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A great time to be thankful

November 23, 2009

by Chris Schultz

A week ago, on a beautiful Friday morning in November, about as nice as November mornings can be, I stood on top of a hill in southeastern North Dakota admiring and thanking the Lord for everything around me.

I was there with good friends, snow and Canada geese were flying in the air, I could see white-tailed deer on the landscape, pheasants were in good numbers, shutgun was in hand, and my bird dog was in front of me.

Completely around me, and for just over a mile in front of me, was the kind of wildlife habitat pheasant and other hunters dream of – acres of prairie grasses mixed with small cattail sloughs, ample brush and tree lines, and small, but majestic rolling hills.

It was the morning, the time, and the place I so often dream of.

I took a long moment to thank the Lord for my family, the place I was standing, the wildlife that was around me, and the time given to be there on that beautiful morning.

Before I moved on, I also noted a word of appreciation to the taxpayers that helped provide the opportunity.

Because, I was in the middle of a Conservation Reserve Program field that the landowner graciously enrolled in the North Dakota Private Lands Open for Hunting program, or PLOTS.

With better weather, some of the best we have ever had in November, and an accelerated harvest, the hunting prospects for pheasants and deer have improved dramatically since October.

Many pheasant hunters are jumping for joy in expectation of some of the best late season hunting they have had in years, even when bird numbers across the pheasant range are down considerably from a year ago. I’m one of them.

With all of that said, now is a time to be thankful for all of the outdoor resources we are so blessed to have.

When I stepped off that hill-top I was truly thankful, and I also asked for that same piece of ground to stay exactly the way it is for another few hundred years.

Migration reports
From Avery Pro-Staff

Name: Ben Cade

Date: Nov. 17, 2009

Location: Buffalo, MN

Weather: Mid-day high temps have been approaching fifty degrees, but overnight lows have been in the twenties. It has been clear and sunny the last three days.

Snow Cover: There is no snow cover at this time.

Water Conditions: Wetlands are full. The cold overnight temps have been putting a thin sheet of ice on small ponds and back bays, however most all water is currently open.

Feeding Conditions: The beans are mostly out and corn fields are coming down daily. Birds have been hitting the available combined corn fields on heavy feeding days. Feeding flights have been best on cloudy, rainy days as opposed to these clear and cool mornings.

Species and Numbers: We have an excellent number of Canada geese in the area. A few pockets of mallards can be found if you are willing to put in the extra scouting effort. There are a few diving ducks around including ring necks, bufflehead and even a couple small flocks of canvasbacks.

Migrations: There has been a slight trickle of birds coming into the area with every north wind. No major migrations from the north for us yet. With freeze up to the north, more birds are expected.

Season Stage: We have two weeks remaining in the regular waterfowl season.

Hunting Report: Goose hunting has been good for those who have been able to put in the scouting time required to find good fields. Duck hunting over water has been terrible with the exception of a few small private wetlands that are holding some ducks.

Gossip: Warm weather has many waterfowlers who have been waiting for a good push of northern birds bummed. Many are concerned that the duck season will close before the large flocks of mallards make it to our area.

Low water levels are exposing lake beds
From the DNR

Many Minnesota lakes are experiencing low water levels due to an extended period of reduced rainfall, which is exposing large areas of lake beds.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds shoreline owners that permits are required for control of vegetation on dry lake beds.

This includes cutting, chemical treatment, or other disruption.

Removal of emergent aquatic plants without a permit is a misdemeanor and can result in a fine and restoration order.

Aquatic plants growing in lake beds are property of the state of Minnesota, even if the lake bed is dry due to drought or temporary drawdown.

Emergent aquatic plants are extremely valuable to the lake, fish, and wildlife.

Emergent aquatic plants protect shorelines from erosion and wave action, stabilize bottom sediments, improve water quality by intercepting phosphorus before it reaches the water, and provides valuable habitat to fish and wildlife.

Fluctuating water levels are a natural and important part of lake ecology and emergent aquatic plants, such as bulrush, rely on periods of low water to germinate and re-establish depleted stands.

Removal of emergent vegetation destroys valuable habitat and can have negative effects on fish, wildlife, and the lake.

For more information, contact Steve Enger, Aquatic Plant Management Program, (651) 259-5092, or your nearest regional fisheries office.

Phone numbers are available at the following Web page, www.dnr.state.mn.us/permits/water/index.html, or by calling (651) 296-6157 or toll free 888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Roadsides for wildlife kick-off event Dec. 3
From the DNR

Those interested in learning about the value of roadside wildlife habitat are invited to a free public workshop Thursday, Dec. 3 near Sauk Centre.

The workshop is designed for representatives from local and state government, conservation and sportsmen’s groups, and private citizens.

