class in March.

The youth class includes nine hours of classroom instruction, followed by one hour of practical (hands-on) operation.

Youth must be 12 years of age by April 30 to attend, and do not need their own snowmobile.

The cost of the youth class is $5, and pre-registration is required by calling (952) 361-1898.

The classes will take place at the Carver County Public Works Headquarters in Cologne.

Classes will be Tuesday, March 17 and Thursday, March 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. each night.

The final class will take place Saturday, March 21 from 8 a.m. to noon, and will include classroom, test, and practical operation.

Adults that are in need of a snowmobile safety certificate should contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at 1-888-646-6367 for an independent study CD.

Upon successful completion of the class, the student will be certified by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for operation of a snowmobile in the state of Minnesota.

The DNR web site also has information about other classes locally and throughout Minnesota – www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Cokato ice fishing contest Feb. 21

An ice fishing contest, hosted by Chartered Ice Fishing and Kirk’s Travel Plaza in Cokato, is set for Saturday, Feb. 21 at Cokato Lake from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

A $200 prize will be awarded for the biggest walleye, and the biggest northern caught during the competition.

A $100 prize will also be awarded for the biggest pan fish.

There will also be prizes for second-biggest walleye and northern, and several drawings for door prizes.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Kirk’s Travel Plaza, but if you bring in a food-shelf donation, you receive a $5 discount, and a Godfather’s Pizza lunch during the contest. Kids 12 and under are free.

For more information, call Chartered Ice Fishing at 320-310-9089, or Kirk’s Travel Plaza at (320) 286-0009.

MDHA state habitat 22nd banquet

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association is proud to announce their 22nd Annual State Habitat Banquet to take place Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Minneapolis Gateway Hotel, formerly the Four Points Sheraton, in Minneapolis.

Designed specifically to raise matching grant dollars for state-wide wildlife habitat projects, festivities will begin with a social hour and raffle ticket sales at 4:30 p.m., followed by dinner and a program at 6 p.m.

MDHA will be giving away prizes to include the 2009 MDHA Gun of the Year, a Remington Model 700 30.06; the 2009 MDHA Print of the Year, “Something is in the Air” by Scot Storm; and many, many more.

Tickets to the State Habitat Banquet are available from the MDHA State Headquarters for $45.

To order your tickets, call 800-450-DEER ext. 12 or fax a ticket order form, found at www.mndeerhunters.com, to (218) 327-1349.

There will be no tickets sold at the door. Be sure to get yours early, as there are a limited number of tickets available.

MDHA is a non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of approximately 20,000 members and 63 chapters throughout Minnesota “working for tomorrow’s wildlife and hunters today through education, habitat and legislation.”

Join the fun, attend the banquet and help us ensure a positive future for our outdoor heritage.

Remeber to help wildlife during tax season
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Nongame Wildlife Program urges Minnesotans to remember to help wildlife this year by donating to the Wildlife Checkoff Fund on their tax forms.

“Eighty percent of the funding for this important program comes directly from donations,” explained Carol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor.

The tax deductible, voluntary donations fund more than 80 conservation projects, including monitoring of wintering eagle roosts, surveys of wood turtles ospreys and timber rattlesnakes, a new statewide dragonfly survey, frog and toad research, habitat restoration and protection, monitoring of heron rookeries, and protection and management of important wildlife habitat for bald eagles, piping plovers, and other wildlife at risk.

The recovery of the bald eagle, trumpeter swan and other species such as the peregrine falcon was made possible in part by the donations of Minnesotans to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff on state income and property tax forms.

Minnesota now has the second highest bald eagle population in the U.S. and boasts the largest common loon population in the lower 48 states.

The opportunity to donate to help wildlife was passed by Legislature in 1980 and first appeared on state tax forms in 1981.

Henderson added that people should remind their tax preparer that they would like to personally help Minnesota’s wildlife by making a donation.

Northeastern Minnesota moose count completed
From the DNR

Northeastern Minnesota’s 2008 moose survey estimates a population of 7,600 animals.

This is similar to last year’s count, but related factors suggest that the population is continuing to decline.

“The raw survey numbers were similar,” said Mark Lenarz, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife researcher overseeing moose research. “But a historically low calf survival rate, a steadily declining hunter-success ratio, and a higher than normal non-hunting mortality rate all continue to suggest a downward trend in the moose population.”

Minnesota’s 2008 non-hunting mortality moose rate was 17 percent, down 3 percent from the 20 percent average rate reported during the past seven years.

Elsewhere in North America, between 8 and 12 percent of moose generally die from causes other than hunting.

Moose remain abundant enough in the state to support a bulls-only hunt for a limited number of Minnesotans.

But the percentage of hunters who successfully harvested a bull moose has steadily declined from 61 percent in 2001 to 45 percent in 2008.

Members of the DNR’s moose advisory committee are identifying management practices and research opportunities that may forestall the decline of Minnesota’s moose population.

The committee will make recommendations to the DNR later this year.

Aerial moose surveys have been conducted each year since 1960 in the northeast.

The Fond du Lac band and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the survey.

A copy of the aerial survey report and additional information about Minnesota’s moose population is available at www.mndnr.gov/moose.

DNR issues ice safety reminder
From the DNR

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) water safety officials have issued an ice safety reminder now that temperatures have surpassed 40 degrees in many areas of the state.

“Even with the relatively thick ice produced by our cold January, it doesn’t take very long for ice conditions to become hazardous when it warms up,” said Tim Smalley, DNR water safety specialist. “That’s especially true for vehicles.”
The usual safety guidelines for cars (8-12 inches of new, clear ice) don’t apply under this week’s melting conditions.

The slush created on the ice’s surface adds weight.

The ice also softens farther down and may have less than half the strength of the same thickness of ice earlier in the season.

“A good rule of thumb is that when the temperature rises above freezing for six of the last 24 hours, multiply the recommended minimum thickness by two,” Smalley said.

The ice becomes unsafe if temperatures remain above freezing for 24 hours or more.

Contact your local bait shop or resort to ask about the conditions of any lake you are planning to visit.

The DNR has ice thickness guidelines, videos and other safety information posted at www.mndnr.gov/safety/ice.

Ice safety pamphlets can be ordered from the DNR’s information center at (651) 296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

Question of the Week
From the DNR

Q: It’s been pretty cold up in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota this winter. Has Lake Superior frozen over this year?

A: Yes it has been a cold winter across the Arrowhead, as well as the rest of the state. Ice cover is increasing on Lake Superior, but it is not completely covered.

Ice formation is quite complicated on the lake, as can be seen with the latest Ice cover map from the National Ice Center.

To get an even better idea of the complexity of the ice on Lake Superior, see the Feb. 4 250-meter resolution image of the upper Midwest.

Shifting winds can cause ice to move and expose areas that were ice covered just hours before.

On average, the peak ice coverage for Lake Superior occurs in late February, with the long-term average coverage being about 40 percent.

The last time Lake Superior completely froze over with 100 percent ice coverage was in 1996.

The ice finally left Superior along the shore of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by the end of May that year.

There have been recent years when the lake has been more than 90 percent ice covered, the last time was in 2003.