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Local duck hunting was better than many expected

October 12, 2009

by Chris Schultz

It was definitely ducky weather last week and it seems the ducks and hunters responded.

Most local duck hunters reported good hunting, or, at least, better hunting than they expected.

In the Howard Lake area, hunters did find a fair number of wood ducks and teal, and stated water levels in the area sloughs were high. Getting to some of the smaller potholes wasn’t easy, because of muddy fields.

Near Clara City, where I hunted, duck numbers were also better than expected, with good numbers of mallards, teal, and a variety of other ducks including a few pintails, and widgeon.

In that area, hunters did quite well. I had no problem filling my six-bird bag limit, but there were no wood ducks in the air.

The entire area seemed completely absent of wood ducks.

Some local hunters on stretches of the Crow River also reported a lack of wood ducks.

On the South Fork, one hunter noted he felt that bald eagles using that stretch of the river for most of the summer had pushed out all of the wood ducks – stating he saw more eagles on his hunt than wood ducks.

Near Hutchinson, where goose hunting had been slower than normal in the early September season, according to several hunters, the duck hunting was fair, but the action on Canada geese really picked up and there were a lot more birds in the area.

Moving on, local duck hunting will probably be difficult the next few weeks. Hunting pressure does move ducks around, and with high water levels and just about every corn field pothole full of water, the birds can really get spread out.

Add a late crop harvest to the mix and it could be an interesting fall.

Finally, there are some major waterfowl habitat restoration projects scheduled and intended for our area in the next few years including, Pelican Lake near Monticello, the Crane Creek area near New Germany, and Smith Lake near Howard Lake and Cokato.

There is some controversy surrounding all of the projects, but hopefully, issues will get resolved and waterfowl habitat and hunting will improve significantly in our area in the near future.

Waverly Gun Club upcoming events

The Waverly Gun Club will be hosting several events coming up.

The final ladies’ night will take place Tuesday, Oct. 13 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The club will also offer rifle sight-ins over three weekends – Oct. 17-18; Oct. 24-25; Oct. 31-Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Firearms sight-in day at Delano

Persons who are not members of the Delano Sportsmen’s Club will be allowed to use the range to sight in their firearms for the upcoming hunting season. This will be the only opportunity this fall for non-members to use the range. The date is Saturday, Oct. 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The range is located at 4505 County Road 50 SE.

The fee is $15 per gun. Targets will be provided.

All guns must be cased and unloaded, and magazines empty.

No alcohol, or persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be permitted on site.

Bring your own hearing and eye protection.

Members of the club will be on hand to assist.

Visit the web site, www.delanosportsmensclub.com for directions and more information.

Migration reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

Name: Ben Cade

Date: Oct. 6, 2009

Location: Buffalo, MN

Weather: The weather has been cold and rainy for the past several days. We have received around three inches of rain since the reports last week.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: Most area wetlands are full. We have standing water in some of the fields.

Feeding Conditions: Geese have been hitting the area sweet corn fields and silage fields. I have not seen any ducks in the fields recently. I did find several combined corn fields, but no birds had found them yet. With the wet conditions, it will be a while before more fields come down.

Species and Numbers: Heading into opening weekend, we had excellent numbers of mallards and wood ducks in the area. Heavy hunting pressure has pushed many of these birds elsewhere. We have good numbers of Canada geese in the area as well.

Migrations: Migrating birds found the area just before opening weekend. I did see a snow and a blue goose while scouting which is unusual for this time of year. I heard one other report of a flock of snow geese on opening morning. I did witness several new flocks of geese on the morning of October 4.

Season Stage: We are in the first week of our regular waterfowl season.

Hunting Report: We had a good number of birds around for our season opener, however heavy hunting pressure made bag limits difficult. I expect things to get better as the fair weather hunters turn to pheasants and deer in the next several weeks.

Gossip: During a scouting trip on Sunday morning, I noticed several groups using motorized decoys. Motorized decoys are restricted through Saturday Oct. 10.

MN state parks offer fall try before you buy promotion
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a deal for visitors who can’t decide whether to purchase the one-day permit or the year-round permit when they arrive to hike, bike, and picnic amid the fall colors at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

If visitors choose the one-day permit ($5), they can turn it in before they leave for a $5 credit toward the purchase of a year-round permit.

