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This is a great year to start hunting grouse

September 19, 2011

by Chris Schultz

By Jay Johnson of the DNR

Ever hunted ruffed grouse?
If not, this is the year to start.

The tasty, fast-flying forest game bird is at high population levels.

This means opportunities to see and harvest grouse are about as good as they get.

And when they get good in Minnesota, they are the absolute best in the nation.

Minnesota, which offers more than 11 million acres of public hunting land, often has the highest ruffed grouse harvest in the country.

In fact, Minnesota is to grouse hunting what South Dakota is to pheasant hunting.

So, if you aren’t hunting ruffed grouse, you are really missing out on the best upland bird hunting in the state.

Here is some practical information to get you on your way:

• The season opened Saturday, Sept. 17, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012. The daily limit is five and the possession limit is 10.

• You’ll need a small game license, 12- or 20-gauge shotgun (preferably with an open choke) and No. 71⁄2 target or field loads.

• Round out your equipment needs with a blaze orange hat and vest, a comfortable pair of boots, a pair of gloves and shooting glasses.

• Next, you’ll need to locate a general area to hunt. Top counties in the state include Aitkin, Cass, Itasca, St. Louis, Beltrami and Koochiching. Still, there are quality hunting opportunities across much of the northern half of the state. Grouse are also available in the heavily forested portions of southeastern Minnesota.

• Once you decide on the general area you plan to hunt, search the internet (you can find hunter walking trails, wildlife management area maps and other useful grouse information on the DNR website.

• Talk to the DNR area wildlife office or visit the county courthouse to view a plat book that identifies lands open to public hunting.

• Once you’ve pinpointed a hunting area focus on the best available habitat; ruffed grouse prefer young forests, especially the subtle transitional seams and edges of these forests.

• As a rule, try to find places where the tree size at their base is between the diameter of your wrist and your calf. Trees of this size will be between 15-30 feet high. The type of tree although important, is less important than the size and how close they are together.

• Try to hunt areas where aspen are present and avoid areas that are solid conifers. While you may find grouse in such cover, your chances of getting a shot at them is slim.

• Trails that run through cover are great places to start. Remember, grouse often relate to edges and a trail provides two edges. Grouse are often drawn to trails to feed on clover and forbs and ingest gravel for digestion.

• If you intend to hunt without a dog, have your hunting partners assist in a “partridge push.” This tactic involves having one hunter 20 yards into the cover on the left of the trail and one hunter the same distance to the right of the trail. The third hunter positions on the trail and serves as the “push coordinator.” The hunting team proceeds slowly down the trail stopping briefly every 50 steps or so. The push coordinators job is to make sure that the team members stay abreast of each other and no one get’s themselves in an unsafe position. Constant communication between team members is the key to maintaining a safe and productive hunting experience.

• If the piece of woods you are hunt has no trails, then look for any other type of edge or seam. These could include swamp edges, field edges and edges where two different tree types or sizes come together. You can hunt these areas much the same way as you would a trail but the walking will be more difficult. Hunting with a team in an area without trails makes it more difficult to work together and stay in a safe position. Be extra conscious of safety.
Hunting linear cover like trails, seams and edges is a great way to begin your journey grouse hunting.

Always remember to be sure of your target and what is beyond before taking the shot.

Delano Chapter Ducks Unlimited banquet

The Delano Champter of Ducks Unlimited will have its 22nd annual banquet Thursday, Sept. 22 at B’s on the River in Watertown.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m., with dinner starting at 7:30 p.m.

For additional information, contact Brandon Gusse at (612) 685-3782 or Bryan Bauman at (952) 955-2223.

No roadkill permits for deer in CWD management zone
From the DNR

With white-tailed deer becoming more active as fall arrives, increasing the chances of deer-vehicle collisions, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds the public that no roadkill possession permits will be issued in the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) management zone in southeastern Minnesota.

Normally, when a driver accidentally kills a deer, a local law enforcement officer can issue a roadkill permit for purposes of salvaging the meat.

The CWD management zone was established early this year after a white-tailed deer taken by a hunter last November near a captive elk farm outside of Pine Island tested positive for CWD, a fatal brain disease that can affect deer, moose and elk.

The zone includes southeast Goodhue County, southwest Wabasha County, northwest Olmsted County and northeast Dodge County.

There is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans.

The roadkill permit ban is being imposed to minimize chances of the disease being spread outside the zone by transport of carcasses.

Earlier this year, as part of its CWD response plan, DNR implemented a culling operation on the deer herd in the zone and tested nearly 1,200 animals taken by sharpshooters and landowners under special permits. None tested positive.

Using liberalized bag limits and mandated CWD testing for any deer harvested in the special management zone (Deer Permit Area 602), DNR will continue to monitor for any further evidence of the disease.

More information about CWD is available online.

DNR places temporary burning permit restrictions on much of Minnesota
From the DNR

Fire danger in most of Minnesota is high to very high with extreme conditions in the border lakes area of St. Louis County north of Lake Vermilion.

Because of the fire danger, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has placed temporary burning restrictions in much of the northern half of the state.

Extreme fire conditions mean the fire situation is explosive and can result in extensive property damage.

Fires start quickly, spread furiously and burn intensely.

All fires are potentially dangerous.

Very high fire danger means fires start very easily and intensify quickly.

High fire danger conditions mean fires start easily and spread at a fast rate.

The temporary burning restrictions mean the state will not give out burning permits for burning brush or yard waste until conditions improve.

