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Hunters can use nearly 23,000 acres of Walk-In Access land this fall - Sep 28, 2015


Hunters in western and south-central Minnesota can access a total 22,800 acres through the Walk-In Access program that allows public hunting on private land, representing an increase of 1,700 acres this year.

“This program is great for those hunting pheasants, upland birds, deer and other game because hunters gain access to land without having to knock on doors to seek permission,” said Jesse Roberts, Department of Natural Resources Walk-In Access coordinator.

Bright yellow-green signs have been placed on Walk-In Access boundaries. Maps of all sites are available for viewing at www.mndnr.gov/walkin. Printed atlases of Walk-In Access sites are being distributed across western and south-central Minnesota to DNR license agents, area wildlife offices, and county soil and water conservation district offices. Wildlife office locations can be found at www.mndnr.gov/contact/locator.html. The atlases also will be available by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367.

The Walk-In Access program provides public access to private land and pays landowners by the acre to allow hunting access from Sept. 1 to May 31. Most Walk-In Access land is also enrolled in private land conservation programs or has natural cover. Small inclusions of cropland or hay land may be present.

Hunters must have a Walk-In Access Validation ($3) on their hunting license to legally access Walk-In Access land.

The 2015 Minnesota pheasant season opens Saturday, Oct. 10, and seasons for several other small game species are already open.

Seeking permanent funding
The Walk-in Access program is funded from a combination of state appropriations and federal grant dollars.

In August, a $1.67 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program will extend the program through at least the 2017-18 hunting seasons. Over the three years of the grant, the program has a goal of adding an additional 8,000 acres of Walk-In Access land, making about 30,000 available for hunting.
“Gaining access to these lands is vital to keep our hunting traditions thriving in this part of the state. The DNR has a 2015 Minnesota Pheasant Summit Action Plan, and in that plan we have made securing permanent funding for the Walk-In Access program one of the 10 action items,” said Kevin Lines, pheasant action plan coordinator. “We need a permanent, stable source for this funding to avoid putting hunting opportunities at risk.”

For more about the Pheasant Summit Action Plan, see www.mndnr.gov/pheasantaction.

DNR still seeking input on Leech Lake management plan update - Sep 28, 2015

Leech Lake – one of Minnesota’s 10 large walleye lakes – has a new draft management plan and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking input through Oct. 9.

The plan outlines the proposed five-year fish population objectives and fisheries management actions. It incorporates the recommendations of the 16-member Leech Lake Fisheries Input Group, which has held six meetings since February 2015.

Input is being taken at www.mndnr.gov/leechlake. The Web page includes a video introduction to each survey section, information considered by the input group and the group’s final report.

Public comments will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 9, online at www.mndnr.gov/leechlake. Paper questionnaires also are available at the DNR’s Walker area fisheries office, 07316 State 371 NW, Walker. Comments will be reviewed and considered in October and November. The final Leech Lake management plan will be completed in December. For more information, contact the DNR’s Walker area fisheries office at 218-547-1683.

Avoid deer-vehicle crashes this fall - Sep 28, 2015

Most deer-vehicle crashes statewide occur from September through January, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The combination of fewer daylight hours with the increased movement of deer due to mating season and hunting season increases the risk of collisions between deer and vehicles.

Though most people would expect these crashes to be more likely in rural areas, motorists in urban areas also need to watch out for these dangerous — and sometimes deadly — accidents involving deer.

Use these driving tips to help avoid collisions with deer:

  • See the signs: Deer-crossing signs are posted in high-risk areas. Drive with caution, especially in the posted areas.
  • Deer often run together: If one deer is near or crossing the road, expect that others may follow.
  • Danger from dusk to dawn: Watch for deer especially at dawn and after sunset. About 20 percent of these crashes occur in early morning, while more than half occur between 5 p.m. and midnight.
  • Safety begins behind the wheel: Always wear safety belts and drive at safe, sensible speeds for road conditions.
  • Never swerve to avoid a deer in the road. Swerving can confuse the deer on where to run. Swerving also can cause a head-on collision with oncoming vehicles, take the vehicle off the roadway into a tree or a ditch and increase the chances of serious injuries.

If a vehicle strikes a deer, motorists should report the crash by calling local law enforcement, the sheriff’s department, the Minnesota State Patrol or the Department of Natural Resources.

Hunters: Blaze orange clothing required - Sep 28, 2015

With Minnesota’s small game hunting season underway, conservation officers (CO) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report some hunters not wearing required blaze orange clothing.
“The blaze orange requirement is for safety,” said CO Marty Stage of Ely. “One hunter said that he wasn’t very far from his home, to excuse him from needing blaze orange.”

Making a blaze orange fashion statement this fall might not get you on the best-dressed list, but it just might save your life.

“Wearing blaze orange clothing is a safety requirement to hunt or trap during Minnesota’s small game season or firearms deer season,” said Jon Paurus, DNR enforcement education program coordinator. “It’s important to be seen by others.”
Small game seasons: At least one visible article of clothing above the waist must be blaze orange when taking small game, except when hunting migratory birds from a blind or on the water, wild turkeys, raccoons or predators, when hunting by falconry, when trapping (outside deer seasons) or when hunting deer by archery while stationary.

