Pheasant harvest low in 2011, grouse and ducks steady

September 3, 2012

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has completed the 2011 Small Game Hunter Survey.

Results are available online under reports at www.mndnr.gov/publications/wildlife.

DNR annually surveys small game license buyers to estimate both hunter numbers and harvest trends.

For the 2011 hunting season, DNR mailed 6,500 surveys to small game license buyers and 58 percent returned usable questionnaires.


As expected, pheasant hunters and pheasant harvest declined in 2011 after two moderately severe winters and a cold, wet spring.

Overall, the estimated number of pheasant hunters (77,000) decreased 13 percent from 2010.

The drop corresponded with a slight decrease in pheasant stamp sales.

An estimated 204,000 pheasants were harvested in 2011, a 43 percent drop from 2010.

The number of birds harvested per hunter also fell from 4 to 2.6.

Both hunter numbers and harvest were at their lowest recorded level in recent years.


Regulation changes, including an earlier opening date, likely are factors that contributed to the number of duck hunters (83,500) increasing 14 percent in 2010 and the year’s harvest increasing 18 percent.

The increase in hunters corresponded with an increase in duck stamp sales.

Hunters harvested 730,000 ducks in 2010 but the results for individual hunters increased only slightly, from 8.5 birds per hunter in 2010 to 8.8 birds per hunter in 2011.

Ruffed grouse

Ruffed grouse hunter numbers (93,800) remained unchanged from 2010, and ruffed grouse remained Minnesota’s most popular small game species in 2011.

The 2011 harvest of 401,000 ruffed grouse was down slightly from the 10-year peak of 465,000 in 2010 but was still one of the three highest annual harvests of the past 10 years.

Grouse populations tend to fluctuate on a 10-year cycle.

Minnesota’s grouse population already has begun its cyclical population decline.

Harvest results continue to show that even with a declining grouse population, Minnesota has better grouse hunting than almost any other state.

2012 season dates

September kicks of the 2012 small game season with mourning dove which opened Saturday, Sept. 1; grouse, rabbit and squirrel will open Saturday, Sept. 15; waterfowl and woodcock will open Saturday, Sept. 22; and pheasant will open Saturday, Oct. 13.

The Rainbow Sportsmen’s Club hosting its fall shoot, pancake breakfast, and hog roast

The Rainbow Sportsmen’s Club is hosting it’s annual fall shoot, pancake breakfast, and hog roast Sunday, Sept. 9.

The pancake breadfast starts at 7 a.m. with the hog roast to follow at noon.

The shooting events for this year are the trap meat shoot starting at 11 a.m., the running deer and the all new .22 shooting gallery starting at 10 a.m.

Everyone is welcome to participate or spectate, so come out and enjoy some great food and fun shooting.

Roadside wildlife counts to be released Tuesday
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will release its annual roadside wildlife survey Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The report summarizes roadside counts of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits and other wildlife observed in the early morning hours during the first two weeks of August.

The observations take place throughout the farmland region of Minnesota.

Observers surveyed 171 25-mile routes, 152 of which were located in the ring-necked pheasant range.

Addition of nearly 6,000 acres to WMA’s adds opportunity
From the DNR

Minnesota’s hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and wildlife populations will benefit from the recent addition of 5,778 acres to the state’s wildlife management area (WMA) system, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Much of this newly protected land is in the southern half of the state.

It includes an expansion of 17 WMAs and the addition of six new WMAs.

Many areas will be open for public use when the fall hunting seasons start in September.

The remainder will be ready later this year or early next year for public use.

WMAs are open to public hunting and other compatible uses such as hiking, bird watching and snowshoeing.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr thanked Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Cass County, The Trust for Public Land, Minnesota Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society and Ducks Unlimited for their partnership in protecting more than half of these acres.

“Partners are the key to conservation,” said Landwehr. “We appreciate the help of these groups, our sportsmen for the legacy they leave for future generations of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.”

Nearly 1,500 acres were purchased with funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which receives one-third of the money raised by the state sales tax increase approved by Minnesota citizens in 2008.

According to Kim Hennings, DNR wildlife land acquisition coordinator, other major funding sources were the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical Habitat Matching program and the $6.50 surcharge on the small game license.

Most of the RIM matching dollars came from the sale of the critical habitat license plates.

The $30 per year charge for the colorful plates generates more than $3 million a year that can be used to equally match private donations to acquire or develop critical habitat in the state.

“Most of the designated lands are additions to existing WMAs, complementing our previous investment in wildlife habitat,” said Ed Boggess, DNR fish and wildlife division director. “The new WMAs will expand opportunities for hunting and trapping.”

The largest of the acquisitions is the new 888-acre Pittman-Robertson WMA, located 13 miles east of Crookston in Polk and Red Lake counties.

This acquisition was purchased with RIM matching dollars made available by previous donations from TNC and federal wildlife restoration funds.

The new WMA will be an important part of the grassland and prairie corridor involving the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge and a number of other WMA and TNC lands.

