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MN’s pheasant index down 29 percent from 2012

September 16, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

A long winter followed by a cold, wet spring contributed to a significant decrease in Minnesota’s pheasant count, which declined 29 percent from 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Minnesota’s results reflect what we’re seeing in other states,” said Rachel Curtis, DNR wildlife research biologist. “South Dakota had a 64 percent decrease in its brood survey. North Dakota’s most-recent rooster crowing count is down 11 percent from last year. And Iowa reported a 19 percent decrease in its August roadside count.”

Minnesota’s 2013 pheasant index is 64 percent below the ten-year average and 72 percent below the long-term average.

Pheasant hunters still are expected to harvest about 246,000 roosters this fall.

That’s down 44,000 from last year’s estimate and is less than half the number of pheasants taken during the 2005-2008 seasons when hunting was exceptionally good.

The highest pheasant counts were in the southwest region, where observers reported 51 birds per 100 miles of survey driven.

Hunters should find good harvest opportunities in west-central, east-central and south-central Minnesota.

“Pheasant populations respond to habitat abundance and changes in weather,” Curtis said. “The steady downward trend in Minnesota’s pheasant population during the past several years is primarily due to habitat loss. Weather has caused minor fluctuations.”

The most important habitat for pheasants is grassland that remains undisturbed during the nesting season.

Protected grasslands account for about 6 percent of the state’s pheasant range.

Farmland retirement programs such as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Reinvest in Minnesota and Wetlands Reserve Program make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.

High land rental rates and competing uses for farmland diminish the economic attractiveness of farmland conservation programs.

CRP enrollment declined by 63,700 acres in Minnesota’s pheasant range over the last year and contracts for nearly 400,000 acres of statewide CRP lands are scheduled to expire during the next 3 years.

If not re-enrolled, this would reduce CRP acres in Minnesota by 30 percent.

To help offset continued habitat losses caused by reductions in conservation set-aside acreage, the DNR has accelerated acquisition of wildlife management areas in the farmland region of Minnesota.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service also acquires and protects habitat across the state.

In addition, the DNR supports habitat conservation on private lands by working with a variety of partners in the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership and Working Lands Initiative.

High spring precipitation and below average temperatures hurt nesting this year.

This year’s average hatch date was delayed to June 20, which is 11 days later than the 10-year average of June 9.

Although fewer broods were seen, brood size was larger than last year and comparable to the long-term average.

Actual reproduction rates may be higher than the survey suggests.

Hens that were successful nesting later in the season tend to be underrepresented in roadside data and it is possible that hens were still nesting or in heavier cover with young chicks during the survey period.

The pheasant population estimate is part of the DNR’s annual August roadside wildlife survey, which began in 1955.

DNR conservation officers and wildlife managers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first half of August.

This year’s survey consisted of 171 routes, each 25 miles long, with 152 routes located in the ring-necked pheasant range.

Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number and species of wildlife they see.

The data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long-term population trends of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves and other wildlife.

The gray partridge index also decreased from last year and remained below the 10-year average.

The cottontail rabbit index increased from last year but stayed below the 10-year and long-term average.

The jackrabbit index was 87 percent below the long-term average.

Finally, the mourning dove index was 20 percent below last year and lower than the 10-year and long-term averages.

Events added to Waverly Gun Club calendar

Individual Doubles League will start 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3 for five weeks at the Waverly Gun Club.

Rifle sight-ins are planned for three consecutive weeks: Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 19 and 20, Oct. 26 and 27, and Nov. 2 and 3. More information available on the club web-site at www.waverlygunclub.org.

Friends of Wright County Federation of Sportsmen’s Club annual banquet Sept. 23

The Friends of Wright County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs will hold its annual fundraising banquet Monday, Sept. 23, at the Classic Hall Event Center in Annandale.

Activities for the evening include a banquet meal, silent auction, and other games and activities.

Prizes and auction merchandise include limited edition firearms, knives, prints, and general outdoor gear.

The funds raised at the banquet will directly support local organizations whose events and activities are critical to the continuation of the shooting sports.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. If you would like to attend the banquet contact Bruce Bartl at (763) 682-0653.

New season structure closes crow season Sept. 20
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds crow hunters that the fall crow hunting season closes Sept. 20, a change from previous years when the season ran into mid-October.

The crow hunting season was changed for this year to address nuisance crow issues and provide more chances for hunters to take crows opportunistically while hunting other species.

Season dates are Aug. 1 through Sept. 20; Dec. 15 through Jan. 15 and March 1-31.

“The new season structure allows hunters to take crows during the late summer and early fall, when other early migratory bird seasons, such as dove and early goose season are open,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager. “It also allows hunters to take crows during the winter, when the birds feed in harvested fields by day but roost in high concentrations in urban areas at night.”

