DNR expects average bear season
Doug Smith, Star Tribune
August 21, 2005 ONOT0821
There will be plenty of black bears in the woods when Minnesota's bear hunting season opens Sept. 1. The estimated population remains at about 25,000 bears.
But the question, as always, for the state's 16,000 bear hunters is whether they can get a bruin to come within shooting range. An abundance -- or dearth -- of natural food in the woods can have a big impact on hunter success.
That's because bears are less likely to be enticed to bait placed by hunters if they have plenty of natural food. A DNR survey shows there is an average amount of natural food for bears, including acorns, hazel and dogwood. "The best I can say is that it is kind of average; not great, and not a bust," said Karen Noyce, a DNR bear researcher. That could mean an average bear harvest of 3,000 to 4,000 bears. Last year, hunters killed 3,391 bears.
That harvest range should keep the bear population in check, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game manager. But the agency might examine why interest in bear hunting has declined in recent years.
More than 30,000 hunters applied for bear licenses in 1994, '96 and '98, but in recent years only about 16,000 hunters have applied.
The season runs through Oct. 16.
Avoid collared bears
Though it is not illegal to do so, the DNR is asking bear hunters not to shoot radio-collared bears that are being studied. There are about 40 radio-collared bears being monitored as part of a study. Most are in or near Chippewa National Forest, the Camp Ripley Military Reservation and Voyageurs National Park. Most, but not all, of the collars have some blaze orange on them. Hunters who do kill a collared bear are asked to call the DNR's wildlife research office in Grand Rapids at 218-327-4146.
Lac qui Parle geese
Hunters who want to reserve a state goose hunting blind at the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area controlled hunting zone must apply between Monday and Sept. 14. The goose season likely will run 40 days, from Oct. 20 through Nov. 28. Hunters must apply on a standard 3½-inch-by-5½-inch postcard bearing the applicant's full name and address, and listing first, second and third choice of hunting dates. Only one postcard per hunter may be submitted. Applications should be sent to: Controlled Hunt, Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area, 14047 20th Street NW, Watson, MN 56295.
Wild rice report
The wild rice crop in northeastern Minnesota appears to be average, according the DNR wildlife office in Tower. Conditions vary from poor to above average. A cool, wet spring and a hot, dry summer resulted in below-average water levels. Northeastern Minnesota lakes and rivers typically ripen in late August and early September.
Trout stamp winner
Artist John House of Evansville received good news last week. His oil painting of a brown trout under water pursuing a wet fly was selected as the 2006 state Trout and Salmon Stamp. But his victory prevented David Chapman of Minnetonka from making a clean sweep of the 2006 state stamp contests. Chapman won this year's pheasant, turkey and waterfowl stamp contests. He finished second to House for the trout and salmon stamp. House is a past winner of the waterfowl and pheasant stamp contests.
Kufrin waterfowl area
A 760-acre parcel of grassy uplands and wetlands near Ortonville in western Minnesota was dedicated last week as the Kufrin Waterfowl Production Area, in honor of Steve Kufrin of Prior Lake, longtime conservationist. About 100 family members, friends and former co-workers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attended the ceremony.
Kufrin, 62, a decoy carver and avid waterfowl hunter, worked with groups and citizens to restore wildlife habitat on public and private lands. And he helped launch local chapters of several conservation groups.
Kufrin was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, and he retired from the agency earlier this year. Money raised at a banquet last winter for Kufrin will be used for habitat restoration on 200 newly acquired acres added to the waterfowl production area.
What's the forecast for Minnesota's fall pheasant season? Hunters will know soon. The annual August roadside pheasant count is done, and DNR biologists are compiling reports. The results should be available early next month.
"Some of the reports are really good, and some are really bad," said Kurt Haroldson, DNR wildlife biologist. "I'm just not sure how it will average out."
A cold spring and heavy rains in some areas likely hurt pheasant production, but the warm summer might have helped. Haroldson is hoping that pheasants renested in areas where storms flooded nests last spring.
North Dakota ducks
North Dakota's 2005 fall duck flight is expected to be up from 2004 and similar to the fall flights of 1999-2000, based on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department's mid-July survey. The brood index was up 38 percent from last year, and 140 percent above the 1955-2004 average. Average brood size was 7.1 ducklings, up 0.7 from last year. The long term average is 7.2 ducklings per brood. Water conditions also have improved: The water index was up 37 percent from 2004.
The news is good for North Dakota pheasants, too. The state's spring crowing count survey showed a 5 percent increase statewide in the number of pheasants heard crowing compared with last year. Crowing counts are comparable or up in all areas of the state except the far west-central and southwestern areas. Crow count numbers are down in those areas but up in the northwest, central and southeast.
Did you know?
• A Soudan, Minn., trapper has been ordered to pay more than $6,500 in fines and restitution for trapping overlimits of pine marten and fisher. Fred Paul Precht, 50, admitted in St. Louis County District Court that he exceeded the legal limits. He had a total of 57 pine martens and fishers -- 52 more than the limit. A judge revoked Precht's hunting and trapping privileges for five years and ordered him to pay $5,660 in restitution to the DNR and a $900 fine to the St. Louis County court administrator.
• Want some tips on how to shoot better? Check out the TargetSports Festival next Saturday at the Minnetonka Game & Fish Club in St. Francis. Besides free shooting instruction, there will be demonstrations, free air rifle shooting for kids, door prizes and low-cost open shooting. Proceeds will benefit local organized youth shooting sports programs. See www.targetsportsfest.com for more information.
• The Conservation Partners of America Fun in the Field Day will be Saturday at the Major Ave. Hunt Club in Glencoe. The event, which includes dog retrieving competitions, sporting clay challenge, food and an auction, is a fundraiser for the local nonprofit conservation group. Call 320-864-6368 for more information.
• Field & Stream magazine's 110th Anniversary Celebration Tour is coming Aug. 26-28 to the Minnesota State Fair. The tour includes daily prizes, gear displays, a hunting video game, trip sweepstakes, a casting area and more.
• The first chapter of Quail Forever was formed in St. Louis last week, only three days after Pheasants Forever announced the launch of the new group dedicated to improving the plight of quail.