The following counties are under burning restrictions: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Carlton, Cass, Chisago, Clearwater, Cook, Crow Wing, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kanabec, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Polk, Ramsey, Red lake, Roseau, Sherburne, St. Louis, Stearns, Todd, Waseca, Washington and Wright.

DNR fire managers urge people to use extreme caution when recreating in forest and prairie lands during these dry conditions.

Fire conditions may change quickly over the next few days.

More information including maps and fire conditions in available online.

Hunter walking trails provide easy access to great gouse hunting areas
By Jay Johnson of the DNR

Another great year of ruffed grouse hunting is upon us and it’s time to make plans and hit the woods.

Whether you’re a first-time ruffed grouse hunter, a seasoned veteran or a family planning an active outing, finding places that offer easy access to Minnesota’s most-popular game bird will be your first priority.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hunter walking trails are excellent places to start.

Hunter walking trails offer hundreds of miles of easily accessible hunting trails that wind their way through wildlife management areas, state forests and other public hunting lands.

There are more than 450 miles of maintained trails meandering throughout the northern half of the state, and new trails are continually being created.

Many of these trails are gated, allowing foot traffic only, and offer parking lots or easy access to parking.

Hunters can expect mowed routes that may follow old logging roads, are planted with clover or pass through forest openings that attract a variety of wildlife.

“There is a lot of great ruffed grouse habitat along these trails,” said Jeff Lightfoot, DNR northeast regional wildlife manager. “The trails are easy to navigate and offer excellent opportunities for the novice hunter or for families with kids just learning to hunt to see birds and enjoy the outdoors.”

Finding the hunter walking trails is simple online at DNR website.

The DNR website offers a hunter walking trail tool that provides information on the locations of these trails by name and the county in which they are located.

Simply select a county from the tool and browse the list of the various hunting trails. You can access a map of a specific trail in two ways:

• An interactive map that allows zooming in and out of the trail area using a compass tool.

• A downloadable Adobe Acrobat Reader file that displays an aerial view of the trail and the surrounding area.

“There are more than 165 maps presently available on this website,” explained Tom Engel, DNR wildlife geographic information system specialist. “New trail maps are being added continually, so folks should remember to check this website regularly for any new additions.”

Hunter trail maps are also available at most DNR area wildlife offices, along with a variety of information on the area wildlife hunting or viewing opportunities and tips.

“There is no time better than this fall to pack up the hunting gear and the family and explore the forests of northern Minnesota by doing a little ruffed grouse hunting,” said Ted Dick, DNR grouse coordinator.

“Ruffed grouse populations are at their peak right now. The excellent habitat and easy access you’ll find on the hunter walking trails provide the perfect ingredients for a successful hunt.”

DNR seeks applications for spending oversight committees
From the DNR

Minnesotans who would like to serve on committees that review how the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spends Game and Fish Fund dollars are welcome to submit an application by Oct. 14.

The DNR is seeking at least 10 persons each to serve on new Fisheries Oversight and Wildlife Oversight committees.

Appointees will be responsible for reviewing the agency’s annual Game and Fish Fund report in detail and, following discussions with agency leaders and others, write a report on the findings of this review.

“Since 1994, a committee of citizen volunteers has reviewed agency revenues and expenditures related to fish, wildlife, enforcement and certain other functions,” said Bob Meier, DNR Policy and Government Relations director. “An updated, streamlined structure was created by Commissioner Tom Landwehr and past oversight leaders, with the support of the Legislature. We believe the tradition of oversight will be even stronger with a more efficient approach for involving our stakeholders.”

Meier said the two committees will be comprised of new members identified through a self-nomination process.

Those who want to serve on the committees should have a strong interest in natural resource management and how it is funded.

DNR Commissioner Landwehr will appoint committee members.

Initial terms will be two or three years.

Applications are being accepted online until Oct. 14.

Though not well known, Minnesota’s Game and Fish Fund is the fiscal foundation for much of the state’s core natural resource management functions.

Upwards of $95 million a year is deposited into this fund from hunting and fishing license sales, a sales tax on lottery tickets, and other sources of revenue, including a reimbursement based on a federal excise tax on certain hunting, fishing and boating equipment.

The dollars that flow into this fund pay for the fish, wildlife, enforcement and ecological management that support 54,000 jobs in Minnesota’s outdoor recreation and hospitality business.

Interested applicants can learn more by reviewing past Game and Fish Fund reports online.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) attended training at camp Ripley. CO Mies checked goose hunters. CO Mies checked anglers and worked on tip calls.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked anglers and boaters throughout the week. He checked goose hunters and monitored the youth waterfowl hunt. Violations encountered included failing to remove boat plugs, insufficient PFDs on a watercraft unplugged shotguns, possession of lead shot and license violations. He was first on scene of a personal injury car accident. He secured the scene and provided assistance to the injured parties until additional help arrived.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) checked goose hunters in Hennepin County. She checked fishing and boating activity on Lake Minnetonka. Boaters were also checked for invasive species.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) check dove, goose, and youth duck hunting activity. Additional time was spent checking angling and boating activity, and advising boaters of invasive species. Hatlestad also spoke to an ATV class in Litchfield, and followed up on WCA and public waters violations.

• CO Angela Graham (Hutchinson) investigated a wetland complaint, checked goose hunters, ATVs, and boaters. Officer Graham also spent a day at Camp Ripley testing new firearm options for the Enforcement division.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) continues working both the early goose and dove seasons. CO Oberg also spent time working ATV enforcement in the area. CO Oberg set up times to talk at FAS classes. CO Oberg continues to work AIS enforcement, boaters need to remember to pull their plug’s.