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Good duck opener was expected; preseason license sales up

September 24, 2012

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

When Minnesota’s waterfowl season opened Saturday, hunting was likely to be pretty good.

That from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which reports that record continental duck breeding populations combined with low water levels across the much of the state will work to the hunter’s advantage.

“A pile of ducks are coming down from Canada and they are going to be more concentrated this year because of less water across the landscape,” said Steve Cordts, the DNR’s waterfowl specialist. “Somewhere someone was going to have the best duck hunting they’ve ever had.”

Cordts said the Sept. 22 opener – the earliest since World War II days – also helped hunters be more successful.

That’s because wood ducks and teal, early migrants, should still be abundant throughout the state.

Moreover, the DNR has split the state into three hunting zones with different dates as part of an effort to provide additional hunting opportunity as birds migrate from north to south.

By adding a third zone in southern Minnesota the hunting season now extends through the first weekend in December.

“There’s a lot of opportunity this year,” said Cordts. “The duck hunter who moves around the state can hunt for more than 70 days.”

Cordts said teal and wood ducks are migrating out of the state every day but more of them were around this weekend than if the season opened next weekend.

He also noted that Minnesota has good numbers of molt migrant Canada geese moving into the state.

These are nonbreeding birds that were in Minnesota this spring, migrated this summer north to the Hudson Bay to shed their flight feathers, and are just now returning to Minnesota for the fall. These birds have not yet been hunted.

It’s possible that more duck hunters will be hitting the swamps and sloughs this fall than in recent years, too.

As of last week, waterfowl stamp sales were running ahead of last year and so were youth small game license sales that indicated the licensee intended to hunt migratory birds.

“We won’t have a final license tally until the season ends on Dec. 2, but it’s good to see preseason interest above that of last year,” said Steve Merchant, acting DNR wildlife chief.

As of Sept. 14, Minnesota duck stamp sales totaled 46,001 compared with 44,479 in 2011 for the same time period.

Youth small game license sales with a Harvest Information Program certification totaled 7,194 this year compared to 5,879 last year.

The Minnesota DNR issued 89,520 state waterfowl stamps last year, up from the previous year but below the 100,000-plus licenses sold from 1990 through 2007.

Merchant said there is no one explanation for why waterfowl hunting interest is rebounding, but record continental duck breeding numbers, early openers this year, long seasons and other organizations’ efforts to get kids outdoors are all likely factors.

The DNR will post a weekly waterfowl migration report each week during the duck season. The first report should be posted by early Friday at www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/waterfowl.

“If you’ve been sitting on the duck hunting sidelines, this would be a great year to get back in the game,” said Merchant. “You may have to drive a bit based on your local water conditions – but where there is good water there should be good duck numbers.”

Waterfowl hunting regulations are available wherever DNR licenses are sold and online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting.

Moose spotted just east of Winsted

There were reports last week of a moose sighting just a few miles east of Winsted. Check in next week’s outdoor’s for additional details.

Wolf management is based on sound science and conservation principle
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been informed that a petition for review was filed today with the Minnesota Court of Appeals in an attempt to stop the state’s upcoming wolf hunting and trapping season.

The agency and the Office of the Attorney General have not been served with or reviewed the petition and have no comment on this legal proceeding.

However, the DNR has stated in the past that the current season poses no biological or conservation threat to the wolf population.

“The DNR recognizes there is a wide range of opinions toward wolf hunting and trapping, but all Minnesotans should know the DNR’s primary wolf management goal is to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “The DNR’s conservative approach to this first season is based on sound conservation science and principles.”

While recently removed from the federal threatened list, Minnesota’s wolf population has been recovered since the 1990s and stable for more than a decade.

The state’s wolf population of about 3,000 is thriving and can sustain a hunting and trapping season consistent with the mission of the DNR for the participation of those interested in hunting and trapping opportunities similar to other managed wildlife.

The agency is taking a conservative approach to its inaugural season, with a quota of 400 wolves.

The agency developed the wolf hunting and trapping season using data and research collected and developed over decades by top wolf experts and wildlife managers.

In addition to receiving public input on the season, the DNR received strong direction from the Minnesota Legislature, which held hearings on the proposed season.

“The Legislature, which represents all Minnesotans, had a wide-ranging discussion of the wolf season,” Landwehr said. “It is our job to implement the season in a manner that sustains the population for the long term.”

To learn more about wolf management and read Frequently Ask Questions about the season, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/wolves/mgmt.html.

DNR says hire AIS-certified lake service provider this fall when removing docks, boatlifts, and other water-related equipment
From the DNR

Fall is the time when lakeshore and cabin owners will be hiring lake service providers to remove their boats, docks, boat lifts and other water-related equipment.

To be vigilant against the potential spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), any business or person hired to do such work must have the proper permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

This year, more than 780 businesses were trained and issued lake service provider permits during 43 trainings sessions conducted throughout the state.

A list of the permitted providers is available on the DNR website at http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/permits/lsp/lsp-permits.pdf.

Lake service providers that have completed AIS training from the DNR and obtained their service provider permit will have a yellow permit sticker in the lower driver’s-side corner of their vehicle’s windshield.

Employees of lake service providers complete a short, online course so they are more familiar with the AIS issues and know what to look for when installing or removing water-related equipment.

Currently, more than 2,230 employees of lake service provider businesses have taken the online AIS training.

Employees who complete AIS training are issued a business card size certificate they must carry with them.

Businesses, organizations or individuals who need permits or training can find out more at www.mndnr.gov/lsp.

The DNR believes that personal responsibility is the key to successfully preventing and curbing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The agency is counting on the public and water-recreation businesses to follow the law.

Without their cooperation, the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species increases.

