A good waterfowl opener was expected

September 29, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

When Minnesota’s regular waterfowl season opened one-half hour before sunrise on Saturday, Sept. 27, hunting was likely to be good, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“The number of breeding ducks this spring was very high based on the continental duck breeding population surveys,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “In addition, recruitment, or the number of young ducks that hatched, was also good this year based on reports we’ve heard. These young ducks comprise a large percentage of duck hunters’ bags during the fall.”

Wetland conditions were favorable and the total continental breeding population of all ducks combined was more than 49 million ducks, which is 8 percent above last year and 43 percent above long-term averages, Cordts said.

However, duck numbers can fluctuate widely at this time of year for a variety of reasons.

“Some species like blue-winged teal and wood ducks are very early migrants and many move south even before the season opens, which is normal,” Cordts said. “But many other species like ring-necked ducks and mallards will continue to increase in number as migrants move down from Canada during the season.”

Canada goose hunting should also be good early in the regular waterfowl season.

“Large numbers of Canada geese move into the state in mid- to late September. These were nonbreeding geese from Minnesota that moved to northern Canada during the summer to molt their flight feathers. These geese are new arrivals to Minnesota and provide good Canada goose hunting opportunity early in the season,” Cordts said.

Waterfowl habitat conditions are generally good statewide with much higher water levels than last year at this time.

The DNR will post a weekly waterfowl migration report each week during the duck season.

The reports are typically posted on Thursday at www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/waterfowl.

“If you haven’t been duck hunting in a few years, this may be a good year to get back out in the marsh,” Cordts said. “Hunter numbers have been very low compared to historic averages.”

Last fall, about 90,000 state waterfowl stamps were sold, which is similar to recent years but considerably lower than the 1970s, when 140,000 waterfowl stamps were sold.

The duck season structure is similar to recent years except for an adjustment in the duck season dates in the south duck zone only.

In the south duck zone, the season opens for a three-day period from Sept. 27 through Monday, Sept. 29.

The season is closed until it reopens Saturday, Oct. 11 and runs through Saturday, Dec. 6.

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

ATV youth safety classes being hosted by the Wright County Sheriff’s office

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources youth all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety education class will take place Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, 3800 Braddock Ave. NE in Buffalo.

The class is open to youth age 11 to 15.

Registration must be done in person at the sheriff’s office prior to the class date. A registration fee of $10 is due at the time of registration.

This is a two-part training program.

A CD-ROM will be provided to participants at the time of registration. Students must complete the CD-ROM training course prior to the Oct. 4 field operating class.

Students are encouraged to wear appropriate clothing, including gloves, boots, jackets, and jeans.

The class will take place rain or shine.

Lunch will be provided for the students.

For more infomation, call the WCSO at (763) 682-7622, or visit the MN DNR website at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/atv/index.html.

Rifle sight in at Waverly Gun Club set

Waverly Gun Club have scheduled two weekends for rifle sight-ins in October. Sight ins begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 18 and 19 and Oct. 25 and 26.

Management area to be named after Virgil C. Voigt

A 112 acres of land near the Crow River is going to be taken over by the DNR shortly.

That area of land is the D.V.M. tract of the Rich Valley Wildlife Management Area.

In honor of all of his contributions over the years, Virgil C. Voigt is going to have this management area named after him.

Dr. Voigt’s resume of service is a long list, and this is a well-deserve honor.

Who is Minnesota’s typical grouse hunter?
From the DNR

A hunter with a blaze orange cap and a shotgun keeps an eye on a dog bounding through the underbrush, trailing the scent of grouse.

Bright yellow aspen leaves frame the trail.

It’s a common autumn scene in Minnesota, a fitting postcard for much of the central and northern reaches of the state.
But who is the typical hunter in this picture?

A first-of-its-kind scientific survey of Minnesota grouse hunters done in 2011 by the Department of Natural Resources sheds some light on this question and other information about the habits, preferences and tendencies of the state’s nearly 100,000 grouse hunters.

In this state, a grouse hunter is most commonly college-educated, hunts in October on state forest land, and is willing to travel as far as 120 miles from home to hunt, according to the survey.

To the grouse hunter, far more valuable than bagging a limit of grouse is being able to get away from the crowds and enjoy the outdoors.

“This survey has proved valuable as we decide where to spend dollars that come from hunting and fishing license sales,” said Ted Dick, DNR ruffed grouse specialist. “For example, knowing that hunters value access to state forest lands helps direct focus on hunter walking trails or doing grouse habitat work in those areas.”