Deer season: The visible portion of at least one item of a cap and one item of outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves, must be blaze orange when hunting or trapping during any open season where deer may be taken by firearms (including special hunts, early antlerless, youth seasons and muzzleloader). Blaze orange includes a camouflage pattern of at least 50 percent blaze orange within each square foot.

“The failure to wear to wear blaze orange puts a hunter in jeopardy of not being seen by someone who does not take the time to properly identify their target and what’s beyond it,” Paurus said.

Paurus recommends faded blaze orange garments be replaced.

“Blaze orange clothing is a tremendous aid in helping hunters maintain visual contact with one another, particularly when moving through dense cover or woods,” Paurus said. “Any hunter who has ever identified someone strictly by seeing blaze orange knows its value in keeping track of other hunters in the field, especially in low light conditions.”

For those who use ground blinds, Paurus said to remember to place some blaze orange on the outside of the blind for others to see.

Some safety tips for non-hunters:

  • Wear bright clothing. Choose colors that stand out, like red, orange or green, and avoid white, blacks, browns, earth-toned greens and animal-colored clothing. Blaze orange vests and hats are advisable.
  • Be courteous. Don’t make unnecessary noise to disturb wildlife. Avoid confrontations.
  • Know the dates of hunting seasons. Learn about where and when hunting is taking place.

Good waterfowl opener expected this weekend - Sep 24, 2015


Hunting is expected to be good when Minnesota’s regular waterfowl season opens a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, Sept. 26.

“This is a great year to get out into the marsh, especially if you haven’t been duck hunting in the past few years,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “There are lots of opportunities to find uncrowded areas to hunt, and duck numbers look strong compared to our long term average.”

Mallard abundance from a continental spring survey that includes Minnesota is used to determine overall duck season length. This year’s estimate was 11.8 million mallards, which was well above the long-term average. Since 1997, duck season length has been 60 days each year, and the mallard population has ranged from 6.8 million to 11.8 million.

Duck seasons and limits
The duck season structure is similar to recent years, although the DNR adjusted season dates in the south duck zone based on hunter preferences.

The waterfowl seasons are based on a federal framework that applies to all states in the Mississippi Flyway. Waterfowl hunting regulations are available wherever DNR licenses are sold and online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting.

Duck season will be open for 60 days in each of the three waterfowl zones:

  • In the north zone, duck season is Saturday, Sept. 26, through Tuesday, Nov. 24.
  • In the central zone, duck season is Saturday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 4, closes for five days, then reopens Saturday, Oct. 10, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 29.
  • In the south zone, duck season is Saturday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 4, closes for 10 days, then reopens Thursday, Oct. 15, and runs through Friday, Dec. 4. The re-opening coincides with the annual statewide teachers’ conference on Oct. 15-16 when many schools do not schedule classes.

The only bag limit change from the 2015 season is for canvasback, which increases from one to two per day. The daily duck bag limit remains six ducks per day. The mallard bag limit remains four per day, including two hen mallards. The daily bag limits remain at three for wood duck and three for scaup.

The DNR will post a weekly waterfowl migration report each week during the duck season. The reports are typically posted on Thursday at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

Goose and sandhill crane seasons
Minnesota’s regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season statewide on Sept. 26, with a bag limit of three dark geese per day the entire season. “Dark” geese include Canada geese, white-fronted geese and brant. Goose season will be closed in the central and south duck zones when duck season is closed.
The season for sandhill cranes remains open through Sunday, Oct. 18, in the northwest goose and sandhill crane zone only. The daily bag limit will be one sandhill crane per day. A $3 sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license.

More information on duck, goose, sandhill crane and other migratory bird hunting is available in the 2015 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations booklet from license vendors and online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

Visit Minnesota state forests for fall color driving tours - Sep 24, 2015


Those looking for a scenic drive to take during peak fall color should consider visiting a state forest, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“State forests are an excellent place to see fall color,” said Jennifer Teegarden, forestry outreach specialist for the DNR. “Hilly or rugged areas dominated by deciduous trees tend to have the best mix of color. And the dark green needles of conifers accent the yellow, orange and red leaves of deciduous trees in mixed forests.”

Here are a few state forests and routes to consider:

Late September

  • Finland State Forest heading northeast along Country Road 7 from Finland. 
  • Smoky Hills State Forest along state Highway 34 between Park Rapids and Detroit Lakes
  • St. Croix State Forest along County Road 25 south of Duxbury to the Mallard Lake Forest Road.

Early October

  • Big Fork and Bowstring state forests along state Highway 38 between Grand Rapids and Effie.
  • Rum River State Forest along Rum River State Forest Road off of Highway 20.


  • Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest has two good options:
    • Along Zumbro Bottoms Road off state Highway 60 southwest of Wabasha.
    • Along state Highway 16 between Interstate 90 and state Highway 26.

More information about state forests is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/stateforests. Entrance into a state forest is free. State forest campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $14 a night.

Visit the Minnesota state parks and trails Fall Color Finder at www.mndnr.gov/fall_colors to find areas with peak fall color. The Fall Color Finder is updated every Thursday through the end of October.

