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Youth pheasant hunts and the deer opener

November 2, 2009

by Chris Schultz

The 2009 version of Minnesota firearms deer hunting kicks off Saturday, Nov. 7 at a half-hour before sunrise.

Tens of thousands of hunters will head to the woods, fields, and swamps in search of the illusive white-tailed deer.

A portion of those hunters will be teenagers, young hunters, and a few will be taking part in their first-ever deer hunt – a hunt and experience they will most likely remember for the rest of their lives.

Hopefully it will be the building block of a lifetime of hunting, outdoor heritage, and commitment to conservation.

I fondly remember my first-ever firearms deer hunt in the forest near Cross Lake, MN.

I became strongly connected to my Dad – I know the exact spot we sat in the woods on that first morning.

I plan on sitting there with my son someday.

For life, I became connected to the outdoors, the land, the place we hunted, and even more so, became connected to the people I hunted with.

With the firearms deer hunt upon us and tradition-filled memories running deep, I took a big look at the photo in this week’s column on the Youth Mentor Pheasant Hunt and said to myself, “What an experience they just had.”

They will always remember the spot in Mark and Sue Reinert’s field where they downed that rooster.

They will think of their mentors for the day often, and although they may not become lifelong friends with all the others they hunted with on that day, they will remember their faces and actions like they were etched in stone.

That youth mentor hunt will be like so many first-ever deer hunts, not just a memory, but part of a lifelong outdoor heritage.

A heritage more of us need to share and help develop in others.

Migration reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

Name: Ben Cade

Date: October 26, 2009

Location: Buffalo, MN

Weather: Cool and cloudy. We had some fog and drizzle over the weekend. The forecast calls for more rain towards the middle and end of this week.

Snow Cover: None.

Water Conditions: All area wetlands are full. We have been driving in some fields, but all low lying areas are going to be walk in only at this point. No freeze up is occurring.

Feeding Conditions: Birds continue to use the few available fields in the area. I witnessed birds still using wheat fields while scouting this weekend. There are a few harvested corn fields down as well as some soybeans. Wet weather has stalled harvest in our area.

Species and Numbers: We have a good number of ducks around primarily in the river areas and private wetlands. The goose population is improving, but we could use another cold snap to push some new birds into the area.

Migrations: Nothing major, but we have seen a small trickle of new birds over the past week or so.

Season Stage: Mid season.

Hunting Report: Many have been reporting poor results; however scouting time has been paying off for some groups. Bag limits of Canada geese have been common. I have heard some reports of guys getting into good numbers of mallards.

Gossip: Many have left the state for the Dakotas or to hunt deer and pheasants. Hunting pressure has declined since the start of the season.

Youth archers harvest 12 deer during Camp Ripley bow hunt
From the DNR

The cold and snow didn’t discourage 130 youth archery hunters from experiencing the 8th annual youth deer hunt at the Camp Ripley Military Reservation north of Little Falls.

“While the weather conditions weren’t ideal, there are a lot of deer at Camp Ripley that helped the hunters achieve a good harvest for this year’s hunt,” said Beau Liddell, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) area wildlife manager at Little Falls. “Many hunters said they saw numerous deer, learned a lot and enjoyed the experience.”

Youth hunters harvested 12 deer, a success rate of 9 percent for the two-day hunt, which is the average success rate for a two-day archery hunt at Camp Ripley.

The first deer, a 105-pound doe, was harvested the morning of Saturday, Oct. 9. The largest deer taken was a 120-pound buck. Many of the 12 animals harvested were the first-ever deer for youth participants.

“Successful hunters were not selective and took the first good shot they had at a deer, with fawns and does comprising 11 of the 12 deer taken,” Liddell said.

All youth hunters were paired with nonhunting adult mentors.

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) and the Minnesota State Archery Association (MSAA) were the primary hunt administrators.

“MDHA and MSAA did a great job planning and conducting this hunt,” Liddell said. “The hunt sponsors deserve a lot of credit for the high quality experience provided to youth participants. Without their involvement and hard work, this event would not have been possible.”

In addition, the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation, provided significant logistical and planning support.

