It might just be me, but it sure seems like we’ve been in the midst of a winter that has been one of the longest in decades.
From snow and ice in November to the blast of cold, snow and wind we got mid last week, it’s been a long haul.
The official first day of spring is Friday, March 20.
I traditionally don’t consider spring to be officially here until ice out on our area lakes, which typically occurs in mid-April.
Either/or, thinking about the arrival of spring is a lot better than dismal thoughts of continued weeks of winters’ snow, ice and cold.
Here are a few signs of spring to look for in the next weeks:
• The arrival of wood ducks and other waterfowl.
Many Canada geese have already arrived in the area from wintering grounds farther south, and wood ducks should be here, reentering nesting boxes soon.
• Bald eagles. As ice out approaches, bald eagles like to hang out around our area lakes in search of an easy meal.
• Fog and mist from melting snow and thawing ground.
In the early evening you can often see mist or stream rising from an open field.
• Longer days and the sun setting a little farther north each evening.
• Dark grey and soft ice on our area lakes.
As the temps warm and the ice begins to melt, it turns a dark grey and begins to look like a honeycomb.
• Nesting geese. Geese will begin to build nests in small and large sloughs.
Many times, they nest in drainage ponds next to roadways, making them very easy to see.
There are many more sure signs that spring is on its way and I would encourage you to take some time this season to watch spring actually happen.
Although it took a long time to get here, anticipating spring is a lot better than waiting for winter to end.
DNR firearms safety classes in LP
DNR firearms safety classes will take place at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club Monday and Tuesday nights starting Monday, April 6 and running through Tuesday, May 5.
The classes will be two hours per night, and are open to anyone who is 12 years old or older by Dec. 31, 2009.
Call Gary Godel to register at (320) 395-2561, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Space is limited.
DC area lake association’s Spring Fling is March 29
The 2009 Spring Fling is set for Sunday, March 29 in Litchfield at the VFW on Highway 12 (formerly the Farmer’s Daughter).
The following lake associations are taking part in this event: Lake Stella, Manuella, and Lake Washington.
Social hour will be from 5 to 6 p.m., and the meal will be at 6 p.m.
To RSVP or ask questions, call John Fink, (320) 275-0114.
Youth wood duck box building day Mar. 28
The ninth annual Carver County Youth Wood Duck Box Building Day is Saturday, March 28, at the Watertown Rod & Gun Club, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Builders will produce 125 wood duck boxes, which will be given away free. There is a limit of one box per child, or two per family.
Free hot dogs and chips will be served during the event.
Crow River DU to have raffle April 14
Crow River Ducks Unlimited will conduct a raffle at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted Tuesday, April 14.
The organization was granted a gambling permit from the City of Winsted, according to the city council minutes that were posted March 5.
McLeod County PF 2009 banquet April 18
The McLeod County Pheasants Forever banquet will take place Saturday, April 18 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.
For more information on the banquet, and other events, call Mark and Sue Reinert at (320) 864-6325.
Green Isle conservation partners to host banquet
The Green Isle Conservation Partners will host its annual banquet at the Hamburg Community Hall Saturday, March 21.
Tickets for the event are $40 each.
For tickets or more information, call Jim Luskey at (507) 964-2507, Nathan Morreim at (507) 326-5720, or Kirby Kroells at (651) 319-7081.
DNR unveils new Critical Habitat license plate designs
From the DNR
Minnesota nature lovers will soon have additional ways to support critical habitat in the state by selecting one of four new-design license plates.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety will choose four plates from among eight different image options with a goal of having them available for purchase later in the year.
The options are a showy ladyslipper, a northern Minnesota fishing scene, a majestic white-tailed buck, a pheasant in flight, a black-capped chickadee, a walleye, a pair of loons, and a woodduck.
They complement the two currently available Critical Habitat plates, one featuring deer and the other a loon.
“We are giving motorists more ways to show their conservation colors and individual identity,” said Mark Holsten, DNR commissioner.
The DNR will consider citizen and selected stakeholder input as it selects the four finalists.
License plate images and a citizen feedback form can be found at mndnr.gov through Monday, March 23.
DNR Commissioner Holsten and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion will consider the comments in their decision-making.
The critical habitat license plate program was created in 1995 to provide additional opportunity for Minnesotans to contribute to conservation.
Motorists who purchase a critical habitat plate make a minimum annual contribution of $30 to the Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) Program.
Every dollar generated through the sale of the license plate is matched with private donations of cash or land.
The plates have generated more than $25 million toward the purchase of 7,700 acres of critical habitat and have helped fund nongame research and surveys, habitat enhancement and educational programs.
The popular loon plate was released in 2002. The original deer plate was issued in 1996.
More than 100,000 motorists have habitat plates on their vehicles but plate sales have leveled off in recent years.
“It has been a long time since we issued a new plate,” said Holsten. “So, to rev-up the RIM program, we approached the Department of Public Safety with the possibility of issuing multiple plates at once. They gave us the green light, and we’re rolling.”
The eight license plate options were designed by DNR staff using photographs and wildlife stamp art.
They take advantage of new Minnesota-based flat license plate printing technology that allows photographs be used as license plate art.
The license plate image options were selected for their general appeal to hunters, anglers and nature lovers.
The critical habitat license plate program is a cooperative effort of the DNR, the Department of Public Safety, which administers license plate sales, and the Department of Corrections, whose prison industry produces the plates at its Rush City facility.
