The future of pheasant hunting and our outdoor heritage is at a pinnacle or a crossroads.
For many of us, the roads are gravel and in the middle of cornfields and prairie grass, and filled with close friends and family members. For most, the crossroad is a little black arrow controlled by an electronic mouse led by the aspiration to find as many electronic friends as possible.
Fewer kids are hunting or fishing, license sales are down 15 or more percent, and it’s hard to find someone to duck hunt with. It seems the entire affair of the great outdoors is losing luster and momentum, and you are questioning if you will even hunt or fish next year.
Content with texting or Facebooking friends you used to hunt with, and tired of fighting the battle with a son or daughter who won’t head to the great outdoors for a weekend because it’s two days away from an eight-line post from someone on a network they may have never shared a real life experience with.
I’ll challenge all of you, especially if you’re on Facebook or another social network.
Who was the first friend you went searching for?
An old fishing buddy, the guys you went ducking hunting with in you’re teens and early 20s, a brother, sister, cousin, nephew, whoever, but a current or past member of your deer hunting party or the pheasant hunting loving friend you hooked with last month for a bird chasing adventure?
Facebook, social online networks, and other forms of electronic communication are great tools for staying connected and communicating with people you may have never conversed with before.
But, do they truly build and create connections, networks, and friends, especially for kids who don’t fish or pheasant hunt?
I could spend hours filling Herald Journal’s Facebook site with hunting information in an effort to promote the great outdoors and reach a younger generation. The site may even get more Facebook fans.
But friends get made from spending time like hunting and fishing together, and fans get made by those who have done it and developed an interest in it.
If kids and adults don’t get off the online social bandwagon and back on the real gravel road, church pew, pheasant hunting field, deer stand, volleyball court, or softball diamond none of us will ever develop new and expanded legitimate friendships and family connections.
Who will the next generation Facebook with?
Probably someone who wouldn’t drive a block to help them jump-start their truck after a cold winter night.
Last week, McLeod County Pheasants Forever sent a real letter, paper, postage, and legitimate, out to its membership, looking for help and volunteers.
They are not a crossroads just yet, although a crossroad may just be a generation away.
But the future of pheasant hunting, our outdoor heritage, and a great opportunity for people to get truly connected, is at stake.
I’ll end this column with this photo (at the top of the page) that ran in this column online and in print earlier this fall.
The photo is of a group of next generation hunters and their hosts after a day of connecting and pheasant hunting sponsored by McLeod County Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota DNR.
From Avery Pro-Staff
Name: Ben Cade
Date: Dec. 8, 2009
Location: Buffalo, MN
Weather: Very cold with a snow storm approaching.
Snow Cover: Trace.
Water Conditions: All of the small wetlands and many of the small to mid sized lakes are frozen. Large rivers are still open but some of the smaller ones are icing up pretty good now.
Feeding Conditions: Birds continue to hit the available plowed up corn fields as there is no snow cover too keep them from finding food as of yet.
Species and Numbers: There are a few birds hanging around the urban areas and anywhere there is open water. Most of the birds are new to our area and do not have a firm pattern as of yet. It is nice to finally see some new flocks around.
Migrations: We have seen a very good push of new birds into the area. A few mallards have shown up on some of the available open water.
Season Stage: Our general waterfowl season has ended. Late season goose hunting continues for about two more weeks. We go to a five goose per person daily limit starting Saturday, Dec. 12.
Hunting Report: Hunter success has been good for those willing to put on plenty of scouting miles. Birds continue to be tough to decoy, however I would expect that to change as soon as we have some snow on the ground.
Gossip: We are heading into some of the best hunting of the season for those willing to stand the cold weather. Many guys are excited to put snow covers on the blinds and get ready for our late goose season which allows for five geese per person per day. The geese do get very easy to decoy when there is snow cover.
DNR announces 2010 grant applications now available
From the DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that applications are available for a number of grants.
They include grants for 2010 parks and trails Legacy funds; regional parks outside the metro area; natural and scenic areas; local trail connections, federal recreation trails, regional trails outside the metro area; public boat accesses; Metro Greenways community conservation assistance; and aquatic invasive species prevention.
These grants help local governments, organizations and individuals throughout the state create partnerships with the DNR to fund projects.
Examples of some of the projects are natural area acquisition, trail connections or trails for long-distance travel, water-based recreational facilities, parks that provide regional natural resource based recreation opportunities, habitat restoration and improvement, and other conservation projects.
Grant application information is available on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov.
For more information, contact the grants staff listed in the program descriptions.
To obtain the application packet by mail, write to Local Grants Program, Department of Natural Resources, Office of Management and Budget Services, Box 10, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4010.
MN DNR reminds parents of thin ice danger to children
From the DNR
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is warning parents to caution their children to stay off the thin ice that is now forming.
As of Dec. 7, no ice in the state is consistently four inches thick, which is the minimum recommended support the weight of a person.
“DNR conservation officers are reporting that people are starting to tip-toe out on a few frozen ponds,” said Tim Smalley, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “This is not a good idea, and it could set a bad example for children.”
According to DNR statistics, 43 people have died in falls through the ice in Minnesota in the last 10 years. Some 29 percent of them were younger than nine years old.
The holidays are a particularly risky time, since children are out of school, and spend more time outdoors.
“Many years around the holidays we receive reports of children falling through ice and drowning, and it’s just so incredibly tragic, “ Smalley said.”Kids just don’t have the knowledge of what ice is safe. That’s why the DNR recommends that adults supervise children whenever they go out on the ice, even when ice conditions improve.”
The DNR also recommends contacting a local bait shop or resort to ensure the ice is acceptable for various activities.
