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New open water duck hunt; safety is a successful hunt

October 21, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

New rules for the 2013 waterfowl season now allow hunters to hunt on open water for migratory waterfowl on a few selected bodies of water including portions of the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin, Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs Lake and Lake Superior.

Open water hunting is new to many hunters around the state, so the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a warning about the potential dangers of hunting in open water late in the season.

“We are excited to offer this new waterfowling opportunity, but want duck hunters to keep safety in mind before they head out on the water,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner.

Many open water hunters use layout boats. A layout boat is a one or two person boat with a very shallow draft and extremely low sides which allow the hunter to set-up near a spread of decoys just slightly above the water’s surface.

The shallow draft and low sides make this type of craft extremely vulnerable to wave action or wakes from other boats and could cause it to swamp or capsize.

The low profile of a layout boat makes it hard for other boaters to see waterfowl hunters, especially in low light or wavy conditions.

Layout boats should be accompanied by a much larger tender boat that is used to put out decoys, set the layout boat, retrieve downed birds and is used to transport the hunter to and from the anchored layout boat.

The tender boat can come to the rescue should something go wrong.

Open water hunting is typically conducted late in the waterfowl season when diving ducks are migrating.

“The later the hunt, the colder the water,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “Hunters need to know if they fall overboard the possibility of cold water immersion and hypothermia greatly increases.”

The DNR offers tips for safe and responsible hunting including:

• Be prepared. Proper foul weather gear is a must. Keeping dry is important.

• Wear a life jacket. State law requires an accessible and wearable U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board all boats, including layout and duck boats.

• Do not overload boat with gear and avoid a sudden shift in weight. Leave the dog on the tender boat or at home.

• Keep an eye on the sky. Do not hunt during rough weather and stormy conditions.

• Most duck boats don’t make good tender boats. Use a boat designed for deep water that can handle waves.

• In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat, even when filled with water; the boat will still float and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.

• Always tell someone the hunt location and time of return and hunt with a companion or group.

• Carry a cellphone or VHF radio for emergency communication.

For information on taking a boating safety course and other safety information visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater/education.html.

Building a culture of conservationism; we all have a responsibility
From the DNR

Hunting and fishing are such a valued part of our Minnesota heritage that they are forever preserved privileges under the state constitution alongside protections for freedom of expression and religious liberty.

Our outdoor traditions are a part of our culture. Preserving that culture is critical. Hunters and anglers are the fiercest advocates for fish and wildlife conservation. By way of hunting and license fees, and because of excise taxes on fishing rods and firearms, they also provide the economic base to manage and protect the natural habitat and wildlife we all value.

Unfortunately, this important group of environmental advocates is a shrinking group.

A smaller and smaller portion of our state’s population is participating in hunting and fishing.

The declining trend may be rooted in an aging population, increased disconnection from the out-of-doors and lower participation rates among minorities - portions of the Minnesota population that are growing the fastest.

This should concern not only the hunter and the angler, it should concern everyone because ultimately fewer people interested in and participating in our outdoor tradition translates into waning support for our natural environment.

It’s not a pattern unique to Minnesota, which is of even greater concern.

We need to broaden support for outdoor pursuits so we can also maintain a funding base for fish, wildlife and natural resources management.

As an agency, the Department of Natural Resources offers programs and initiatives and activities to try to sustain and build up our population of sports people.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman introduces hundreds of women each year to fishing, hunting and other outdoor sports.

More than 10,000 kids and adults annually participate in Fishing in the Neighborhood events aimed at introducing metro area kids to fishing at 67 DNR-managed fishing ponds right in their own neighborhoods.

Mentored turkey and deer hunts provide kids the opportunity to hunt with an experienced adult and a special youth waterfowl day allows kids a day to hunt before the regular duck opener.

We certified more than 21,000 firearms safety students last year.

We’ve recruited women to teach some of these firearm safety courses so girls and women can see someone like them as a leader and role model in a male-dominated sport.

Since its inception in 2004, Archery in the Schools has taught basic archery skills to hundreds of thousands of students.

We are fortunate in this state to have an abundance of public lands and waters.

In the past year 4,405 acres have been added to the DNR’s 1.4 million-acre wildlife management area system where hunters have access to once private lands; these are lands especially critical for future generations of hunters.

We as an agency have pushed for legislative changes aimed at eliminating obstacles and constraints for young sportspeople and made it easier for adults to take youth out fishing and hunting.

This past session, the Legislature reduced the nonresident youth license fees so they’re in line with youth resident license fees.

And an earlier change created an apprentice hunter validation so young hunters can sample hunting for two seasons before they’re required to complete a hunter education firearms safety course.

In the end, however, DNR can only do so much to reverse course on the trajectory that started its downward and broad-based tilt in the 1990s.

Increasing hunter and angler participation is really about the relationship between two people: an experienced hunter interested in sharing his or her knowledge, ethics and skills and an beginner interested in gaining knowledge, ethics and skills.