Take a Kid Hunting Weekend is Sept. 26-27 - Sep 24, 2015

Small game hunting is the focus of Take a Kid Hunting Weekend this Saturday, Sept. 26, and Sunday, Sept. 27, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

During the weekend, adult Minnesota residents accompanied by a youth under age 16 can hunt small game without a license, but must comply with open seasons, limits and other regulations.

“This is an opportunity to pass on your passion for the outdoors and make some memories,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “Hunting small game teaches valuable skills that can be a stepping stone toward big-game hunting.”

For more information on small game hunting and hunting regulations, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting/smallgame.

DNR seeks designs for Minnesota’s 2016 walleye stamp - Sep 24, 2015

Artists can submit entries for the 2016 Minnesota Walleye Stamp from Monday, Oct. 5, through Friday, Oct. 16.

The voluntary walleye stamp validation costs $5 but is not required to fish for or keep walleye. For an extra 75 cents, purchasers will be mailed the pictorial stamp. A pictorial collectable stamp without the validation is available for $5.75. Walleye stamps are available year-round and are not required to be purchased at the same time as fishing licenses.

“When people voluntarily buy walleye stamps, the money they pay goes into an account dedicated to walleye stocking,” said Neil Vanderbosch, fisheries program consultant for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We use this money to buy walleye from certified private producers.”

The stamp contest offers no prizes and is open to Minnesota residents only. The walleye must be the primary focus of the design, though other fish species may be included in the design if they are used to depict common interaction between species or are common inhabitants of Minnesota lakes and rivers.

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. Judging will take place 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at DNR Headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul.

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, by calling 651-296-6157 or at 888-646-6367, or on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/contests/stamps.html.

2 youths honored by DNR for their conservation efforts - Sept 21, 2015

Sander Ludeman (left) and Daniel Williamson were honored for their conservation efforts.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently honored two youths for their outstanding conservation efforts during a ceremony held Sept. 4, at the Minnesota State Fair.

Sander Ludeman from Lake Crystal, in Blue Earth County, received the 4-H award, and Daniel Williamson from Spicer, in Kandiyohi County, received the Future Farmers of America (FFA) award during a ceremony held at the DNR Stage.

The DNR Commissioner’s Youth Awards are given annually to an FFA student and a 4-H member who have demonstrated initiative, leadership, creativity and achievement in conservation and wise use of natural and agricultural resources. This is the 24th year of the award program.

Ludeman has a passion for the outdoors and loves to swim and fish. He noticed the degraded quality of the water in Crystal Lake and ask his parents, “What can I do?” He then reached out to his neighbors and to local partners like the Crystal Waters Project.

His project, titled “Fighting for Fish,” focused on building and installing floating vegetation islands to absorb excess nutrients from Crystal Lake, and an adopt-a-drain program to engage the community in preventing contaminants from entering the lake.

“Sander’s efforts haven’t stopped there,” Landwehr said. “On Sept. 12, he spoke at a ‘Crystal Concert,’ an event to help raise funds for clean-up of the lakes around Lake Crystal.”

Sander is the son of Breanna and Sander Ludeman.

Williamson received the Commissioner’s FFA Youth Award. He lives in Spicer on a certified organic farm with his parents – a farm he wants to take over someday. He wondered if the water running through their farm had chemicals in it, and whether a wetland was improving water quality.

With encouragement from his parents, Williamson reached out to his local soil and water conservation district office and the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District for help in answering these questions.

“Daniel’s multi-year project is testing water clarity, nitrate and phosphate levels in a drainage ditch and the water leaving a wetland,” Landwehr said. “With help from his partners at the watershed district, Daniel has learned how to collect and prepare water sampling, and analyze the results. He is in year two of his three-year plan and has already learned a great deal.”

Daniel is the son of Donnel and Christa Williamson.

Minnesota state parks report big increase in visitors - Sep 21, 2015

A post-Labor Day report from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows a significant increase in the number of people buying permits and staying overnight at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas in 2015 compared with 2014. Erika Rivers, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division, expects the upward trend to continue as fall color spreads across the state.

“We are anticipating a lot of visitors at parks this fall, enjoying good weather and fall colors,” she said.

The new report shows that year-to-date (Jan. 1-Sept. 7) sales of one-day permits in 2015 are up 16 percent over the same time period in 2014, and sales of year-round permits are up 12 percent. Overnight stays also are up by 9 percent compared with last year. These results continue the trend of steady increases over the past several years.

Earlier data showed that, between fiscal year 2013 (July 1 to June 30) and fiscal year 2015:

  • Sales of one-day vehicle permits ($5) increased 24 percent.
  • Sales of year-round vehicle permits ($25) increased 19 percent.
  • Overnight stays increased 13 percent.

“We’re pleased to see such a significant increase in the number of people making time to get outdoors,” said Rivers, “and we hope today’s visitors will pass along their love of the outdoors to the next generation so that the trend continues.”

To appeal to that next generation, the Parks and Trails Division has added mountain bike trails, yurts and Wi-Fi at state parks. It also has added kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, free use of fishing kits and GPS units, and a series of I Can! programs that teach beginners how to camp, fish, rock climb, paddle and more. New outreach strategies include touch-screen kiosks, social media and a variety of online trip-planning tools, including virtual tours and ParkFinder, which sorts parks by desired features, such as whether they have a beach, a bike trail and naturalist programs.