The hunt took place in a 15,000 acre area on the northern third of Camp Ripley.

The original Camp Ripley youth archery deer hunt was the first youth hunt in Minnesota.

It laid the groundwork for similar youth hunts being offered throughout Minnesota.

Harvested deer can be donated to processors for distribution to food shelves
From the DNR

Deer donated to food shelves will be processed at no cost to hunters, thanks to a program coordinated by the Minnesota departments of natural resources and agriculture.

The program is aimed at providing a sought-after food source to those in need while encouraging hunters to harvest additional animals to help manage the deer herd.

Prior to 2007, hunters could donate deer to food shelves, but had to pay processing costs.

“We recognize that ethically, hunters will not take more deer than they can consume,” said Lou Cornicelli, big game program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Simply asking someone to take another deer to manage populations provides only half of the picture. The venison donation program was developed to provide hunters an avenue to donate the extra deer they harvest without having to pay processing costs.”

More details on the venison donation program, as well as a list of participating meat processors, are available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer/donation.

Processors who accept deer are paid $70 to process each animal for food shelf distribution.

Funding for the program comes from surcharges placed on antlerless permits and nonresident hunting licenses.

Individuals have an opportunity to donate to the program when they buy their deer license or simply by informing an ELS agent they would like to donate to the program.

In 2008, $50,000 was collected through voluntary donations.

To donate a deer, hunters will need to adhere to the following guidelines:

• Only whole carcasses with the hide on can be donated; processors will not accept cut and wrapped meat or portions of carcasses.

• Information such as permit area of harvest and the DNR number will be collected for tracking purposes.

• Processors can only accept carcasses for donation that are free from signs of illness, free of visible decomposition or contamination, and properly identified with a Minnesota DNR registration tag.

• Processors will reject deer for the donation program that appear to have been mishandled in any way.

Hunters are strongly advised to contact the processor prior to donating the deer.

The list of processors accepting deer will be regularly updated as more processors register.

Poor weather at Camp Ripley doesn’t deter bow hunters
From the DNR

Archers took a two-day total of 171 deer during the first two-day bow hunt at Camp Ripley Military Reservation north of Little Falls.

Most deer were not weighed. But seven of the adult bucks weighed tipped the scales near or above 200 pounds. The largest buck weighed 239 pounds. And a 192-pound, 32-point buck has subsequently generated considerable public attention.

The largest adult doe placed on the scales weighed in at 125 pounds.

“Cooler than normal, extremely wet weather, and terrible road conditions greeted hunters during the first hunt,” said Beau Liddell, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Little Falls Area wildlife manager. “Weather was the real story for the first hunt this year, particularly on the second day, making it a challenge for hunters to maximize their time in the field, and consequently, affected the harvest.”

For the sixth year in a row, hunters were allowed to take up to two deer and to use bonus permits to increase harvest on antlerless deer.

Although the harvest for the first hunt fell this year, it was still well above the long-term average, Liddell said.

Fawns and does comprised 71 percent of the harvest.

Harvest from the first hunt represents a 47 percent decline from last year but remains 36 percent above the long-term average harvest of 126 deer.

“If weather cooperates next weekend, the total take for all four days should easily exceed the long-term average of 280 for both hunts combined,” Liddell said.

There were 2,501 permits issued for the first hunt with 2,032 hunters participating for a participation rate of 81 percent, drop from 2008’s 85 percent participation rate.

Hunter success was about 8 percent, which is equal to the long-term average.

Three hunters took their bag limit of two deer.

“With 12 consecutive mild winters and strong harvests since 2000, Camp Ripley’s deer herd is in good condition,” Liddell said. “Many hunters who provided comments indicated they saw numerous deer but couldn’t remain in their stands as long as they planned due to the cold, wet conditions.”

The second two-day hunt is scheduled for the weekend of Saturday, Oct. 31, through Sunday, Nov. 1.

DNR coordinates the hunts with the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.

Delayed harvest causes deer hunting safety concerns
From the DNR

Standing corn is a safety concern this firearms deer hunting season, according to Capt. Mike Hammer of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The cool summer and wet fall has delayed the corn harvest in many parts of the state,” noted Hammer, the DNR Enforcement Division’s Education Program coordinator. “That harvest delay could create hunter safety issues during deer drives when the firearms deer season kicks off on Nov. 4.”