The new season dates were developed with input gathered at last winter’s statewide public input meetings.

Late summer/early fall season dates were extended after a number of crow hunters expressed concerns that an original proposal did not provide enough opportunity during this period.

“Although the original proposal received support from a majority of those who attended a meeting or provided online comments, a number of crow hunters expressed concerns,” Merchant said. “We modified the proposal based on these comments.”

Under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines, states within the Mississippi Flyway are allowed 124 days to hold a crow season.

Season dates and structure are determined by state wildlife management agencies.

According to DNR surveys of small game hunters, the average annual crow harvest is about 11,500 birds.

DNR confiscated firearms auction set for Sept. 28
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold a public auction of its inventory of confiscated hunting and fishing equipment Sept. 28 at the Hiller Auction Barn in Zimmerman.

Hiller Auction is located 2 miles east of the Highway 169 and the County Road 4 intersection in Zimmerman.

Inspection of items runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 27 and at 8 a.m. Saturday. The auction starts at 10 a.m.

Items for sale include: firearms, bows, tree stands, fishing rods and reels, tip ups, traps, trail cameras, spotlights, ground blinds and a hand ice auger.

There are more than 200 firearms and 40 bows available.

Once auction begins there will not be access to the firearms.

In addition, there are 200 hunting and fishing items including deer antlers (sold in lots), an ATV, a jet ski, snowmobiles and a boat/motor/trailer combination.

A complete inventory list will be posted on the Hiller Auction website at www.hillerauction.com.

All property will be sold “as is,” and all sales will be final.

Payment may be by credit card or check to Hiller Auction. Items cannot be returned once purchased.

Hiller Auction will conduct a background check of bidders on sight before releasing the gun(s).

Following the approved background check, buyers can take possession of their property immediately.

Buyers may bring their own cases or there will be cases available for purchase to transport firearms.

Proceeds from the auction will be deposited in the Game and Fish Fund.

Revenues from the fund are dedicated to fish and wildlife management in the state.

All proceeds from vehicles sold at the DNR auction as a result of a Driving

While Impaired (DWI) related offense go into the DWI forfeiture account.

For more information, contact Hiller Auction at 763-856-2453 or 800-889-3458.

DNR predicts ‘brilliant’ fall colors season
From the DNR

During the next seven or eight weeks, waves of fall color will roll across Minnesota’s forests and prairies, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Trails Division encourages families to get out and enjoy them.

The statewide fall color report at www.mndnr.gov (www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html) is updated every Thursday by staff at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

These reports include percent of color change, peak color projections and three state park or trail destinations considered “hot picks” of the week.

“We’re predicting it will be a brilliant fall color season,” said Patricia Arndt, communications and outreach manager for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Although it’s been dry lately, the trees got adequate rain earlier this season. Now we just need a combination of sunny days and cool nights in the weeks ahead to bring out the fall colors. We’ve timed many of our fall hiking, biking, geocaching and paddling programs at Minnesota state parks and trails to coincide with peak color, and we hope to see lots of people getting outdoors to enjoy this beautiful time of year.”

Colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in northern third of the state, between late September and early October in central third and between late September and mid-October in southern third (which includes Twin Cities).

Fall color programs are listed in the free “Feel the ‘Wow’ of Fall” brochure at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, Twin Cities libraries and REI stores and the Parks and Trails kiosk across from food court at Rosedale Center.

The DNR Information Center will also mail the brochure to anyone who requests it.

In addition to its weekly online reports, the DNR offers fall colors “to go” on a mobile website compatible with smart phones and tablets.

These reports include percent of color change, integrated with Google maps.

To access the mobile site, scan the QR code at http://mndnr.gov/mobile or visit http://mndnr.gov/mobile/fall_colors and bookmark the site on a smart phone or other mobile device.

For more information, visit the online calendar at www.mndnr.gov or call DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A vehicle permit is required for entrance to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

Visitors may start with a one-day permit for $5 and visit as many state parks as they choose.

The one-day permit may be traded in before the end of the day for $5 off a year-round permit.

Year-round permits, $25, provide unlimited access to all 76 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a year from the month of purchase.

Visitors to Minnesota state parks can upload fall color photos to the DNR’s fall color website.

Montrose artist wins 2014 duck stamp competition
From the DNR

A painting of a Canada goose painting by Thomas Moen of Montrose will be featured on the 2014 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

Moen’s painting was chosen from among 30 entries in the annual state duck stamp contest sponsored by the DNR.

Moen also won the contest in 1998 for his painting of a Harlequin duck and in 2007 for his painting of a lesser scaup.

The other finalists were Stephen Hamrick, Lakefield, second place; Michael Pangerl, Minneapolis, third place and Timothy Turenne, Richfield, fourth place.