“Legacy funding has made many of these updates possible,” Rivers said. The Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov, email or call the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 651-296-6157, 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mystery Cave announces fall tour schedule - Sept. 17, 2015


Autumn is a beautiful time of year to make the scenic drive to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in the southeastern corner of Minnesota. Fall color typically peaks in early to mid-October, and cave tours will continue through Nov. 1.

“Stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones await those who traverse the passageways at Mystery Cave,” said interpretive naturalist Bob Storlie. “On a guided tour, you will learn how water has transformed the limestone, see underground pools and view fossils that are over 450 million years old.”

The popular one-hour Scenic Cave Tour will take place during the following times this fall:

  • Weekdays — Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 9 to Oct. 2, tours daily at 1:30 p.m.
  • Weekends (and during the Education Minnesota break Oct. 15-18) — Saturday and Sunday, September through Nov. 1, tours on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tours are $12 per person age 13 and over, $7 for children ages 5-12, free for children age 4 and under. Discounted rates are available for school groups (10 or more) who contact the park at least one week in advance. A state park vehicle permit ($5/one-day or $25/year-round) is also required.

For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov/mysterycave or call 507-937-3251. To make tour reservations, visit www.mndnr.gov/reservations or call 866-857-2757.

DNR seeks public involvement in northeastern Minnesota forest plan - Sept. 17, 2015

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites the public to view a recorded presentation and weigh in on a forest management plan being prepared for a large section of northeastern Minnesota.

The presentation is at www.mndnr.gov/forestry/subsection/active.html. After viewing, the public can provide input through a survey available through Oct 17.

The recording, NSU Alternative Harvest Scenarios, reviews alternative harvest scenarios for DNR forest lands in the northern Superior uplands (NSU) section. It outlines forest issues such as maintaining a sustainable harvest level, amounts of lowland conifers reserved from harvest, and amounts of young and old forest maintained in the planning area.

People are asked to rate the relative importance of these forest management issues, and provide other comments on the forest planning process. The DNR will use survey responses and comments to determine future harvest management on DNR-administered lands.

This is the second of three presentations the DNR is using to seek public input as forest management plans are prepared. The three presentations are:

  • Introduction and Background on the Subsection Forest Resource Management Planning Process (posted June 2014).
  • NSU Alternative Harvest Scenarios.
  • Review of the Draft NSU plan (scheduled for early 2016).

Before reviewing the current webinar, the DNR recommends people review the first presentation, which explains changes to the planning process since the first generation of plans were implemented. The first presentation can be found at www.mndnr.gov/forestry/subsection/active.html.

The current presentation and survey will be available for public review and input through Oct. 17. Background on the DNR’s forestry planning process, goals and objectives can be viewed at www.mndnr.gov/forestry/subsection/index.html.

Grouse hunting is a great way to enjoy fall; season opens Sept. 19 - Sept 14


Fall color begins to show, an occasional crisp morning arrives – both are telltale signs that the hunting season opener for grouse, Minnesota’s most popular game bird, is right around the corner.

“Here in Minnesota we have some of the best grouse hunting opportunities in the nation,” said Ted Dick, forest game bird coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Our state has an extensive system of nonmotorized hunter walking trails, and much of our 17 million acres of forest land is open to public hunting.”

The season for ruffed and spruce grouse runs from Saturday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Jan. 3, 2015; and for sharp-tailed grouse from Sept. 19 through Sunday, Nov. 30.

“Visibility will improve for grouse hunters as leaves drop, and enjoying the fall colors is part of the experience – even if the vegetation makes shooting more difficult,” Dick said. “Grouse season is really best during September and October, so many hunters like to get out as early and as often as they can in those months. Many hunters can’t wait to get out on the opener.”

The grouse season looks promising this year. Weather was favorable for grouse reproduction and chick survival in spring and summer, and there are stable numbers of adult grouse that survived the winter.

“We’ve heard from people that they’ve been seeing some good-sized broods of grouse and well-developed broods,” Dick said. “Anecdotally, we’re expecting lots of young grouse in the fall.”

For new grouse hunters
Grouse hunting does not require lots of up-front investment. Grouse hunters need a blaze-orange hat or vest, a shotgun, a good pair of boots and a valid small-game license.

“Grouse are usually well-concealed until they explode from the brush in a startling flush, making them one of the more challenging game birds to hunt,” Dick said. “Despite the challenge, because of their high numbers in this state and grouse hunters’ ability to hunt with friends, family and dogs, they can make for a good introduction to upland bird hunting. And grouse make great table fare.”

Grouse hunters can use just about any gauge shotgun, with 28-, 20-, 16- and 12-guages being the most commonly used, usually with No. 7-1/2 target or field loads. The daily limit for ruffed and spruce grouse is five combined with a possession limit of 10. The daily limit for sharp-tailed grouse is three with a possession limit of six.

Last year, more hunters added grouse hunting trips to their calendars. Minnesota ruffed grouse hunter numbers were estimated at 83,020 in 2014, an increase of 11 percent from 2013, according to the DNR’s annual small game survey.

Grouse numbers for this season
Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.

Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting. Based on drumming survey results, grouse numbers held steady from 2013 to 2014. For hunters, however, there may be other reasons for optimism this year.