The event, sponsored by the Minnesota departments of natural resources (DNR) and transportation, will feature experts who will address the habitat and environmental benefits of integrated vegetation management.

The event will start at 9 a.m. in a meeting room at the Lynx National Golf Course near Sauk Centre. A lunch is available for $9. Optional activities will be offered after lunch.

“Minnesota has more than 135,000 miles of roads,” said Carmelita Nelson, DNR roadsides for wildlife coordinator. “The adjacent lands can provide permanent grassland habitat for birds, small animals, and other types of nature, including butterflies, frogs, and flowers.”

The DNR’s Roadsides for Wildlife program promotes integrated vegetation management practices that enhance wildlife habitat and environmental benefits.

Leaving roadsides undisturbed, especially during the spring and early summer nesting season, can boost grassland bird nesting success.

Additionally, roadsides planted to native grasses and forbs restores prairie heritage, adds visual appeal for travelers, improves water quality, and decreases expenses related to mowing and plowing drifting snow.

The Lynx National Golf Course is located at 40204 Primrose Lane, Sauk Centre, MN 56378.

From Interstate 94, take the Sauk Center exit #127, and turn south on Highway 71. The clubhouse entrance is 1.5 miles on the left side.

Those planning to attend are asked to call (651) 259-5014.

Grouse season far from over
From the DNR

Leaves are down. Ruffed rouse numbers are up. Now is the time get out and hunt.

That’s the message from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), whose field staff report ruffed grouse hunting has been quite good this autumn.

“Most hunters are seeing or hearing about good numbers of birds,” said Jay Johnson, DNR hunting recruitment and retention coordinator. “This is a great year for introducing someone to grouse hunting, or taking it up again if you haven’t been in the field in recent years when the birds weren’t as abundant.” The season runs through Jan. 3.

Johnson said some of the best hunting reports are coming from the northwest and north-central parts of the state.

Hunters are finding success in areas with extensive quality cover such as aspen forests with stem diameters between two to three inches.

Especially important are thick patches of brush, such as hazel or dogwood within aspen stands.

Alder swamp edges can also be very productive.

Grouse seek refuge in this thick and tangled cover now that the canopy of leaves has fallen to the forest floor.

Johnson reminds would-be grouse hunters that the firearms deer hunting season remains open through Nov. 22 in much of north central and northeastern Minnesota.

As such, hunters may want to focus on other parts of the state.

Grouse hunters are always required to wear one blaze orange article of clothing above the waist.

When grouse hunting during the firearms deer season blaze orange requirements are more extensive.

During this time the visible portion of a hunter’s cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves, must be blaze orange.

Hunters can find public hunting land by using DNR’s hunter walking trail locator at www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/hwt/index.html.

Johnson said Google Earth also can be an effective tool for locating and scouting grouse habitat.

With practice, hunters can use the site’s aerial photos to identify young forest stands, logging trails, swamp edges and other features that contribute to success.

“A resourceful grouse hunter will be able to find more quality grouse cover on public lands than they can ever hunt,” said Johnson. “Now is the time to discover your niche in the forest and how fun grouse hunting can be.”

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: A tell-tale sign that winter is approaching is the ongoing wildlife activity.

Although birds migrate to warmer climates, many wildlife species stay put, including the creepy, crawly, and slithery critters.

What do reptiles and amphibians do to prepare for winter?

A: Because Minnesota’s 50 species of amphibians and reptiles are unable to migrate south to escape the wrath of winter, these cold-blooded animals seek out sites during the fall that will meet their over-wintering needs.

Strategies for surviving the inevitable chill are interesting and varied.

Some species of salamanders, toads, lizards, and snakes seek safety underground, traveling deep into rock crevices or small mammal burrows to escape the frost line.

Some frogs, turtles, and snakes seek refuge in aquatic habitats where they stay submerged throughout the winter.

Wood frogs and members of the treefrog family are truly hardcore. They nestle beneath a thin blanket of leaves on the forest floor, freezing solid.

They protect their vital organs by creating their own antifreeze.

These frozen frogs do not breathe or have a pulse, yet recover quickly when spring returns.

Amphibians and reptiles typically have settled-in by late October, however global climate change could alter seasonal patterns in animals whose activities are so closely linked to temperature.

Outdoor notes

• Look for a late duck migration this fall, and with bluebills rafting on Lake of the Woods again, there will be a few good days of diver duck hunting in our area next week.

• Ice-over could be late this year. On some years, ice anglers are already out just after Thanksgiving.

• For good late season action on pheasants, pay close attention to the corn harvest and hit those public areas with good cover as soon as the corn next to it comes off.

• Start your Christmas shopping early.

• Several anglers reported tremendous walleye fishing last week on lakes Washington and Waconia.

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