Many of the wetland and grassland restorations have been completed by TNC.

The unit honors the 75th anniversary of the Federal Wildlife Restoration Act, which provides millions of dollars to the DNR to help fund wildlife habitat work in Minnesota.

Also known as the Pittman-Robertson program, it is funded by a federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment.

Dedication of the Pittman-Robertson WMA is planned for spring 2013.

Closer to the Twin Cities, 282 acres were transferred from the DNR’s parks and trails division to the Ney WMA as part of a realignment of DNR lands.

Located just six miles southeast of Belle Plaine, these lands expand the existing 157-acre WMA to provide a large block of habitat for close-to-home public hunting and wildlife watching opportunities.

Locations of existing public hunting, fishing and trail opportunities are available online using the DNR’s recreation compass at www.dnr.state.mn.us/maps/compass.html.

DNR Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) also can assist people in finding land open to public recreation.

New WMA additions and expansions won’t be listed on these resources until later this year or next.

The complete set of 51 separate PRIM maps identify a wide variety of federal, state and county lands available for public recreation activities such as hunting, camping, hiking and boating.

PRIM maps, which cost $5.95 each, are available from the DNR gift shop, Minnesota’s Bookstore and several sporting goods, map stores around the state and online at www.comm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/mnbookstore.asp?page=mnprim.

Conservation grant deadline is Sept. 26
From the DNR

Organizations interested in applying for a grant to help fund projects that restore, enhance or protect Minnesota’s prairies, forests and wetlands have until Wednesday, Sept. 26 to do so.

The 2013 Conservation Partners Legacy Grant program offers a total of $4.6 million dollars to qualified projects.

Applications and complete details are available online at www.mndnr.gov/grants/habitat/cpl.

Smaller projects ranging from $5,000-$50,000 submitted under the new Expedited Conservation Projects (ECP) program are not subject to the deadline.

These requests must use commonly accepted and practiced restoration and enhancement activities. ECP applications will be accepted and awarded continuously through May 15, 2013.

During the first three years of the program, 140 grants totaling $10.3 million have been awarded for conservation projects.

The CPL program is funded through the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which is part of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed by Minnesota voters in 2008.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) reports he continued field training COC Genereux including checking anglers and boaters.
They also worked on ricing, game, and aquatic plant complaints.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) and COC Mueller spent the week on boating and fishing enforcement along the Mississippi River, Crow River and area lakes.
Common violations were fishing without a license, fishing with an extra line, use of a net to catch game fish, not enough PFDs on board and registrations issues.
A day was spent on Lake Minnetonka working boat and water safety with another officer.
Two individuals were arrested for BUI.
Officers also spent time during the week dealing with nuisance beaver issues and injured animal calls.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked several AIS details on area lakes checking watercraft for exotic species and failure to remove drain plugs.
A range day event was worked at the Minnesota National Wildlife Refuge assisting with firearms handling and walk through scenarios.
Anglers were checked on area lakes and rivers.
Calls were returned all week on hunting season questions and dead animal reports.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) worked boating enforcement on Lake Minnetonka over the weekend with CO Reller and COC Mueller.
Two individuals were arrested for boating under the influence of alcohol.
Other violations included fishing without a license, transom riding, wake violations, failing to display watercraft registration and no PFD.
Reports were completed for the county attorney’s office from past BUI cases.
She also attended a firearms safety class field day in Carver.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) continued patrolling the Minnesota River Valley working angling and ATV enforcement.
CO Oberg also responded to nuisance animal calls, WCA calls and did a game farm inspection.
Officer Oberg also attended a Glock armorer’s course and spent time at Youth Conservation Day at Gopher Campfire.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling, boating, and PWC activity.
Additional time was spent checking and advising boaters on AIS laws.
Hatlestad also assisted another agency with court testimony, and spoke at FAS classes in Eden Valley and Dassel.
Time was also spent enforcing state forestry fire laws, and scouting locations for goose and dove opener.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: What is the Walk-In Access program, and how do I get more information about it?

A: The Walk-In Access (WIA) program is relatively new to Minnesota and aims to provide hunting opportunities on private lands that are already enrolled in a conservation program, or contain high quality wildlife cover.

Landowners voluntarily enroll their property for one to three years, but can opt out of the program if they chose to.

The program currently covers 21 counties in southwestern Minnesota.

For the 2012 hunting season, there are approximately 140 WIA sites, totaling 15,000 acres, enrolled in the program.

These sites are open for hunting from Sept. 1, to May 31, 2013.

No motorized vehicles are allowed on WIAs.

Various navigation tools to these sites are available at www.mndnr.gov/walkin, including detailed maps of each field and a downloadable hunting atlas of all of the enrolled sites.

A printed version of the hunting atlas is available at DNR area wildlife offices or available from the DNR Information Center.

The program has been funded by a federal grant, and some state funding sources have been secured.

A permanent funding source is needed to keep the program going after 2015.