2012: A good season for waterfowlers

January 21, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

As Minnesota waterfowl experts begin planning for the 2013 hunting season they are pleased with a memorable 2012.

An earlier season opener, regulation changes that created more opportunity and some timely help from Mother Nature all combined to make 2012 a noteworthy season.

“We expected it to be a good season and, by all accounts, it was,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We’ve heard a lot of positive reports from hunters. Most seemed very satisfied.”

The DNR added a third duck zone in southern Minnesota and used different splits, or closed periods, to provide some later hunting in that part of the state.

“The season structure we used this year allowed for almost a second opener effect in our south duck zone as well as some late season hunting, which both seemed to work well based on the reports we heard,” Cordts said.

This year, Cordts said, the agency is considering even more changes, including allowing Canada geese hunting in August, changing the early goose season bag limit and allowing open water duck hunting on a small number of lakes.

“No decisions have been made – and some would require federal approval - but we are floating these concepts out for discussion and feedback,” said Cordts. He said formal public input will be taken later this year.

Although 2012 duck harvest numbers will not be available until summer, an increase in harvest is expected.

Duck harvest in recent years has been around 650,000 ducks.

Mallards typically rank first followed by wood ducks, blue-winged teal, ring-necked ducks and green-winged teal.

“By most accounts, ring-necked duck numbers and hunting success were lower this fall than recent years but that was about the only negative during the entire season,” Cordts said.

Almost half of the state’s annual duck harvest occurs during the first two weekends of the season.

The early opening date provided good hunting across the state for blue-winged teal and wood ducks.

Reports of good mallard hunting came throughout the season, and timely weather systems in late October and early November provided some excellent waterfowl hunting days.

Waterfowl habitat conditions were extremely dry statewide the entire season, which made access more difficult in many areas but also made for hunting success.

“In some of the drier regions, if you could find water, it held ducks,” Cordts said. “In other regions, the dry conditions improved waterfowl foraging opportunities, especially for dabbling ducks.”

An early crop harvest provided numerous field hunting opportunities for Canada geese, and the lack of snow into December resulted in good numbers of geese scattered across the state throughout fall.

“We didn’t see the large concentrations of migrant Canada geese at some of the traditional staging areas like Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area but still had good Canada goose hunting across the state,” Cordts said.

Cordts noted that even though the 2012 duck season ended on a positive note the major prairie breeding regions of Minnesota and the Dakotas are exceptionally dry.

Moreover, high commodity prices and rising global demand for food and energy are having a significant negative impact on wildlife habitat because more land is going into farm production.

“Nearly 3 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program ground in Minnesota and the Dakotas have been converted from wildlife habitat to mainly row crops since 2008,” said Cordts.

“To put that in perspective, that’s nearly 5,000 square miles, which translates into a 20-mile wide corridor along Interstate 94 from St. Paul to Fargo, N.D.

“Taken together, dry conditions and habitat loss will have significant negative consequences for ducks in future years.”

Final waterfowl stamp sales in 2012 were 89,950. Stamp sales have held stable the past four years at just under 90,000.

“We’d like to see our hunter numbers increase but at least they’ve stabilized,” said Cordts. “We will continue to explore opportunities for additional hunter recruitment and retention.”

Howard Lake Fishing Derby Feb. 9

The Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club will be hosting its 67th annual fishing derby Saturday, Feb. 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. on Howard Lake.

Prior to the derby, The Country Store in Howard Lake will have free heat factory hand warmers, coffee, cocoa, and cookies from 10 a.m. to noon. There is a limited supply, and they will be serving until it is gone.

Also, there will be a store door prize drawings at 11:30 a.m.

Additionally, at the derby, there will be drawings for a Ice Castle V-front fish house on wheels, a portable fish house, framed prints, along with other prizes in the raffle drawing.

For additional information, contact Denny Decker at (320) 543-2992.

Conceal and carry class at Waverly Gun Club in February

The Waverly Gun Club will be having a conceal and carry class Monday, Feb. 21 and Tuesday, Feb. 22 at Waverly Gun Club, Waverly.

Call Harry at (763) 682-1576 to register.

Kingston Lions Fishing Contest

The 25th annual Kingston Lions Fishing Contest is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2 from 1 to 3 p.m.

The contest will take place on the northwest side of Lake Francis, and there is a $5 entry fee per person.

There will be door prizes for biggest walleye, northern, and bass – pays only on the largest of those three.

Also, there will be prizes for sunfish and crappie.

Additoinally, there will be drawing for cash prizes, and concessions will be available at the contest by the Kingston Lions Club.

Winterkill conditions open Arville Lake to liberalized fishing
From the DNR

Snow and frigid temperatures have combined to make some shallow lakes in southern Minnesota susceptible to winterkill conditions, prompting the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to post them to liberalized fishing.

One lake now posted to liberalized fishing in the Hutchinson Fisheries Management Area is Arville Lake in Meeker County.

Winterkill conditions are created when sunlight is unable to penetrate the ice and snow, causing the oxygen content in the water to drop to critical levels.

Fish are often unable to survive in these low oxygen conditions.

All species of fish may be taken in any quantity and in any manner except with the use of seines, hoopnets, fyke nets or explosives by licensed residents, for their personal use, except that rough fish such as bullheads, carp, suckers, and buffalo fish may be sold.

Gill nets must have metal tags affixed stating the operator’s name and address and be attached to one end of the float line near the first float.

Each tag must be a minimum of 2 1/2” X 5/8”.

Anglers are reminded that they must obey all laws regarding trespass on private property and that it is against the law to discard fish on shore or on the ice.