Waterfowl hunters reminded to avoid spreading invasive species
From the DNR

With the hunting season upon us, it’s waterfowl hunters’ turn to help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Hunters must take steps to avoid inadvertently transporting aquatic invasive species during the upcoming hunting season.

Without the proper precautions, invasive species such as purple loosestrife, faucet snails, Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels could be transported in waterfowl hunters’ boats, decoys or blind material.

Invasive species can damage habitat for waterfowl, fish and other wildlife, and even cause die-offs of waterfowl.

“After hunting, take a few minutes to clean plants and mud and drain water from duck boats, decoys, decoy lines, waders and push poles,” said Christine Herwig, DNR invasive species specialist. “It’s the key to avoiding the spread of aquatic invasive species in waterfowl habitat.”

The DNR recommends that waterfowl hunters switch to elliptical, bulb-shaped or strap decoy anchors that won’t easily collect submergent aquatic plants.

Like all users, waterfowl hunters should also drain water and remove plants and animals from boats and equipment.

Waterfowl hunters should remember that they must cut cattails or other plants above the water line when using them as camouflage for boats or blinds.

To kill or remove life stages of invasive species such as seeds or young zebra mussels that are difficult to see, the DNR recommends that boaters use a high-pressure spray, or a hot water rinse before launching into another water body. Rinse water should be at least 104 degrees.

DNR offers advice for staying safe in a duck boat
From the DNR

With many duck hunters anxiously preparing for the Sept. 22 Minnesota opener, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds people to make sure they pack the one thing that could save their lives – their life jackets.

“We want all hunters to come back to shore safely,” said Kim Elverum, DNR boat and water safety coordinator.

“However, the lack of flotation devices is still a common law violation among waterfowl hunters, and the most common cause of duck hunter deaths.

Thirteen hunters have drowned in boating accidents since 1986, when a Minnesota law was passed requiring duck hunters to wear life jackets.

“While 13 deaths is 13 too many, before life jackets were mandated, three to six hunters died in duck boat accidents nearly every season,” Elverum said.

The most recent Minnesota duck hunter drowning was in 2009.

According to national statistics, more hunters die every year from cold water shock, hypothermia and drowning than from firearms mishaps.

Minnesota law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket of the proper size and type for every person on duck boats.

Plus, for boats 16-feet and longer, one U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation seat cushion must be on board to throw to someone in distress.

Seat cushions are no longer approved as primary flotation devices.

Life jackets made with the waterfowler in mind are available in camouflage colors, including inflatable life jackets and belt-pack vests.

According to water safety experts, having a life jacket doesn’t matter if it’s stuffed in a decoy sack when an accident occurs.

“You just don’t have time,” Elverum said. “Trying to put on a life jacket during a boating accident would be like trying to buckle a seat belt during a car crash.”

The DNR discourages hunters from wearing hip boots or waders in a boat due to safety concerns.

Hunters have drowned while trying to take their waders off after they have fallen into the water or their boat has capsized.
“That releases any trapped air in the boots and at the same time binds the victim’s feet together so they can’t kick to stay afloat,” Elverum said.

Hunters who choose to wear hip boots or waders in a boat and suddenly enter the water should pull their knees up to their chest, because air trapped in the waders or hip boots can act as a flotation device.

“Hunters should practice this maneuver in warm shallow water before they need to do it in an emergency,” Elverum said.
The DNR offers these water safety tips for duck hunters:

• Wear a life jacket to and from the blind.
• Don’t overload the boat; take two trips if necessary.
• Don’t wear waders or hip boots in the boat or at least learn how to float with them on.
• Stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
• Share trip plans with someone and advise them to call authorities if the hunting party does not return on schedule.
• In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat; even when filled with water, a boat provides some flotation and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.

Several hunters in distress have been rescued in the last few years when they called for help on their cell phones.

“If you are near enough to a cell phone tower, bring your cell phone along in a waterproof, zipper-locked bag,” Elverum advised. “The phone can be used without removing it from the bag.”

The DNR has a free publication about waterfowl hunting boat safety called “Prescription for Duck Hunters.”

It is available by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

It is also available at http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/education_safety/safety/boatwater/duckhunterbrochure06.pdf.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers.
CO Mies held an AIS workcrew on Clearwater Lake.
CO Mies checked deer hunters along with small game hunters.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) finished field training level 3 with COC Mueller this past week.
COC Mueller and CO Reller gave a firearms safety class presentation in Monticello.
Reller also checked goose hunters, anglers and horse pass compliance in Maria State park.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked the small game and archery deer opener.
Goose hunters were checked all week with some having success with migrators starting to move in.
Calls were returned every day on hunting questions.
Violations documented were shooting black birds, no state or federal duck stamps and no small game licenses.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) worked the small game and archery opener with more archery hunters than small game hunters checked.
CO Oberg spent time investigating a possible deer baiting violation.
Officer Oberg also spent time training the new academy recruits on defensive tactics at Camp Ripley.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: How will the dry conditions we experienced this summer impact fall colors? What will the colors look like?

A: Fall colors vary from year to year and place to place for several reasons.

Weather is most critical in determining the colors displayed each fall.

Colors are best when high quality foliage – a product of a warm, moist summer – is exposed to sunny, cool fall days.

Light frosts may also help, but hard freezes can ruin the display.

Physiological stresses placed on trees can impact fall colors.

Cool, wet summers can cause premature displays of color.

A mild summer drought may actually increase the display, but severe drought usually dulls colors noticeably.

In some cases, foliage may die early and turn straw-colored due to a lack of water.

Because it is too dry to produce the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, the severe summer drought will create a landscape filled with the subtler colors of tans, bronzes and auburns.