Minnesota snowmobile season and weekly trail reports begin

December 8, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Snowmobilers can legally ride any of the more than 22,000 miles of Minnesota’s state and grant-in-aid snowmobile trails, from Dec. 1 through the end of March, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“Although many trails do not yet have adequate snow cover for grooming, this is a good time to register your snowmobile, inspect your equipment, download maps and do your trip planning,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “Minnesota offers a variety of scenery and terrain to explore in state parks, in state forests, on state trails and on private land that citizens kindly allow snowmobilers to use throughout the winter months.”

The economic impact of snowmobiling in Minnesota is estimated to be approximately $1 billion each year, according to Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (MnUSA). Minnesota snowmobile registrations totaled 216,144 last season.

“Outdoor recreation, including winter activities, is important to Minnesota tourism,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota. “Snowmobiling Minnesota’s excellent trails, lakes and forests is a great way to take in beautiful winter scenery that can be found only in Minnesota.”

As riders head out on the trails, the DNR urges them to ride safely and responsibly.

“Know the rules and use common sense,” said DNR Conservation Officer Adam Block. “Obey signs, drive sober and be especially careful around wetlands, streams and lakes, because the ice may not be thick enough to ride on, especially this early in the season.”

Club volunteers maintain more than 21,000 of the Minnesota’s 22,000-plus trail miles.

Trail clubs welcome new members to help keep trails open and join in other club activities.

“Snowmobile clubs and trail crews are out working on the trails now, and have been for some time,” said Terry Hutchinson, president of MnUSA, “but it could be awhile before trails in some parts of the state will be ready to ride.”

Snowmobile trail maintenance costs are partially funded through snowmobile registrations, trail pass sales, and gas tax attributed to snowmobile use.

Donations, fundraisers, and volunteer work by trail clubs make up the remainder of the costs and efforts to operate these trails.

Snow depth and trail conditions are updated every Thursday after 2 p.m. throughout the winter months at www.mndnr.gov/snow.

Printed maps are available at local DNR offices and also can be ordered by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or sending an email message to info.dnr@state.mn.us.

More information on snowmobile and winter travel opportunities in Minnesota can be found at www.exploreminnesota.com.

MnUSA’s snowmobile trail reports are available at http://mnsnowmobiler.org/index.php?pageid=95.

Carver Co. PF annual banquet Jan. 17

The Carver County Pheasants Forever Chapter will host its 29th annual banquet Saturday, Jan. 17.

The banquet will take place at the Hamburg Community Hall starting at 5 p.m. for social hour. The dinner will begin at 7 p.m.

To get tickets to the event, or for more information, contact Randy Wendland or go to https://pheasantsforeverevents.org/event/1117.

Trap league underway at Waverly Gun Club

Winter trap league for teams and individuals begans Thursday, Dec. 4 at the Waverly Gun Club. Set-up is 6 to 6:30 p.m. followed by shooting from 6:30 to 10 p.m. The league runs through April. More information is available at www.waverlygunclub.org

Spring wild turkey hunters can now apply for permits
From the DNR

People can apply for early season spring wild turkey hunting permits now through Friday, Jan. 9, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The spring season, which runs from April 15 to May 28, is divided into eight time periods.

Only people age 18 and older who want to hunt during the first three time periods (A-C) need to apply for a spring turkey permit.

Permits for the remaining time periods (D-H) can be purchased over-the-counter.

Permits for the last five time periods and youth licenses for any time period are sold over-the-counter starting March 1.

Surplus adult licenses from the first three time periods, if available, are sold starting around mid-March.

“There are a lot of options for hunters. You can apply for an early spring permit or buy one over-the-counter,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife population and regulations manager. “For the second year, we’ve let youth hunt during all of the time periods, which makes it easier to introduce a young person to turkey hunting.”

In Minnesota, hunters can hunt wild turkeys in spring and fall, but spring turkey hunting is much more popular.

The first spring hunting time period begins on Wednesday, April 15.

Turkeys rear their young after the spring hunting season, and nesting success can influence how many turkeys are present during the fall hunting season that runs from early October through early November.

For more information on turkey hunting, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey.

Drive safely this snowmobile season
From the DNR

As another snowmobile season gets underway, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages snowmobilers to get this season off to a smooth, safe start.

Snowmobile trails in Minnesota opened Dec. 1.

Minnesota residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

In a snowmobile safety course students learn about the machine, the laws, safe operation, ethics of the sport, and how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.

DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor in a local community or by CD.

To obtain the snowmobile safety training CD, or for general information, call 888-646-6367, 651-296-6157, or 800-366-8917, or email at info.dnr@state.mn.us.

Over 1,000 volunteer instructors teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state.

For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/snowmobile/index.html or call 800-366-8917.