The survey also shows how hunters may already be boosting local economies in areas with good access to grouse hunting.

Slightly more than half of all grouse hunters live in the Twin Cities metro area, and hunters from the metro area travel an average of 119 miles to hunt grouse, though they are willing to travel as far as 153 miles to hunt.

The most popular counties among hunters statewide were St. Louis, Itasca, Cass and Aitkin counties, with Pine County also popular among metro respondents and Beltrami popular among Greater Minnesota respondents.

On average, 62 percent of hunters statewide took overnight or multiple-day trips to hunt grouse.

Individual grouse hunters reported spending an average of $417 on grouse hunting in one season.

“Hunting is important to Minnesota’s economy, grouse is Minnesota’s No. 1 game bird and hunters spend money on travel, lodging and gear,” said Jenifer Wical, of the DNR outreach section. “Our state is a grouse hunting destination for both Minnesotans and hunters from out-of-state.”

The survey further showed that 41 percent of grouse hunters who live in the metropolitan area reported having children younger than 19 living at home, but only 39 percent of those children hunted grouse with a parent in 2010.

Thirty-six percent of households in greater Minnesota had children younger than 19 at home, yet 53 percent of those children hunted grouse with a parent in 2010.

“We know it’s important to recruit new hunters and keep existing hunters going back to continue providing quality outdoor opportunities,” Dick said. “Whether travel distances or time committed to other activities interfere, fewer children are getting the hands-on experiences from their parents that help build and appreciation and understanding of the outdoors.”

Yet, barriers to starting grouse hunting can be relatively low.

Unlike some types of hunting, grouse hunting requires little investment.

Hunters need only a blaze-orange hat or vest, a shotgun, a sturdy pair of boots, a valid small-game license and a willingness to walk.

And the ruffed grouse season is long, stretching from Sept. 13 through Sunday, Jan. 4.

This year, spring drumming counts showed encouraging signs, increasing 34 percent from 2013, possibly signaling the start of an upswing in the 10-year grouse cycle that since 2009 has been in the declining phase.

“We have tremendous opportunity in Minnesota to experience the outdoors through grouse hunting,” Dick said. “There’s no better time to start than this year.”

The DNR grouse hunter survey is available online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.

DNR reminds angles of extended southeastern Minnesota trout season
From the DNR

Anglers who fish trout streams in southeastern Minnesota can take advantage of a longer catch-and-release season this fall, will not be required to use barbless hooks, and will have a longer winter catch-and-release season too.

The Department of Natural Resources has extended the fall catch-and-release season to Wednesday, Oct. 15, for all streams in Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties. This is a two-week extension of the season.

“Trout anglers supported these changes, and we wanted to simplify the regulations and provide for more trout fishing opportunities in the southeast,” said Brad Parsons, central region fisheries supervisor.

Beginning Jan. 1, all southeast Minnesota streams will be open in winter to catch-and-release trout fishing, in a season that runs through April 17. Previously the season ended on the last day of March and was limited to far fewer streams.

Southeastern state parks will provide year-round trout fishing opportunities with an extended catch-and-release season that runs from Sept. 15 through April 17, 2015 in the following waters: East Beaver Creek in Beaver Creek Valley State Park; Forestville Creek in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park; Canfield Creek in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park; South Branch Root River in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park; Trout Run Creek in Whitewater State Park and Middle Branch Whitewater River in Whitewater State Park.

Anglers planning to fish for trout should check to see if there are any special tackle regulations, such as the required use of artificial lures and flies, for the stream where they plan to fish.

The southeastern trout harvest season begins Saturday, April 18, 2015.

For more information and the updated fishing regulations online, go to www.mndnr.gov/fishmn/trout.

DNR urges hunters to think safety 24/7
From the DNR

Another season of hunting is here, and along with it comes all the responsibilities to ensure a safe hunt, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Taking the best shot at the right time ensures a safe and productive hunt.

“Until you are completely sure of your target, don’t even raise your gun,” said Acting Capt. Jon Paurus, DNR enforcement education program coordinator. “Always make certain that you have a safe backstop or background since the bullet will likely pass through the primary target and strike whatever is behind it.”

Hunters also need to keep track of buildings, roadways, and other hunters.

Don’t ever shoot at sound – it may be a child, a hunter, or an innocent bystander.