This is what we call the “natural path” to recruitment, and is where every experienced hunter/angler can help.

Hunting and fishing have been lifelong passions of mine – passions I am passing along to my kids.

As a conservationist and outdoorsman, I believe we have an obligation to ensure our rich outdoor traditions are passed onto another generation, to preserve our Minnesota culture and ultimately our environment.

As you go afield for another fall hunting season, I ask you to share the passion with someone new. Invite a neighbor kid or co-worker to get on board. Take your spouse, son, or daughter. Encourage kids to enroll in organized programs that offer mentored hunting and fishing experiences. Open others to new experiences and foster a renewed culture of outdoor sports in the state -- for their future and the future of wildlife conservation and management in Minnesota.

Events added to Waverly Gun Club calendar

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, at the Waverly Gun Club. More information available on the club website at www.waverlygunclub.org.

New critical habitat pheasant license plate unveiled in Madelia
From the DNR

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr announced this evening (Oct. 11) that a new ring-necked pheasant critical habitat license plate will be available later this fall.

The announcement was made during the banquet at the third annual Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener, hosted by the city of Madelia.

The critical habitat plate was created in 1995 as a way for Minnesota citizens to voluntarily contribute to conservation and show that commitment with a special outdoor-themed vehicle license plate.

More than 100,000 Minnesota vehicles have critical habitat license plates, with the 2002 loon plate being the most popular.

These plates generate about $3.5 million per year.

They have generated more than $44 million for habitat conservation since the program began.

Landwehr thanked those who have already purchased loon, deer, showy lady slipper, chickadee or fishing license plates. He said he looks forward to seeing a fresh hatch of pheasant plates on the road as well.

“Motorists who have purchased habitat plates have helped wildlife in every corner of the state,” Landwehr said. “They have funded wildlife management area acquisitions, trout stream easements and helped support loons, eagles, rare plants and many other species. The new pheasant plate will help us preserve some of our rapidly disappearing grasslands – which are critical to the future of pheasants,” he said.

The new pheasant plate is an adaptation of the 2007 Minnesota pheasant stamp by renowned Minnesota artist Joe Hautman.

Landwehr said license plate revenue will be used, in part, to support pheasant and other grassland species through Minnesota Prairie Plan habitat acquisition.

The printing of the new plates will begin this fall.

The DNR will announce when they are available at local deputy registrar offices, online, and other vehicle license outlets.

Limited numbers should be available in about a month.

The critical habitat plate requires a contribution of at least $30 per year more than a standard plate.

There is also a one-time fee of $10 the first year for plate transfer costs.

Contributions go to the DNR and are matched equally with private donations of land or cash to buy and manage important natural habitats which are preserved as public lands and are open to compatible public use, like hunting, hiking and wildlife watching.

More information can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/plates/index.html.

Critical habitat license plates can be purchased anytime or when renewing a car or truck license through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Worthington named host community of 2014 MN Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener
From the DNR

Gov. Mark Dayton announced this evening (Oct. 11) that the city of Worthington has been chosen as the host community for the 2014 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener.

The announcement was made during the banquet at this year’s pheasant opener event, hosted by the city of Madelia.

“For more than 50 years, I have enjoyed pheasant hunting in Minnesota,” said Gov. Dayton, who began the Governor’s Pheasant Opener tradition in 2011. “Over the past three years, we have enjoyed terrific openers, thanks to the tremendous work of our hosts in Montevideo, Marshall, and, now, Madelia. I am pleased to announce that next year, the fourth annual Governor’s Pheasant Opener will be held in Worthington.”

Worthington was selected through an application process that considered hunting land in the area, event facilities and community support.

Previous host communities have been Montevideo, Marshall and Madelia.

The event highlights the many hunting, recreational, travel and local opportunities that host communities have to offer visitors.

Explore Minnesota Tourism and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will assist local partners in planning the event.

Worthington has a population of 12,764 and is located in southwestern Minnesota at the intersection of Interstate 90 and state Highway 60.

11th annual Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener in Fergus Falls this year
From the DNR

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will celebrate the state’s deer hunting tradition by hosting the 11th annual Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener in Fergus Falls.

On Friday, Nov. 8, the governor will host community and youth activities to bring attention to a pursuit that has nearly 500,000 Minnesota participants and contributes nearly one-half billion dollars to the state’s economy.

Minnesota’s general firearm deer season opens Saturday Nov. 9, and guests of the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener will hunt in the Fergus Falls area.

Fergus Falls, located among the hills and lakes of Otter Tail County in west-central Minnesota, is a perfect setting for bringing attention to this annual rite of autumn, said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association “The Fergus Falls area is among the treasures of the state,” said Johnson. “Many lakes, prairies and forested lands make Fergus Falls popular and plentiful for hunting.”