Snowmobilers should follow these safety tips:

• DON’T DRINK - Drinking alcohol before or during snowmobiling can impair judgment and slow reaction time. Snowmobilers who have been drinking tend to make poor decisions that can lead to injury or death. Alcohol also causes body temperature to drop at an accelerated rate, which increases the likelihood of hypothermia.

• SLOW DOWN - Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that will allow ample reaction time for any situation. Remember, when driving at night at speeds of 40 miles per hour and above you’ll easily “over drive” your headlight and won’t be able to stop in time to avoid a collision.

• BE PREPARED - When traveling, tell someone the destination and return time. Bring a map, a first aid kit, a flashlight, waterproof matches/lighter, compass and cell phone.

• STAY ALERT - Fatigue can reduce the driver’s coordination and judgment. Changing trail conditions are potential hazards to stay alert for to avoid injuries or death.

• ICE ADVICE - Avoid traveling across bodies of water when uncertain of ice thickness and strength of ice on lakes and ponds. Snow cover can act as a blanket and prevent safe ice from forming. Always remember that ice is never safe.

• DRESS APPROPRIATELY - Use a full-size helmet, goggles or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice, and flying debris. Clothing should be worn in layers and should be just snug enough so that no loose ends catch in the machine.

• WATCH THE WEATHER - Rapid weather changes can produce dangerous conditions.

• BRING A BUDDY - Never travel alone. Most snowmobile accidents result in some personal injury. The most dangerous situations can occur if a person is injured and alone.

• REPORT ACCIDENTS - The operator of a snowmobile involved in an accident resulting in medical attention, hospitalization, death, or damage exceeding $500 must file a written report with the DNR. Accident reports must be submitted within 10 business days of the accident. If the operator is killed or is unable to file a report due to incapacitation, any peace officer investigating the accident can file the accident report. Report forms are available from local law enforcement agencies or on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/enforcement/forms.html.

Wild turkey stamp contest entries accepted through Dec. 29
From the DNR

Artists can submit entries for the 2016 Minnesota Wild Turkey Stamp contest from Monday, Dec. 8, through 4 p.m., Monday, Dec. 29, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The turkey stamp is sold along with hunting and fishing licenses or as a collectable. In the contest, the eastern wild turkey must be the primary focus of the design. Judging will take place on Thursday, Jan. 8, at DNR headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road, in St. Paul.

Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to wild turkey habitat management.

Extirpated from Minnesota around 1900, wild turkeys now thrive throughout all but the northern forested portions of the state.

The contest offers no prizes and is open to Minnesota residents only.

Artists are not allowed to use any photographic product as part of their finished entries.

Winning artists usually issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain proceeds.

Artists who want to submit entries should closely read contest criteria and guidelines for submitting work, available from the DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155, and online at www.mndnr.gov/contests.

CO weekly reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers last week.
CO Mies also checked muzzleloaders this past weekend.
CO Mies also worked on deer investigations.

• CO Brent Grewe (Minnetonka) spent the week monitoring hunting and fishing activity.
CO Grewe spoke to a high school class interested in the profession and followed up with complaints.
Violations included possessing otter during the closed season and license issues.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked the muzzleloader deer opener, 3B and 601 shotgun seasons finding very few deer taken.
Pheasant hunters were out but pheasants are a rare site.
Ice anglers are now venturing out having success but the ice was still not very safe.

• CO Nicholas Klehr (Litchfield) spent most of the week checking ice fishermen taking advantage of the cold ice making weather.
Time was also spent dealing with trespass complaints during the week.
There were quite a few muzzleloader hunters that took advantage of the nice weather for the opener.
Pheasant hunters were also out and about and having some luck over the Thanksgiving weekend.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked ice anglers enjoying the good early ice and good weather.
Hunters enjoyed nice weather on the opening day of muzzleloader, but still had little success.
Coyote hunters, pheasant hunters and trappers were checked during the week as well.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) checked mostly small game hunters.
Oberg checked a few pheasant hunters that didn’t feel it was necessary to carry their license with them.
One hunter took it a step further and thought it was a good idea to hunt in a closed State Game Refuge.
Snowmobile activity was also worked in the area with registration, safety training, and equipment violations observed.
Oberg also assisted Wisconsin Wardens with a case.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: It seems like you see more and more wild turkeys these days near urban areas.

Is this just cyclical, or has their population shifted?

A: Turkeys are another species of wildlife that have adapted to living in close proximity to people.

Prohibitions on hunting, the relative lack of predators, and the abundant food sources found in urban and suburban landscapes contribute to high reproductive success and low mortality for turkeys and other wildlife.

The preservation of nearby natural areas, including river corridors, wetlands, parks and backyards, provides habitat for wildlife species that many people feel contribute to a higher urban quality of life.