For more on the how plate sales fund conservation efforts, and to see frequently asked questions, go to www.mndnr.gov.
Second chance for wild turkey permits
From the DNR
Wild turkey hunters who were not selected in this year’s lottery for the spring hunt may purchase surplus permits starting at 5 p.m. tonight (March 16).
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is making 4,676 surplus permits available at all Electronic Licensing System (ELS) outlets and online at www.mndnr.gov/licenses.
Unsuccessful lottery applicants are allowed to purchase one surplus permit.
Hunters who did not enter the lottery will be able to purchase any remaining surplus permits beginning 8 a.m. Monday, March 23.
Information about the number of surplus permits available in each permit area is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey.
Because hunting access in many turkey zones is limited, hunters should obtain landowner permission before purchasing a surplus permit.
Hunters who obtain a surplus permit do not lose any existing preference for future lottery drawings.
Turkey hunting party applicants who were unsuccessful in the lottery must purchase individual surplus permits.
Students participate in state archery tourney in Becker
From the DNR
Student archers from throughout Minnesota will compete March 28 in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) fifth Annual National Archery In The Schools Program (NASP) state tournament.
The DNR NASP program is the nation’s second-largest, with 285 schools and more than 96,000 students participating annually.
The tournament brings together more than 600 students and begins at 9 a.m. in the Becker High School Field House, 1200 Hancock St., Becker.
Archers participate in teams and as individuals in the elementary division (4-6 grades), middle school division (7-8 grades), and high school division (9-12 grades).
Teams compete for first, second, and third place.
Individuals compete for first- to fifth-place finishes in each grade division and for top male and female archer honors.
The DNR’s Archery in the Schools grant program, which provides $1,500 in funding to qualifying schools to defray cost of equipment and program-related training, has spurred the growth of a school-based program that introduces students to the lifetime sport of archery.
Schools interested in participating in NASP and applying for a grant should contact NASP Program coordinator Kraig Kiger at (218) 327-0583 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Teens plead guilty to killing 109 coots
From the DNR
Two juvenile teen brothers from Laporte and another juvenile teen from Akeley have been fined $1,600 and placed on probation after pleading guilty on Feb. 4 to killing 109 American Coots.
Coots are defined as migratory game birds and protected by both state and federal law.
Often mistaken for a duck, the American Coot is a common waterbird.
Its all black body and white chicken-like beak distinguish this swimming rail from ducks.
Acting on a phone call, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officer Paul Parthun recovered 109 dead coots from the Hart Lake near Laporte in northwestern Minnesota last October. He also found shell casings for both 12-guage and 20-guage shotguns and shotgun shell boxes with identification that they were purchased from a local sporting goods store.
A DNR waterfowl specialist confirmed the coots were shot and did not die of disease.
During an interview with Parthun and another officer, one of the teens confirmed that his brother and a friend were duck hunting on Hart Lake the morning of Oct. 12.
They observed a large flock of coots on the water and “shot quite a few out of that big flock.”
He also admitted they left lots of birds on the water, and told the group that “We’re going to get in trouble for this.”
“It’s an unfortunate incident, but hopefully a learning experience for these young men,” Parthun said.
Anyone witnessing wildlife or fishing violations is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free Turn-In-Poacher (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093
DNR invites public input about hunting changes
From the DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) invites the public to comment on a proposal that would simplify regulations for hunting Canada geese during the early fall season in the metro and southeast parts of the state.
Over-the-counter turkey license sales and a special Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) deer hunt will also be discussed at the meetings.
The DNR is hosting two more public meetings:
• Thursday, March 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the People’s Cooperative, 3935 Hwy. 14 E., Rochester.
• Thursday, March 26, from 7-9 p.m. at DNR Regional Headquarters, 261 Minnesota Highway 15 South, New Ulm.
A fourth meeting is being planned for northeastern Minnesota.
The DNR is proposing to merge the metro and southeast early Canada goose zones into the statewide zone, making season dates and lengths, bag limits and other regulations consistent throughout most of the state.
In addition to simplifying regulations, the change is expected to provide more hunting opportunities and increase harvest of Canada geese.
The change would eliminate the prohibition against hunting Canada geese within 100 feet of open water during the September season in the metro and southeast areas.
People who cannot attend the meetings are urged to complete a questionnaire online at www.mndnr.gov/input.
Written comments also may be mailed to: Season Comments, DNR Section of Wildlife, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4007.
Questions of the week
From the DNR
Q: After a long winter, Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, ditches, ravines and wetlands are in need of a good cleaning to remove accumulated garbage.
Does the DNR have a program where people can volunteer to help clean public waters, and if so, what does it involve?
A: The DNR’s Adopt-a-River Program helps volunteers organize their own cleanup by providing a free “how-to” kit, bags and gloves, recognition for their effort, and other assistance as needed.
An annual clean up is required, and many people decide to do clean ups several times per year.
Although adopting does not give property rights to those who adopt stretches of a river, it does help develop a sense of responsibility and participation in the welfare of their community and public waters.
Since 1989, there have been more than 2,200 clean ups, involving more than 75,000 volunteers, who have removed more than 5 million pounds of rubbish, from approximately 9,000 miles of shoreline.
For more information visit the DNR’s Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us/adoptriver/index.html.