The cost of the year-round permit would therefore be reduced from $25 to $20.

“The year-round permit is the best deal, because it gives you and everyone in your vehicle unlimited visits to all 72 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas,” said Pat Arndt, manager of planning and public affairs for the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails. “Often families have so much fun on their first visit, they make plans to return. Allowing them to apply the price of their one-day permit to the purchase of a year-round permit before they leave the park makes perfect sense, because it lets newcomers ‘try’ before they ‘buy.’”

To call attention to this special promotion, banners will be posted outside park offices through Nov. 1 with a headline of “Good times. Great deal.”

Park staff will also wear buttons that say, “Why limit yourself? Ask me for more info.”

After Nov. 1, visitors can continue to redeem one-day permits for a $5 credit toward year-round permits purchased the same day.

There is a Minnesota state park or recreation area within 30 miles of most Minnesotans.

State parks are open seven days a week year-round, including on holidays.

Information about what there is to see and do at parks and recreation areas can be found at www.mnstateparks.info.

Leftover either-sex deer permits on sale today (Oct. 12)
From the DNR

Firearm and muzzleloader hunters who were unsuccessful in this year’s lottery for an either-sex deer permit or did not apply can obtain free leftover permits beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, from any Electronic License System (ELS) agent or online, according to the Minnesota Department of Resources (DNR).

To pick up a permit, a hunter must either currently possess or purchase a license valid for either the firearm season (option A or B) or the muzzleloader season.

There is no additional cost for the permit but a $3.50 fee will be charged for online purchases from www.mndnr.gov/licenses/hunting.

Individuals can only have one permit, which is valid for the area they select.

The permit will allow an individual to take one antlerless deer in that deer area only.

Hunters who were selected in the lottery cannot obtain a leftover permit.

A leftover permit allows an individual to take a deer of either sex in that permit area.

It is not a permit for an extra deer.

In lottery deer areas, firearm and muzzleloader license holders who intend to take an antlerless deer must possess an either-sex permit; otherwise, they are restricted to hunting bucks.

The total bag limit for deer in lottery areas is one deer per year.

Leftover antlerless deer permits are available in the following permit areas.

The number of permits available in each area are listed in parenthesis.

Firearms season permits: 122A (97); 219A (46); 223A (248); 224A (70); 229A (552); 232A (98); 233A (301); 239A (2,838); 249A (303); 254A (122); 344B (56).

Muzzleloader season permits: 122 (2); 219 (5); 223 (16); 224 (1); 229 (58); 232 (13); 233 (45); 239 (159); 249 (11); 254 (16); 344 (11).

Surplus deer permits are available for some state parks beginning Oct. 12 by contacting a park’s manager. Parks with surplus permits are Great Rivers Bluff with 23; Hayes Lake with 41; and Tettegouche with 46.

The DNR License Center and Information Center will have extended hours on Monday, Oct. 12.

Both will be open until 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 9651) 296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

DNR adds new walking trail tool to web site
From the DNR

Hunters in search of walking trails to pursue ruffed grouse and other game can find helpful maps and aerial photos on a new application on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Web site.

The DNR’s hunter walking trails tool, located at http://mndnr.gov/hunting/hwt/index.html, allows users to locate walking trails by simply selecting a county and specific trail from a pull down menu.

With a click, a map will appear with the trail marked in red.

Clicking the “PDF” link opens a new browser window that displays a printable aerial view of the selected trail.

“Minnesota has a great system of non-motorized hunter walking trails,” said Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “This tool makes it easier for hunters to find and enjoy them. It’s particularly beneficial for grouse hunters in forested areas.”

Walking trails listed in the pull down menus wind through state forests, state wildlife management areas and other public hunting lands.

Many trails are signed and gated to prevent unauthorized use.

The trails are maintained by mowing and weave through good game habitat.

“One benefit of this tool is that it gives users a birds-eye view of the habitat they’ll be hunting,” said Simon. “With aerial photo in hand, you have stronger sense of where you are, where you’re heading, and where you might want to leave the trail because of cover types you want to hunt.”

Simon said the tool will benefit all hunters, including those just getting started.

It allows them to plan their hunt from home, and then hunt their plan when they get their destination.

The current application does not contain all hunter walking trails.

