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Fergus Falls, Minnesota Tuesday, August 02, 2005

State offering hunters more shots

By Brian Hansel

It looks like a "bullish" market for Minnesota hunters this fall.

The state is giving hunters an opportunity to harvest more deer and upland birds while expanding youth hunts.

Several youth deer hunts that pair young hunters with mentors in controlled areas will be held again this fall. Youth opportunities for small game include Take-a-Kid hunting weekend (Sept. 24-25), Youth Waterfowl Day (tentatively Sept. 17) and Future Pheasant Hunters Weekend (Oct. 29-30). More details about youth hunting opportunities are available in the 2005 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, available online at and where hunting licenses are sold.

Youth can engage in many hunting activities before taking gun safety training if accompanied by a parent.

Deer Season

The biggest change locally for deer hunters will be the move of Permit 409 to Zone 2. The 409 area is on northeastern Otter Tail County near New York Mills.

Public hearings were held in Perham and New York Mills last winter. Comments were also mailed directly to the DNR office in St. Paul. Pros and cons were heard with 70-80 percent in favor of the move to Zone 2, where there is a single nine-day season. Hunters against the move taking advantage of Zone 4's split seasons to hunt the same property on different weekends.

"Most hunters buy the multi-zone so it wasn't a real big deal," said Fergus Falls DNR wildlife manager Don Schultz, pointing out that hunters can now buy one regular season license instead of the multi-zone license.

This fall, hunters will be able to tag deer with both a firearm and archery license, as well as taking advantage of an early antlerless season and the creation of a metro deer-hunting zone.

Minnesota is coming off the second-highest deer kill in state history.

"We hope to increase deer harvest in areas with high deer populations," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "To do this, we're offering hunters more flexibility with deer licenses and more hunting opportunities." The changes begin to take effect with the Sept. 17 opening of archery deer hunting. Firearms deer hunting begins statewide on Nov. 5 and the muzzleloader season starts Nov. 26.

Upland Game

Numbers may not be up but some time has been tacked onto the pheasant, grouse and Hungarian partridge hunting seasons, which have been extended one additional day, through Sunday, Jan. 1.

Minnesota adopted a longer pheasant hunting season last year for the first time, extending it by two weeks to the final day of the year.

"The weather was really decent last year so it really paid off," said Schultz.

Populations of ruffed grouse remain near the low of their 10-year cycle. Many hunters were hoping this year's count would be higher, indicating an upswing in the grouse population, which tends to rise and fall in an approximate 10-year cycle. Counts have been at the low end of the scale for the past five consecutive years. At the peak, Minnesota's annual harvest often exceeds 1.2 million birds. The average annual harvest is 600,000 birds.

This will also be the second hunting season for mourning dove, the most widely dispersed and abundant upland game bird in North America. Last year, an estimated 15,000 hunters bagged 100,0000 birds. Because Minnesota's dove hunt is regulated under federal guidelines that also govern southern states, the season will stay open for 60 days. However, doves tend to leave Minnesota when temperatures begin to drop near freezing, usually around the middle of September. Populations of sharp-tailed grouse remain relatively low in their remaining range in northwestern and east-central Minnesota.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set up a liberal six-bird, 60-day hunting season framework for states to follow this fall. Whether or not Minnesota adopts the liberal season will be determined in mid-August.

Minnesota's breeding waterfowl populations were down 37 percent while pond numbers were up 22 percent in the May annual breeding duck survey. Duck numbers are very close to the state's long-term average since surveys began in 1968. However a look at the last 10 years shows that duck abundance is down 24 percent from the 10-year average, with duck numbers at the lowest since the drought of the late 1980s. Continental duck counts are down 1 percent, according to preliminary estimates. Fall hunting success in Minnesota will depend on water conditions to the west and north of the state and on weather during the season.

Giant Canada geese that breed locally in Minnesota remain abundant. More Canada geese are taken in Minnesota than in any other state in the United States. Liberal September goose hunting regulations, which include a five-bird daily harvest in the local area, will continue in many areas of the state in order to harvest as many local geese as possible before the migrant population begins arriving. A treaty with Canada prevents Minnesota from allowing the same five-bird limit during the regular waterfowl season, which is set to begin Oct. 1.


Moose populations in northwestern Minnesota are still very low and the season is still closed in that area. However, the northeast Minnesota moose population remains stable and 284 moose licenses were offered this year, up from 246 licenses in 2004, when state licensed hunters killed 127 bulls and 24 cows, for a party success rate of 62 percent.

New Regulations

Minnesota hunters are advised to be aware of several new law and regulation changes in effect this fall. They include:

-Feathers, head and feet must remain intact until wild turkey are registered. Once registered, fully feathered head, wing or foot must remain attached during transport.

-Persons under 12 may hunt wild turkey if accompanied by parent or guardian.

-Those drawn in the landowner turkey lottery may hunt anywhere within the permit area where their qualifying land is located.

-Those registering fisher, otter, bobcat and pine marten must be at least five years old.

-Starting March 1, 2007, trappers born after Dec. 31, 1989 must have a trapper education certificate or a previous trapping license.

-Raccoons may be pursued and treed in the closed season without a permit.

-.30 caliber M-1 carbines are now legal for big game hunting. -Pheasant, Hungarian partridge, spruce grouse and ruffed grouse seasons open through Jan. 1 2006.

-Regular waterfowl season opens Oct. 1.

- No person may leave waterfowl decoys unattended on public waters for more than four hours during the day, except on waters adjacent to private land under control of the hunter where there is not sufficient vegetation to conceal the hunter. Decoys may not be left on public waters between sunset and one-hour before legal shooting hours.

-Motorized decoys are prohibited on Wildlife Management Areas throughout the duck season and until Oct. 8 on public waters.

-Computer-assisted, remote operated guns are prohibited for taking any wild animals.

-Hunters may purchase a bear license in both the quota and no-quota areas.

-Deer permit area boundaries around Duluth have been changed.

-Hunters may now tag deer with both firearms (including muzzleloader) and archery deer licenses (one buck allowed statewide, including the northwest five-county area). -A two-day antlerless deer season will be held Oct. 15-16 in permit areas 209, 210, 225, 227, 236, 252, 256, and 257. Hunters must have a license valid for the appropriate zone and an early antlerless deer permit ($14 at any ELS license agent) to participate. The bag limit is two deer.

-Permit areas 205, 211, 214, 283 and 284 have been moved to Zone 1 and renumbered.

-Permit areas 110 and 283 are combined into permit area 110.

-Permit areas 401 through 409 have been moved to Zone 2 and renumbered.

- Permit areas 228 and 337 now comprise the metro deer management zone. Any firearm license is valid and the season dates are Nov. 5-27.

New special regulations apply to deer hunts at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Great River Bluffs State Park, Itasca State Park, Lake Elmo State Park, Maplewood State Park, St. Croix State Park, Savanna Portage State Park and Wild River State Park.

--Portions of this article were contributed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Copyright © 2005 Fergus Falls Newspapers Inc. All rights reserved.

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