In spite of abnormally wet conditions earlier this year, waterfowl hunters may find access to lakes and wetlands challenging in some areas this fall.
“Some hunters may be surprised by water levels, especially at the very shallow sites,” said Ken Varland, area wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Some wetlands are significantly lower than they were at this time last year.”
With above- average temperatures and below-average precipitation over the past couple of months, the water evaporates quickly, Varland said.
Wet and dry cycles are a natural part of healthy wetlands. Low water levels during the growing season allow germination of emergent vegetation such as cattails and bulrushes. These plants filter nutrients and create a healthy balance in the wetlands, which provides food and protective cover for waterfowl and other species of wildlife.
“Wetlands will naturally fill as we get rain,” Varland said. “But without precipitation, access by boat will become increasingly more difficult on some wetlands through the fall.”
Hunters who make the extra effort to access wetlands may be rewarded, though. According to the annual DNR spring waterfowl survey, the state’s breeding population of mallards is estimated to be 17 percent higher than last year. The combined population of ducks such as wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads is estimated to be 22 percent higher than in 2010.
“This year it is especially important to get out before the opener and do some scouting,” Varland said. “It could make the difference between a disappointing waterfowl opener and a successful one.”
DNR seeks input to consolidate wild turkey permit areas
Through Oct. 10, turkey hunters are being asked to provide input on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) proposal to consolidate the state’s 77 spring turkey permit areas into nine larger areas.
“Our turkey populations are doing exceptionally well and we no longer have a need to manage turkey on such a small scale,” said Bill Penning, farmland wildlife program leader. “These changes will provide additional flexibility and opportunity to hunters.”
The changes will allow increased hunting access afforded by larger permit areas and will greatly simplify administration and population management. Permit numbers available to hunters are not affected by this proposal. The number of permits available in the new larger permit areas will essentially be the sum of all the permits from the original, smaller permit areas.
The Whitewater, Carlos Avery and Mille Lacs wildlife management areas would remain as separate turkey permit areas.
Hunter comments will be taken online only through Monday, Oct. 10, at mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey. A map of the proposed turkey permit areas and a feedback form are available online. Additional comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public input will be reviewed and considered in October. A decision on the spring turkey season will be made in early November.
The wild turkey was extinct in Minnesota from about 1900. Until the late 1960s, various failed attempts were made to reintroduce turkeys using game farm stock. In 1971, wild turkeys trapped from Missouri were introduced into the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in Winona County.
The reintroduction was successful, and formed the basis of Minnesota’s current turkey population. The DNR, with considerable financial assistance from the National Wild Turkey Federation, trapped and relocated more than 5,250 wild turkeys to suitable habitat throughout the state from the late 1970s through the 2000s.
These efforts have been incredibly successful, and today the wild turkey population thrives throughout the non-boreal forest portion of the state.
During the growth years, it was imperative to tightly regulate hunting on a small geographical basis to ensure that populations could rapidly expand into new areas. Today this level of regulation is no longer necessary
Take aim at Take-A-Kid Hunting Weekend Sept. 24-25
Ever thought about sharing lunch with a youngster from the comfort of a warm log on a sunny fall day in the woods?
With the leaves turning gold, red and yellow, Take-A-Kid Hunting weekend provides the perfect opportunity for adults and kids across Minnesota to connect in the outdoors.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25, Minnesota residents 18 and older can hunt without a license by bringing along a youth younger than 16.
“It’s a great time for experienced hunters to focus on their kids and help them hone outdoor skills,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “But it’s an even better opportunity for those who want to kindle an outdoors interest in their children to get outside together and talk, listen and learn.”
Adults hunt for free but youth must possess a free small game license, which is available at any DNR license agent or online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense. Standard shooting and possession limits apply.
“Spending quality time in the woods with kids is rewarding,” Kurre said. “As adults, it’s easy for us to forget that someone somewhere helped us first discover the outdoors.”
Information about additional youth opportunities is available online at mndnr.gov/discover.
Hunting barriers keep falling; opportunities keep rising
Hunting in Minnesota has never been easier.
Yes, it’s more work than clicking the remote to bring a television to life. But thanks to technology and other changes it’s never been easier to find places to hunt, purchase a license, or introduce someone new to the sport.
“If you’ve got a phone, you can buy a license,” said C.B. Bylander, outreach section chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “If you’ve got a computer, you can download hundreds of great hunting maps and aerial photos. And if you’ve got the time, Minnesota has abundant grouse, deer, and other game populations that provide memories for a lifetime.”
Bylander said introducing someone new to hunting is easier these days too, thanks to the apprentice hunter validation provision. This option allows an individual who would normally be required to have a firearms safety certificate (but does not have one) to try hunting for two years under the supervision of a licensed hunter. Cost of the validation is $3.50, plus the purchase of the necessary hunting license.
“This a great option for friends and family members who have not taken or completed their firearms safety training,” said Bylander. “They can experience a hunt this fall; they can do it in a safe setting with a person they trust.”
Bylander said the DNR has taken other steps in the past decade to make hunting easier and more family friendly.life