Over time, additional trails will be added to the application.

Rock outcrops are ancient, unique
From the DNR

Along the upper Minnesota River Valley, from New Ulm to Ortonville, is a linear stretch of low, rounded gneiss and granite knobs called outcrops.

Some of these rocks have been here for as long as 3.5 billion years, nearly a billion years longer than the bedrock visible in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness.

Fred Harris, a DNR plant ecologist, is intimately familiar with these rock outcrops and the unique plant and animal communities that inhabit them. And, he is concerned about their future.

“Federal highway construction standards now require crushed bedrock instead of gravel and it can be tempting for landowners to want to open up their rock outcrops to mining,” Harris said. “While we need to have mining to supply highway rock, we also need to preserve these ancient outcrops when we can.”

When the last glaciers retreated from this area some 12,000 years ago, the “massive erosional forces of Glacial River Warren exposed and abraded this ancient bedrock,” Harris explained. “It’s amazing that anything can grow or live on them but they are actually home to about 15 rare plant species.”

Shallow soils that cover portions of rock outcrops retain little moisture for plant growth yet three species of drought-adapted cacti and the small flameflower manage to thrive.

And in the spring, when shallow depressions in the rock accumulate water, these ephemeral (or vernal) pools support a surprising diversity of aquatic plants.

Rock outcrops are also home to the tiny fairy shrimp and clam shrimp, as well as the five-lined skink, a rare lizard that is active from May through August and then hibernates for eight months below the frost line in bedrock cracks or small animal burrows.

Harris said he has also been jolted on occasion while scanning outcrop surfaces for tiny plants by “the sudden flush of a common nighthawk disturbed from incubating its eggs on the bedrock. Both the bird and its’ eggs are mottled to blend in with the surrounding pitted and lichen-studded rock.”

“Rock outcrops,” Harris said, “are ecologically amazing places. And most Minnesotans don’t even know they exist.”

Minnetonka resident wins 2010 MN Pheasant Stamp contest
From the DNR

Minnetonka artist David Chapman’s painting of pheasants gathering near a barn was chosen as the winning design from among 22 entries in the 2010 pheasant habitat stamp contest sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Ten entries advanced to the second stage of judging, from which four finalists were selected Thursday, Oct. 1, at DNR Headquarters in St. Paul.

Thomas Groess of Cottage Grove took second place and Mark Thone of Shakopee took third.

“Wildlife really is near and dear to my heart,” Chapman said. “When I got the call that I was the winner, I was getting ready for opening day of duck season.”

The five-member panel of judges this year included Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever biologist; Jay Johnson, DNR hunter recruitment and retention coordinator; Brad Cobb, former chair of the Game and Fish Budgetary Oversight Committee; Jason Abraham, DNR season-setting specialist; and Collin Grant, a DNR graphic artist.

Chapman is a third-generation artist who was inspired by his grandmother and father, Loyal “Bud” Chapman, whose surrealistic paintings of unconventionally placed golf holes have become famous.

He has won several state wildlife stamp contests since he entered his first stamp contest in the late 1980s.

But Chapman doesn’t consider himself to be an aspiring wildlife artist. “Through the recognition I’ve received in these contests, I’ve received residual work. But most of my time is spent managing my dad’s art business.”

The $7.50 Pheasant Stamp is required of all Minnesota pheasant hunters ages 18 through 64.

Since 1983 stamp sales have generated more than $15.5 million for habitat enhancement efforts on both public and private lands in the pheasant range of Minnesota.

The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work, which is usually done as limited edition prints.

The 2010 Pheasant Stamp will be available for sale in March 2010.

Question of the Week
From the DNR

Q: Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) are lesser known for their recreational opportunities, unlike wildlife management areas or aquatic management areas. What do they provide?

A: SNAs offer significant recreational opportunities for nature observation, photography and hiking.

These sites are unrivaled by other public lands in Minnesota because of the unique wildflowers and rare plant and animal species that call these places home.

In fact, many of these species can only be found on SNAs.

All or some forms of hunting are allowed on more than 50 SNAs, totaling more than 88 percent of the acres designated in the state as SNAs.

Portable tree stands are allowed on SNAs provided they are not permanently attached to the trees or do not harm their bark.

The intent of SNAs is to protect and enhance the unique features of the sites.