The five-member panel of judges included David Andersen, University of Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor; Mark McNamera, Minnesota Waterfowl Association; Tom Cooper, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Joe Albert, Outdoor News.

The $7.50 state duck stamp is required of all Minnesota waterfowl hunters age 18-64.

Stamp sales generate about $700,000 per year for waterfowl habitat restoration and enhancement projects on state wildlife management areas and shallow lakes.

DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work.

Each year the entries are limited to a predetermined species that breeds or migrates through Minnesota.

The eligible species for the 2015 stamp design will be the Harlequin duck.

Families, youth, and women can go afield with upland bird mentors in October
From the DNR

Inexperienced families, women and youth hunters are reminded to apply by Sept.16 for a chance to step into the field with an experienced upland bird hunter at locations across much of Minnesota on Saturday, Oct. 19, or Saturday, Oct. 26.

“Participants are offered a hands-on approach that shows them hunting techniques, outdoor skills, safety and how wildlife habitat plays a big part in upland bird management and hunter success,” said Mike Kurre, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) mentoring program coordinator.

Co-sponsored by the DNR, hunt participants are paired with mentors from Pheasants Forever, Woodcock Minnesota and the Ruffed Grouse Society.

After discussing safety, habitat, ethics, scouting for places to hunt and securing landowner permission when necessary, mentors take participants into the field.

A limited number of family hunts allow all family members to participate.

For youth hunts, parents or guardians must accompany youth hunters at all times and at all events but cannot carry a firearm.

To participate, youth must be 12-17 years old as of Oct. 19; have earned a valid firearms safety certificate; possess a small game license if required; and have a parent, guardian or adult authorized by a parent or guardian accompany them as a nonfirearms carrying mentor.

The adult must accompany the youth during the orientation and the hunt.

A small game license is not needed for youth younger than 16. A $5 reduced-price license is required for youth 16 and 17.

People 18 and older do not need a parent or guardian to accompany them, but will need a valid firearms safety certificate if required or an apprentice hunter validation certification, pheasant stamp (if pheasant hunting) and a small game license.
Up to four family members can participate in a family hunt.

Adult and youth family members must meet all eligibility requirements.

Applicants who apply for a family hunt but are not selected in the lottery can opt to allow their children to participate in the youth hunt if spots remain open.

All applicants must specify the county or area they want to hunt, if they are willing to travel farther if their choice is not available and the distance they are willing to travel.

Applications are available online at www.mndnr.gov/discover or by contacting the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157, toll-free 888-646-6367 or info.dnr@state.mn.us.

Successful applicants will be notified via mail or email by end of September.

The winner’s notice will contain information about hunting license requirements, equipment and hunt coordinator contact information.

All winners must contact their hunt coordinator after receiving notice.

Landowners with pheasant or grouse-producing property interested in allowing youth or novice families or women to hunt on their land can help out by contacting Pheasants Forever’s Eran Sandquist at 763-242-1273.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers and boaters.
CO Mies worked goose hunters along with water complaints.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) followed up on several calls related to waterfowl hunting.
Reller found a smaller number of youth hunting on youth waterfowl day most likely due to the tropical weather they had this year, but the ones that did go out found a good population of local wood ducks and teal in the area.
Anglers in the area have been finding fishing to be slow on area lakes.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) gave a firearms safety presentation and waterfowl hunting presentation at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Carver.
Anglers and boaters were checked all week on special regulation lakes.
Goose hunters and youth waterfowl hunters were checked, the few hunters that were out had good success.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) met with a landowner in Chaska regarding a hunting trespass complaint.
Goose hunters and fishermen were checked in Hennepin and Carver counties.
She also provided a ride along to a CO candidate and prepared for upcoming court cases.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) spent the week checking early goose hunters and anglers.
AIS laws were also enforced.
She saw a good turnout for the youth waterfowl hunt even with the warm weather.
Mueller along with other CO’s assisted in the search along the Minnesota River for a person of interest in the homicide that occurred in Granite Falls earlier in the week.
She also completed a falconry inspection.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Recently, the state Legislature made a change to allow open water waterfowl hunting for the first time in Minnesota since 1915.

Why was the change made, and which bodies of water does it affect?

A: The change was made to provide a unique waterfowl hunting opportunity on a small number of lakes.

Typically hunters in open water use layout boats, large decoy spreads and target diving ducks that often raft offshore.

The bodies of water selected are large border waters (with the exception of Mille Lacs Lake) where open water hunting is already legal in the adjacent state/province and disturbance to ducks will be minimal.

The other lakes are Lake of the Woods, Lake Superior, and Lake Pepin. On the Mississippi River south of Hastings, hunters must be in partially concealing vegetation or within 100 feet of the shoreline including islands, which is consistent with Wisconsin regulations on this stretch of river.

On all these bodies of water, hunters must be at anchor.