“Hunters know that while the number of adults that survive the winter is an important factor in how good the hunting will be, another important factor is the production and survival of young birds,” Dick said.

Cold, wet weather in June makes it difficult for grouse chicks to survive and can affect the number of birds a hunter will run across in the fall. The good news this year was Minnesota had a relatively dry June, and anecdotal evidence suggests that grouse chick survival was good, according to Dick.

“Good chick survival can really make a difference in how enjoyable a person’s fall hunting trip will be, so I’m optimistic about the prospects based on what I’ve seen and heard,” Dick said.

Learning about where to hunt
Coming this fall, the DNR will have a new Web page that will allow hunters to easily access information on the state’s 50 ruffed grouse management areas.

“When completed, this page will provide easy-access maps and downloadable digital information in a variety of formats,” Dick said. “While Minnesota has an abundance of public land suitable for grouse hunting, these areas will help new hunters find a place to try grouse hunting, or help the seasoned hunter find a starting place in an unfamiliar area they want to check out.”

There are 528 wildlife management areas in the ruffed grouse range that cover nearly 1 million acres, 50 designated ruffed grouse management areas and 600 miles of hunter walking trails.

Search for hunter walking trails online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/hwt. State forests, two national forests and county forest lands also offer many additional acres of public land for grouse hunting. Find public land on which to hunt by using the DNR’s Recreation Compass at www.mndnr.gov/maps/compass.html.

Submit samples for studies
Sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chicken hunters can voluntarily submit samples from birds they harvest in Minnesota for two DNR studies. One study aims to better understand how these birds move through the landscape. The other is assessing prairie grouse exposure to chemicals called neonicotinoids through consumption of treated seeds and other means. Hunters can choose to submit samples for either study or both.

For more information on grouse hunting and submitting samples for the DNR studies, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.

Whitefish and tullibee sport-netting to open on northern lakes - Sept 14

Recreational netting for whitefish and tullibee opens Friday, Oct. 9, on designated lakes that are less susceptible to sudden changes that impact water temperature, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

These lakes, known as Schedule II lakes, offer recreational netting on the following schedule:

  • Schedule II A lakes open Friday, Oct. 9, and close Sunday, Dec. 6.
  • Schedule II B lakes open Friday, Nov. 6 and close Sunday, Dec. 13.
  • Schedule II C lakes open Friday, Nov. 13, and close Sunday Dec. 13.

Schedule I Lakes, which are more susceptible to factors that impact water temperatures, will be opened and closed on a 48-hour notice posted at lake accesses, other public places and the DNR website.

The DNR recommends drying nets for 10 days or freezing for two days before moving a net to a new lake, or netting only one lake in a season. Netting in infested waters may be restricted or closed to sport netting of whitefish and tullibee. See fishing regulations for list of infested waters or online at www.mndnr.gov/invasives/ais/infested.html.
A complete list of all Schedule I and II lakes, status of the seasonal openings and closures, as well as detailed netting regulations are available online at www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing or by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296 6157 in the Twin Cities metro area or toll-free at 1-888-646-6367 in greater Minnesota.

About 700 people obtain permits to net for whitefish and tullibee each year. DNR bases netting schedules on expected water temperatures. As the water temperature cools, most game fish head to deeper water while whitefish and tullibee come to shallow water for fall spawning. Netting is allowed when there is little chance that game fish populations would be negatively impacted by recreational netting in shallow water.

Minnesota law restricts the size of the net and its openings; requires that netting be done in water not deeper than six feet unless specifically authorized; stipulates that netted fish cannot be sold; and requires that any game fish caught must be immediately returned to the lake. State law also limits net size to 100 feet long and 3 feet deep; allows one person to use no more than one net; and forbids recreational netters from possessing angling equipment when netting whitefish and tullibee. Whitefish and tullibee harvested during the sport gillnetting season cannot be used for bait.

Reminder: Regional meetings to explore improving spring wild turkey season - Sept 14

ow to increase hunter opportunity and satisfaction during the spring wild turkey season will be the focus of four public discussion meetings hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in late September and October.

Spring turkey hunting in Minnesota has grown from 400 hunters harvesting 94 turkeys in 1978 to 47,000 hunters harvesting 11,734 birds in 2015. The record harvest occurred in 2010 when 46,500 hunters took nearly 13,500 turkeys.

Despite unlimited license availability, expanded youth and archery opportunities and an increasing turkey range, the number of people who turkey hunt appears to be plateauing. Anyone can register to attend one of the four regional turkey hunting meetings that will take place in St. Paul on Tuesday, Sept. 29; New Ulm on Wednesday, Sept. 30; Winona on Tuesday, Oct. 6; or Alexandria on Thursday, Oct. 8. All meetings will take place from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and include refreshments.

Registration is requested because space is limited to 36 participants per meeting. People can register between Thursday, Sept. 3, and Friday, Sept. 25, on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/turkey or by calling 651-259-5204. There is no registration fee.

DNR predicts spectacular fall color season - Sept 10
Weekly updates to online fall color finder begin Sept. 10


To help travelers plan their fall hikes, bike rides, paddling trips and scenic drives to coincide as closely as possible with peak color, staff at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will update an online fall color finder at www.mndnr.gov/fallcolor every Thursday, starting Sept. 10.