For the latest information on lakes that are posted to liberalized fishing in the Hutchinson Fisheries management area, contact the Hutchinson DNR Fisheries Office at (320) 234-2550, or for a statewide listing, go to the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Helicopters to count deer in many aeras of Minnesota
From the DNR

Pending suitable snow cover, low-flying helicopters will be conducting whitetail deer population surveys from January through March in northwestern, central and southeastern Minnesota.

“Good wildlife management decisions are based on good science,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “These survey flights collect some of baseline data we need to make those decisions.”

DNR pilots will fly survey areas in 18 deer permit areas during daylight hours at about 200 feet.

Results of aerial surveys are used to help estimate deer population in these areas.

Affected areas include permit areas 260 and 264 in Kittson, Marshall, Pennington and Roseau counties; permit areas 239 and 270 in Becker, Clay, Grant, Otter Tail and Wilkin counties; permit areas 214, 215, 221 and 22 in Benton, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Stearns, Todd and Wadena counties; and deer permit areas 341-349 and 602 in Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties.

Aerial elk surveys using both an airplane and helicopter are planned for the Kittson County and Grygla elk ranges in northwestern Minnesota.

Questions about survey flights should be directed to the DNR’s farmland wildlife research office in Madelia at (507) 642-8478; the northwest regional wildlife office in Bemidji at (218) 308-2651; or the Rochester area wildlife office at (507) 206-2859.

DNR takes actions on unauthorized access of driver’s license data
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is taking corrective actions after the agency discovered that a DNR employee inappropriately accessed driving license and motor vehicle records without authorization to do so.

The DNR immediately asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to conduct an investigation into the unauthorized access of the data. At this time, no criminal charges have been filed.

The database is maintained by Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS).

The DVS records that were viewed include information such as full name, date of birth, driver’s license number, address, driver’s license status and driver’s license photo.

The investigation did not indicate that the viewed data was sold, disclosed to others, or used for criminal purposes.

However, the DNR is sending notification letters to approximately 5,000 affected individuals to make them aware of the unauthorized access.

The agency is also recommending that those individuals monitor their credit reports.

The agency has also reported the unauthorized data access to the three main credit reporting agencies, as required by state law.

The employee involved in the unauthorized data access is no longer employed by the DNR.

“The DNR takes seriously its responsibility to protect private data,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “The DNR will not tolerate unauthorized access of private data. The agency is implementing additional employee training and looking into ways to monitor access to the data to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the DNR are working to ensure that unauthorized access of DVS data doesn’t occur in the future.

DPS is encouraging government agencies to review the terms and obligations of DVS data use to ensure private data is protected.

The DNR has set up an email and phone to address questions and concerns for those who receive the letters.

The email is infosecurity.dnr@state.mn.us. The phone number is (651) 259-5309.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Now is the time of year when Minnesota residents can contribute to the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund.
What is this money used for and how does it help wildlife?

A: Donations made to this fund are used by the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife program for a number of statewide efforts to help protect and manage the state’s “nongame” wildlife species.

Nongame wildlife species includes more than 700 kinds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies and selected invertebrates that are not traditionally hunted or harvested.

This also includes conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species.

Specifically, the species that have benefited from these efforts are bald eagles, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, eastern bluebirds, Blanding’s turtles, bats, timber rattlesnakes, great blue herons and other colonial water birds like egrets and grebes.

The money also helps with land acquisition and easements to protect habitat, manage prairies, forests and wetlands, create buffer zones along lakeshores, assist private landowners and local governments with habitat management, and fund educational programs.

Contributions to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund can be made on the 2012 Minnesota tax form, or online at www.mndnr.gov/eco/nongame/checkoff.html.

These donations are extremely important as a foundation for management of nongame wildlife because the donations are also matched with funds from conservation license plates and from federal state wildlife grants for nongame wildlife.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) station checked anglers this past week.
CO Mies gave a law talk at a sled class in Watkins.
CO Mies worked on a trapping complaint, also the trout opener.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) gave to law presentations to youth snowmobile classes in Delano and Silver Creek.
Reller also checked area lakes for angling activity and litter problems.
Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license, wanton waste and DAR.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) gave a presentation to a group from 4-H shooting sports.
Aeration inspections were performed on area lakes.
Several TIP calls were investigated on dead deer and blood trails found on private property.
A coyote caught in a snare was investigated; the snare was unmarked and not checked for several days.
The trout opener was worked and a detail on Lake Minnetonka was worked with CO Le finding several angling violations.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Metro Water Resource Enforcement Officer) attended the Northern Green Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center to discuss AIS issues.
She testified in an AIS court hearing.
Aeration system inspections were completed in Carver, Hennepin and Scott counties.
She also worked the trout opener on Courthouse Lake in Chaska.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) located a stolen fish house on a lake in Meeker County.
The suspect was interviewed and arrested by the Renville County Sheriff’s Department.
Renville County is still looking for some of the property that was inside the fish house, including a Remington 12 gauge model 870 shotgun.
Time was also spent on the area’s snowmobile trails with CO Oberg early in the week before the warmer weather and rain moved in.
Enforcement action was taken on speed, registration and an ATV on the trail.
CO Mueller attended a snowmobile safety class at the Cedar Mills Gun Club.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports working a busy week of snowmobile and ATV enforcement before the rain came.
Snowmobile enforcement action was taken for speed and registration violations.
ATV enforcement action was taken for operating an ATV on a Grant in Aid snowmobile trail.
CO Oberg also assisted CO Mueller with a case involving a stolen ice house.