Winter sports enthusiasts can obtain a free packet of ice safety information including a pamphlet and a minimum ice thickness wallet card by calling (651) 296-6157 in the Twin Cities area and toll-free in greater Minnesota at 888-646-6367.
Or you may access the information electronically. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting the packet, or download ice safety information and a video from www.mndnr.gov/safety/ice.
Now is the time to complete snowmobile safety training
From the DNR
Waiting to sign up for a snowmobile safety class may mean sitting out the snowmobile season, according to officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“Some snowmobilers wait to see how much snow is in the forecast or on the ground before getting around to taking a DNR snowmobile safety training course,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “In some instances it’s too late because classes have already concluded or are full. No Snowmobile Safety Certificate, no snowmobiling.”
To legally ride a snowmobile in Minnesota, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, need a valid snowmobile safety certificate.
Plenty of training classes are available right now and may be taken in a classroom or through a CD ROM delivered program.
Classroom courses are taught in your local community by volunteers and are available for anyone 11 or older.
Find a list of classes on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.
The DNR Adult or Youth Snowmobile Safety CD ROM for PC and MAC is available for those 16 or older.
“Snowmobilers can learn from the comfort of home, fill out the quizzes and exam, and send their results in to be officially certified. It’s as easy as that,” Hammer said. To obtain a copy of the CD, contact the DNR by phone at 888-MINNDNR (646-6367), (651) 296-6157 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
For a copy of DNR’s 2009-2010 Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Laws, Rules, and Regulations handbook, call 888-MINNDNR (greater Minnesota) or (651) 296-6157. It is also available on the DNR’s Web page.
Deer hunters asked to participate in NW MN late-season hunt
From the DNR
As part of Minnesota’s effort to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota, hunters can participate in a special late-season deer hunt from Saturday, Dec. 26, through Sunday, Jan. 10, in deer permit area 101.
“This hunt is another opportunity for hunters to actively help us meet our disease sampling goal,” said Lou Cornicelli, big game program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We always have relied on our hunters as the primary methods of meeting our surveillance goals and want them to participate.”
Rules governing the special hunt allow hunters to:
• Take an unlimited number of deer of either sex.
• Tag deer of either sex with any remaining unused tags from the 2009 season including bonus and disease management permits.
• Use any archery, firearm or muzzleloader 2009 license and any bonus, disease management or early antlerless permit.
• Purchase additional disease management permits for $2.50.
Hunters must have a license and use the legal weapon for that license.
People with an archery license, for example, cannot hunt with a firearm.
New or replacement licenses may be obtained at any DNR license agent.
All deer harvested during the special hunt must be registered at one of the following registration stations during regular business hours:
• Olson Skime Store in Skime.
• Riverfront Store in Wannaska.
• DNR offices at Thief Lake or Red Lake wildlife management areas.
• There will also be collection barrels placed at these locations.
Hunters can drop off a deer head if staff is not available to collect a sample.
For more information on Minnesota’s bovine TB eradication efforts, visit http://mndnr.gov/bovinetband http://mntbfree.com.
Snowmobiling getting a slow start this year
From the DNR
Following the recent snowfall throughout Minnesota, some snowmobile trails are open but likely not groomed, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Several conditions must be met before trails are open for travel.
The ground must be frozen to allow for the crossing of wet areas; there must be about 12 inches of snow to allow for adequate packing and grooming of most natural surface forest trails; and trails must be cleared, signs installed and gates opened.
In agricultural areas, crops need to be harvested and fields prepared.
With the wet fall and very mild temperatures the harvest is running well behind schedule this year which has put snowmobile trail preparation behind schedule as well.
“We are waiting for more cold weather, the crop harvest to be completed, and adequate snow,” said DNR’s Northeast East Regional Parks and Trails Manager, Les Ollila. “Each year, a few snowmobile enthusiasts take to the trails after the first snowfall only to find they are rushing the season. It takes a lot of work to get trails ready each year and with the wet and warm fall this effort is taking longer in many cases.”
Snowmobile clubs and the DNR are working to open grant-in-aid and state trails as winter conditions improve throughout the state.
When the trails open, the DNR urges early season riders to use caution.
Early season trails may have trees or other debris across trails, unfrozen areas, rocks or ruts, or standing crops and closed gates.
Also, road ditches have obstacles to watch for under grass and snow, such as culverts, signposts, and rocks.
And, even though there have had some cold spells, the ice is not yet thick enough to support snowmobiles.
The DNR recommends five inches of new clear ice for snowmobiles.
Ollila also reminds trail users that many snowmobile trails cross private land.
Landowners give permission for snowmobile use on the trails beginning as early as Dec. 1, if the land is avail able and crops have been harvested.
Landowner permission is for snowmobiles only; all other use is considered trespass.
Minnesota has more than 22,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.
Snowmobile trail maintenance costs are partially funded through snowmobile registrations, trail pass sales, and the un-refunded gas tax attributed to snowmobile use.
Donations and volunteer work by trail clubs make up the remainder of the costs and efforts to operate these trails.
Ollila suggested trail users should call ahead or they can check state trails conditions on the DNR Web site at or by calling (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 888-MINNDNR (646-6367).
Trail information and local contacts are on the Web site under Maps and Contacts and are also on the back of the Minnesota DNR Snowmobile Trails maps which show the snowmobile trails in each of four quadrants of the state.
Question of the week
From the DNR
Q: The red pine is the Minnesota state tree. How did it earn this distinction?
A: The legislature felt it was important to adopt a state tree as a symbol of the history and physical characteristics of the state.
The red pine, or Norway pine, is native to Minnesota and is found in pure stands in many parts of the state.
In the early history of Minnesota, red pine timber played an important part in the state economy.
But above all, the red pine is a sturdy and majestic tree. It was adopted as the state tree in 1953.