This online trip-planning tool includes a map showing where to find peak color across the state, a link to fall color programs and special events, a slideshow and a photo uploader that provides an easy way for people to share their favorite fall color images.

“Current weather conditions indicate we’re on track for a great fall color year,” said Patricia Arndt, communications and outreach manager for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division. “With the exception of dry weather in northeastern Minnesota, most of the state has had close to or above-average precipitation, making for healthy, green trees going into fall. If we continue to have adequate rainfall as nights become longer, the autumn display should be spectacular.”

A “Colors of the Prairie” program at Afton State Park (Sept. 12), a “Million Shades of Autumn” geocaching event at William O’Brien State Park (Sept. 19), a lantern-lit hike at Itasca State Park (Sept. 26), and a guided bike ride along the Luce Line State Trail (Oct. 10) are just some of the many upcoming programs naturalists have planned.

These and other family-oriented fall color programs are listed in the 2015 “Fall Sampler” brochure available at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, at Twin Cities libraries and at metro area outdoor retail stores. The DNR Information Center will also mail the brochure to anyone who requests it. Fall programs can also be found online at www.mndnr.gov/fallcolor.

Colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third (which includes the Twin Cities). Peak fall color typically lasts about two weeks, but that can vary widely, depending on location, elevation and weather. Trees at higher elevations are the earliest to show color change.

For smart phone and tablet users, the DNR offers fall colors “to go” on a mobile fall color finder integrated with Google maps. To access the mobile version, scan the QR code at http://mndnr.gov/mobile or visit www.mndnr.gov/mobile/fall_colors and bookmark the site.

For more information, contact the DNR Information Center by sending an email to info.dnr@state.mn.us or by calling 888-646-6367.

DNR seeks applications for Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee - Sept 10

People interested in being more actively involved in fisheries management on Mille Lacs Lake can apply to serve on a newly formed Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee.

Committee members will be appointed by the Department of Natural Resources commissioner and will advise the DNR on fisheries management programs and related issues for Mille Lacs Lake.

“This committee will play an important role in furthering the dialogue about Mille Lacs Lake and focusing on issues relevant to the state’s management of the lake,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “We want committee members and the public to have a more structured and participative process to provide meaningful input, with a goal of reaching a shared understanding with the DNR about issues and potential solutions affecting the Mille Lacs Lake fishery.”

Members will be appointed to serve terms of at least two years on the committee. Membership on the committee will include a diversity of angling interests; local business and tourism interests; tribal and academic representation; and local county officials. To improve openness and transparency of technical discussions, two committee members will also be asked to attend meetings of the state and tribal fisheries technical committee as observers.

The new committee will replace the Mille Lacs Fisheries Input Group, which was formed in 1997 and consisted of citizens and business owners from the Mille Lacs Lake area.

People who want to apply have until Thursday, Sept. 24 to submit applications. Information about the committee structure, functions, expectations of appointed members, and how to apply are available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake or by calling 651-259-5221.

Maplewood State Park to celebrate prairie restoration projects - Sept 10


The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division will celebrate the importance of Legacy Amendment funding to prairie restoration in state parks, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Saturday, Sept. 26 at Maplewood State Park in Pelican Rapids. The event is in conjunction with the annual Friends of Maplewood State Park Leaf Days celebration.

The Legacy Amendment event will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a self-guided prairie restoration tour and demonstrations.

The 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at a new prairie restoration site adjacent to the Josh Hanson Memorial Picnic Shelter. It will include remarks by Parks and Trails Division restoration staff and Don DelGreco, Maplewood State Park manager.

Following the ribbon-cutting, visitors can take a self-guided prairie restoration tour while they enjoy a scenic fall color drive through the park. There will be demonstrations at various sites along the way, and site hosts will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to answer questions.

Prairie restoration in Minnesota state parks is made possible by the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

Since the initiation of Legacy funding in 2009, the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division has restored over 6,000 acres of prairies and forest at a cost of about $9 million.

“Legacy Amendment funding has been a key factor in supporting prairie restoration in Minnesota state parks,” said Erika Rivers, Parks and Trails Division director. “Come see how five years of Legacy funding has allowed us to restore native prairie plant, wildlife and pollinator habitat in Maplewood State Park.”

The tallgrass prairie once covered about one-third of Minnesota (about 18 million acres), according to the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, a 25-year strategy for accelerating conservation of native prairie, other grasslands, wetlands and shallow lakes in the state.

ver the last 150 years, much of Minnesota’s prairie land has been converted to agricultural use. As a result, bison, elk, badgers and other key species that depend on prairie habitat for survival have declined, or in some cases, disappeared from the state.

Less than 2 percent of Minnesota’s native prairie land remains (approximately 235,076 acres in 71 counties). Northwestern Minnesota holds areas with at least some of features of a functioning prairie system.

“In the northwest region, Legacy funding has helped restoration and enhancement of several thousand acres of prairie, as well as buffering and improving some of the best remnants of native prairie in the state,” said Cindy Lueth, Parks and Trails Division northwest region resource specialist. “These restorations are important to increase habitat for native pollinators, as well as grassland-loving species of birds and mammals.”

Leaf Days activities at Maplewood State Park will continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27; Saturday, Oct. 3; and Sunday, Oct. 4.