Deer drives are when a group of hunters walk through a field hoping to flush out deer.

Standing crops can cause visibility problems among hunters, creating a safety issue when shooting at running deer.

“The excitement of the hunt can quickly cloud a hunter’s judgment and perception,” Hammer said. “The hunter momentarily forgets about surroundings – even hunting partners. Many times a victim and shooter know one another, since they’re hunting together.”

To ensure safety, deer hunters should establish hunting plans that define who will shoot and when during drives.

Each hunting party member should have a predetermined zone of fire and always know the locations of others in the hunting party.

Visibility between those stationary on deer drives and those driving deer is important.

“Every hunter assumes an incredible responsibility when using a firearm in the field,” Hammer emphasized. “It’s up to the hunter to make sound shooting decisions. If there’s even the slightest hint that something isn’t right, don’t shoot. There will be other opportunities.”

Hammer reminds hunters to hunt defensively, assuming every movement or sound that they hear is another hunter until they can prove unquestionably that it isn’t.

Every accident is preventable by following a few basic rules:

• Know the location of your partners and others; know your zones of fire.

• Make your position known to other hunters.

• Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

• Wear blaze orange clothing in areas open to deer hunting with firearms.

“These rules are not only common sense, they are the law,” Hammer said.

DU supports efforts to boost conservation
From Ducks Unlimited

The U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to have the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) enrolled to its fully authorized acreage by 2012, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Ducks Unlimited has a history of working with landowners to put WRP projects on their land, including more than 250,000 acres in the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, and looks forward to working with USDA and landowners to reach this goal.

“This could be great news for farmers and duck hunters,” said Dan Wrinn, Director of Public Policy for Ducks Unlimited. “Ducks Unlimited partnering with farmers and the USDA to put more habitat on the ground, while providing benefits to landowners, is always a win-win situation.”

Current enrollment in the program stands at approximately 2.2 million acres – reaching the final goal will mean having more than 3 million acres enrolled.

“The Wetland Reserve Program has been and will continue to be one of our largest and most popular programs,” said Dave White, NRCS Chief. “The WRP has helped landowners restore and enhance of over 2 million acres of wetlands -- with tremendous benefits for migratory wildlife. While we’ve been successful, we’ve even more opportunities in the future. The 2008 Farm Bill added another 1 million acre to the WRP, and over the next three years we will be taking aggressive actions to meet this goal. To do so, we will be working closely with Ducks Unlimited and other wildlife conservation partners to get even more habitat and wildlife on the land.”

“WRP lands provide excellent wintering habitat for migrating waterfowl and help provide certainty for farmers in the face of an unsure economy,” said Wrinn.

WRP is a popular program with farmers looking to voluntarily conserve their marginal cropland.

Technical and financial assistance are available to convert marginal or unproductive croplands to waterfowl friendly habitats.

Ducks Unlimited will work with the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service to reach this goal, which will benefit waterfowl across the country.

Landowners interested in conserving their land in the program can contact their state Ducks Unlimited representative – contact information can be found at www.ducks.org.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: The egrets I used to watch stalk the ponds for fish and frogs have vanished overnight.

Do they migrate in groups, or individually? And where do they go?

A: The species of egret found in Minnesota is the great egret.

Great egrets migrate individually or in small, v-shaped or wavy lined flocks of less than 25.

They spend their winters on the southern coasts of North America into Mexico and South America.

Outdoor notes

• Remember to wear blaze orange when you’re in the outdoors during the firearms deer hunt.

• Watch for deer on the roadways, especially at dawn and dusk.

• The landscape is still drenched and in all my years of fall fishing on the Crow River, I have never seen water levels on the river higher in the fall than this year.

• I’m betting my nephew and HJ Sports Editor Aaron Schultz reluctantly helps someone else drag a deer out the woods this season.

• Although the weather has been horrible, several lakes in our area, including Waconia, and Dutch, have been providing excellent fishing this fall.

• Take a kid hunting or fishing; he or she will have fun and so will you.