When hunting, know the identifying features of the game you’re after.

Never shoot at flat, hard surfaces, such as water, rocks, or steel because of ricochets.

“Be certain of your target and your line of fire,” Paurus said. “Keep your trigger finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.”

Hunters are also reminded to:

• Treat every firearm with the same respect due a loaded firearm.
• Be sure that the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
• Wear hunter orange for protection and the safety of other people.
• Avoid all horseplay with a firearm.
• Never climb a tree or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
• Never pull a firearm toward body by muzzle.
• Ask permission before entering private land.
• Obey all wildlife laws.
• Report observed law violations to Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP.
• Store firearms and ammunition separately beyond the reach of children and adults.
• Avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood-altering drugs before or while shooting.
• Tell someone the general hunting vicinity and time of return.
• Have a first aid kit available and a means of communication such as a cell phone.

Remember, shooting hours are a half hour before sunrise to the half hour after sunset.

The complete sunrise/sunset table is available in the 2014 Minnesota Hunting Trapping Handbook available at licensing outlets or online at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/regulations/hunting/index.html.

Minnesota’s bear, small game and archery deer seasons are currently underway.

Waterfowl season begins Sep. 27; turkey season, Oct. 4; and pheasant season, Oct. 11.

The firearm deer season begins Nov. 8.

Check www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/seasons.html for more information.

Minnesota hunters born after Dec. 31, 1979, must take a DNR hunter education firearms safety training course and receive a certificate of completion before buying a license for big or small game.

Check http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/index.html to find a course.

There are many other rules that hunters must abide by.

Check the 2014 Minnesota Hunting Trapping Handbook for more information.

Remember water safety during waterfowl season
From the DNR

With many duck hunters anxiously preparing for the Sept. 27 Minnesota opener, the Department of Natural Resources is reminding everyone to think safety on the water, especially during waterfowl season.

In 2013, two people died in duck hunting related boating accidents.

One fatality was caused by an accidental discharge of a firearm.

Overloading, swamping, capsizing are the most common causes, while lack of life jacket use is the most common contributing factor.

“The message is simple life jackets save lives,” said Maj. Greg Salo, operations manager, DNR enforcement.

A U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket is required for every person on board all boats, including duck boats.

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

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

“They have mesh in the upper body that allows you to shoulder a gun,” Salo said. “That way, you don’t have to keep taking the vest off when you shoot.”

The DNR offers these water safety tips for duck hunters:

• Don’t overload the boat; take two trips if necessary.
• If wearing hip boots or waders, 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 for help if traveling party does not return on schedule.
• In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat; even when filled with water; will still float and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.

The DNR has a “Water Safety for Duck Hunters” publication, available by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or it is also available at http://tinyurl.com/k3s6doq.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: While hunting this fall, can I carry a shotgun for turkey and a bow for deer?

A: No. It is unlawful to possess a firearm while archery deer hunting.

This applies to bow hunters with a crossbow permit as well.

The exception is that if you have a permit to carry a handgun, you may have it while archery deer hunting, but this provision does not extend to shotguns or rifles.

If you’d like to use a shotgun for turkey, you’ll need to take your bow home, back to camp or secure it in a vehicle first.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers last week.
CO Mies attended Ney Park and talked to over 200 kids about furs and trapping.
CO Mies attended the Darwin firearms safety class with a COC.
CO Mies checked archery deer hunters and goose hunters.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) checked anglers and small game hunters.
Reller also checked on a possible big game violation and a possible wetlands fill complaint.
Small game hunters were mainly targeting squirrels, but with the foliage so thick it made the hunter tough going.
Angler should be reminded that the smallmouth bass season is catch and release only now.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked the St. Croix River bridge security detail with CO Vang Lee.
AIS violations found by watercraft inspectors were followed up on all week.
Multiple calls were returned and handled all week for questions in Hennepin, Scott and Carver counties on hunting, trapping, nuisance animals and trespassing.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) continued working small game and archery hunters in the area.
CO Oberg also attended use of force instructor meeting and training at Camp Ripley.
Officer Oberg gave another firearms safety talk at Gopher Campfire.
Officer Oberg spent time getting equipment ready for the waterfowl opener.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked goose hunters during the week.
An eagle that was hit by a car was picked up.
A report of apples dumped at a WMA was taken.
She assisted with a FAS safety class in Hutchinson.
She attended a meeting and training at Camp Ripley.