For more information on the Legacy Amendment projects and funding, visit www.mndnr.gov/legacy.

For more information on Maplewood State Park, visit www.mndnr.gov/state_parks.

To view the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, visit www.mndnr.gov/prairieplan.

Surplus permits available for Camp Ripley archery hunts - Sept 10

Hunters who missed the lottery deadline for the Camp Ripley archery hunt can purchase surplus permits on a first-come first-served basis beginning 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18.

A total of 656 permits remain for the first hunt which runs Thursday, Oct. 15 and Friday, Oct. 16, while 123 permits remain for the second hunt which runs Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1. A person may only purchase a permit for one of the hunts.

Hunters can purchase a surplus permit at any DNR license agent or online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense. Permits will remain on-sale as long as they are available, or until Friday, Oct. 2. Individuals who purchase a surplus permit will retain their accumulated preference for future Camp Ripley hunts. The cost of the permit is $12.

Hunters will need to use code 677 and then choose from one of the two hunt dates: Oct. 15-16 (Thursday and Friday, code 668) or Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 (Saturday and Sunday, code 669). Successful applicants will receive a hunt packet in the mail, which includes a notice that is required to enter the gates at Camp Ripley.

The bag limit for this year’s hunt is one deer, and bonus permits may be used to take antlerless deer. Additional rules and instructions are available at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources deer hunting Web page at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

The archery hunt at Camp Ripley is an annual event. The DNR coordinates the hunt with the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.

Roseville artist wins 2016 duck stamp contest - Sept 10

waterfowl stamp

Roseville artist Edward DuRose won the 2016 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp contest with a painting of an American wigeon. The painting was selected by judges from among 15 submissions for the annual contest that started in 1977, the Department of Natural Resources said.

DuRose’s painting will be featured on the 2016 duck stamp. His artwork was previously featured on the duck stamp after he won the contest in 1994 with his image of a ring-necked duck.

The waterfowl stamp validation costs $7.50 and is required for waterfowl hunters ages 18 to 64. For an extra 75 cents, purchasers can receive the validation as well as the pictorial stamp in the mail. A pictorial collectable stamp without the validation is available for $8.25 but is not valid for hunting. Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to waterfowl management and habitat work.

Four entries advanced as finalists and were selected Sept. 3 at DNR headquarters in St. Paul. Other finalists were Nicholas Markell, second place; Kurt Kegler and Tyler Maddaus, tied for third place; and Timothy Turenne, fifth place.

The 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 2017 stamp design will be the redhead.

Reminder: Twins offer free hat through partnership with DNR - Sept 10

Anyone with a 2015 Minnesota hunting or fishing license can receive a free camouflage Twins logo baseball cap by being among the first 500 to buy Minnesota Twins tickets through a special offer online at www.mndnr.gov/twins.

The offer is good for these upcoming Twins home games:

  • Saturday, Sept. 19, vs. Los Angeles Angels.
  • Saturday, Oct. 3, vs. Kansas City Royals.

New this year: Tickets are available in upper and lower decks with varying prices by location and game. Ticket buyers pick up their cap at the game.

Purchase tickets at www.mndnr.gov/twins and enter the transaction number, which is printed on the hunting or fishing license. The offer is available only through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Twins Web page. Minnesota 2015 fishing and hunting licenses can be purchased and printed online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense or at any DNR license agent.

State pheasant index rebounds 33 percent; habitat loss continues

pheasant brood

Favorable weather conditions led to a 33 percent increase in the number of Minnesota pheasants compared to last year at this time. However, the 2015 pheasant index is 39 percent below the 10-year average and 59 percent below the long-term average. Habitat loss continues to be the main factor in a long-term decline of the state’s pheasant population, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Habitat loss still poses serious threats to pheasant populations and other grassland wildlife,” said Nicole Davros, a DNR research scientist. “The short-term increase is good news that results from a mild winter and relatively favorable weather during the nesting season – conditions that led to increases in the roadside index for many farmland wildlife game species.”

Minnesota’s 2015 pheasant season begins Saturday, Oct. 10, and ends Sunday, Jan. 3.

Roadside survey data
The DNR’s August roadside survey for pheasants showed a 33 percent increase in the overall pheasant index from 2014. This year’s statewide pheasant index was 40.7 birds per 100 miles of roadside driven.

Weather and habitat are the two main factors that drive Minnesota’s pheasant population trends. Weather causes annual fluctuations in roadside indices. Undisturbed grassland habitat for nesting and brood-rearing drives the longer-term pattern.

All regions showed increases in the roadside pheasant index compared to 2014 except for the south-central region, which stayed the same as last year. The highest pheasant counts by number of pheasants were in the southwest, west-central and east-central regions, where observers reported 46 to 76 birds per 100 miles driven. Looking at percentage increases from 2014, the highest were in the central, east-central, and southeast regions with increases of 44 percent, 126 percent and 138 percent, respectively. Hunters will find good harvest opportunities in these areas.

Pheasant populations: short-term gains, long-term loss
“The relatively mild winter and good nesting season conditions have really helped our pheasant population across their range this year. It just goes to show you how resilient these birds can be if given the right conditions,” said Davros, who oversees the August roadside survey.