This year’s event is at West Otter Tail County Fairgrounds and Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, where a Big Buck luncheon will begin at 12:15 p.m.

Tickets for the luncheon cost $15 and are available by contacting MDHA at 800-450-DEER, ext. 12, online at www.mngovernorsdeeropener.com or locally at the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce (202 S Court St.).

Luncheon speakers include Gov. Dayton, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Explore Minnesota Tourism Director John Edman, and Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

Other events at the club include a trap shooting exhibition by the Gould Brothers, a pair of professional trick shooters and entertainers and a youth field day for area elementary students who will participate in various hunting-related activities.

Attendees will also be able to view the DNR’s “Wall of Shame” poaching exhibit and antlers from the world record-size eight-point buck taken illegally in Goodhue County.

Jean Bowman, executive director of the Fergus Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it’s an honor to help host this event. “While the city itself is a powerful draw, rolling farmland punctuated by wooded hills and over 1,000 lakes define a magnificent region rich in agriculture, hunting, fishing and more.”

To learn more about the event visit www.mngovernorsdeeropener.com

The Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener is a partnership among the DNR, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Explore Minnesota Tourism and the Fergus Falls community to promote hunting and tourism.

Hunters harvest 12 deer during Camp Ripley and preserve youth hunts
From the DNR

Windy and wet weather made it challenging for archery hunters participating in youth deer hunts Oct. 12-13 at the Camp Ripley Military Reservation, and the Nature Conservancy’s Lake Alexander Preserve, according to Beau Liddell, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) area wildlife manager at Little Falls.

A total of 175 permits were issued for the 12th annual Camp Ripley youth hunt, with 137 hunters participating; and 20 permits were issued for Lake Alexander Nature Conservancy youth hunt, with 13 hunters participating.

Youth hunters harvested 10 deer at Camp Ripley while youth at the nearby 10th annual Nature Conservancy preserve hunt took two deer, for an 8 percent success rate.

Hunter success of 8 to 10 percent is typical for two-day archery hunts at these two locations.

Many of the 12 deer taken during the hunts were the first for the participants.

Samson Sjogren of Sauk Center took the first deer at Camp Ripley, a 92-pound yearling buck on Saturday morning.

Aiden Ginter of Glenwood took the largest deer at Camp Ripley, a 131-pound adult doe.

Anthony Lenz of Elk River took the first deer at the Lake Alexander Preserve, a 57-pound fawn buck.

Josh Novicky of St. Michael took the largest deer from the preserve, a 100-pound adult doe.

“While the weather conditions weren’t ideal, there are a lot of deer at these locations that helped the hunters achieve a typical harvest for this year’s events,” Liddell said. “Many hunters said they really enjoyed the experience.
“Antlerless deer dominated the harvest with fawns and does comprising two-thirds of the deer taken.”

All youth hunters were paired with nonhunting adult mentors.

To get acclimated, participants had an orientation and scouting day on Friday, Oct. 11, ahead of the hunt.

The Minnesota State Archery Association and Minnesota Deer Hunters Association were the primary hunt sponsors.

The DNR, Department of Military Affairs and the Nature Conservancy provided significant logistical and planning support for the two hunts.

“The hunt sponsors deserve a lot of credit for the high quality experience provided to youth participants,” Liddell said. “Without their involvement and hard work, these events would not be possible.”

The Camp Ripley youth hunt was the first of its kind in Minnesota and laid the groundwork for similar youth hunts being offered elsewhere in the state.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) assisted the SO on a call.
CO Mies checked pheasant hunters this past weekend.
CO Mies also worked on TIP calls.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) followed up on several hunting complaints and nuisance animal complaints.
Waterfowl hunting has slowed some with the warm weather last week, but anglers are starting to find the fall bite start.
Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license, and angling with extra lines.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) gave a presentation to a group of Watertown-Mayer High School students at the Watertown Rod & Gun Club before they went out on a pheasant hunt at Wings of Watertown shooting preserve.
The pheasant opener was worked but with crops in and strong wind the success was poor.
Waterfowl hunters were checked all week having fair success.
Enforcement action was taken for no state or federal waterfowl stamps, no small game license in possession, no Hip, unplugged shotgun, no PFD’s, trespass and ATV on roadway.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked waterfowl and pheasant hunters throughout the weekend.
Blue-wing teal are still making up the majority of ducks shot.
Pheasant hunters had a rough start to the season with low numbers and lots of crops still in the field.
Enforcement action was taken on two archery hunters caught hunting over an area baited with acorns, with no oak trees in sight.
She also spoke at an all ladies firearms safety class in Bird Island.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) worked the opening of the pheasant season.
Winds were strong while pheasant and hunter numbers were significantly lower than normal.
However, the winds seem to bring teal into the area, with several limits of teal checked.
Oberg also took time to educate waterfowl hunters on aquatic invasive species laws.
Enforcement action was taken for waterfowl hunting violations.