The loss of nesting habitat, especially Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, is the primary reason there has been a steady decline in Minnesota’s pheasant harvest since the mid-2000s.

Minnesota has lost 153,492 acres of CRP since last year and greater than 247,000 acres of CRP since 2007. Many more acres – likely more than 495,000 acres – could expire by 2018 if contracts are not renewed or new acres are not enrolled into the program.

“The future trend for pheasants, and all grassland-dependent wildlife, does not look good unless we can find ways to keep habitat on the ground,” Davros said.

Winter conditions and survival
Good winter conditions led to higher overwinter survival of hens, which were up 32 percent from last year. Higher winter hen survival means more pheasant nests in the spring.

One important indicator of annual reproduction is the number of broods observed per 100 miles. The 2015 brood index increased 35 percent from last year. The number of broods per 100 hens increased 2 percent from 2014.

The average number of chicks per brood was similar to last year and the 10-year average but was 14 percent below the long-term average. The median hatch date of nests was June 9, which was three days earlier than the 10-year average and seven days earlier than last year. Some areas of the state received above-average rainfall amounts in May, which may have delayed or interrupted nesting attempts. However, near-normal temperatures and precipitation in June and July were beneficial to nesting birds and young chicks.

Monitoring pheasant population trends is part of the DNR’s annual August roadside wildlife survey, which began in 1955. DNR wildlife managers and conservation officers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first half of August. This year’s survey consisted of 170 25-mile-long routes, with 151 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, eastern cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves and other wildlife.

The 2015 August Roadside Survey report and a map of pheasant hunting prospects can be viewed and downloaded from www.mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant. Also recorded in this year’s survey:

  • The mourning dove index increased 14 percent from 2014 but remained below the 10-year average and long-term average.
  • The gray partridge index increased 150 percent from 2014 but remained well below the 10-year and long-term averages.
  • The cottontail rabbit index increased 36 percent from 2014 and was 34 percent above the 10-year average and 20 percent above the long-term average.
  • The white-tailed jackrabbit index was similar to last year and remains at an historic low.
  • The white-tailed deer index was similar to 2014 and was 33 percent above the 10-year average and 98 percent above the long-term average.

During the 2015 pheasant season that runs from Oct. 10 to Jan. 3, the daily bag limit is two roosters through November, and it increases to three roosters on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The possession limit is six roosters (increasing to nine roosters on Dec. 1). Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset.

Additional details are available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.

Deer lottery application deadline is Thursday, Sept. 10

Firearms and muzzleloader hunters who want to harvest antlerless deer throughout much of Minnesota this hunting season are reminded they must purchase their license and apply for an antlerless permit by Thursday, Sept. 10, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Antlerless deer permits are issued by lottery in designated permit areas. Some areas that have not been in the lottery classification in recent years are in that classification this year, primarily as a result of new deer population goals.

“Hunters should review the hunting and trapping regulation book now,” said Leslie McInenly, big game program leader with the DNR. “The lottery applies to over half of the state permit areas this year, and it’s important to start planning for the season.”

Hunters who want to participate in special firearm deer hunts also need to apply for permits that are issued by lottery, and the application deadline is Sept. 10. More information on deer permit areas and special hunts is in the DNR hunting regulations handbook, found online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

DNR seeking citizen input on Leech Lake management plan update

Leech Lake – one of Minnesota’s 10 large walleye lakes – has a new draft management plan and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking input on the plan beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The plan outlines the proposed five-year fish population objectives and fisheries management actions. It incorporates the recommendations of the 16-member Leech Lake Fisheries Input Group, which has held six meetings since February 2015.

Input is being taken at www.mndnr.gov/leechlake. The Web page includes a video introduction to each survey section, information considered by the input group and the group’s final report.

“Walleye fishing on Leech Lake is very important to the Walker community and surrounding area,” said Doug Schultz, Walker area fisheries supervisor. “The diverse Leech Lake fishery is also a significant statewide resource that all Minnesotans can enjoy.”

Leech Lake’s walleye population has recovered to historic levels, once again making the lake one of the premier walleye fishing destinations in Minnesota.

Public comments will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 9, online at www.mndnr.gov/leechlake. Paper questionnaires also are available at the DNR’s Walker area fisheries office, 07316 State 371 NW, Walker, MN. Comments will be reviewed and considered in October and November. The final Leech Lake management plan will be completed in December.

For more information on the Leech Lake draft management plan and the public input process, contact the DNR’s Walker area fisheries office at 218-547-1683.

Youth Waterfowl Day is Saturday

Youth ages 15 and younger can go waterfowl hunting this Saturday, Sept. 12, on Youth Waterfowl Day, when accompanied by an adult who isn’t hunting that day.

“Youth Waterfowl Day is a chance for young people to hunt with an adult who’s giving all their attention to making sure the youth walks away with a positive hunting experience,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

During Youth Waterfowl Day, hunters ages 15 and under may take regular season bag limits when accompanied by a nonhunting adult (18 or older), and youth do not need a license or stamps to participate. The accompanying adult may not hunt and does not need a license. Ducks, Canada geese, mergansers, coots and moorhens may be taken from a half-hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. Motorized decoy restrictions are in effect. Five geese may be taken statewide. For more information on waterfowl hunting, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.