March 5, 2014
Sure as winter turns to spring – and it always does, even if right now that seems like a pipe dream – lawmakers descend on St. Paul for the annual legislative session. The 2014 version got under way last Tuesday. Unlike many years, when the session begins sometime in January or early February, things are humming right out of the gate this year as lawmakers try to get all the year’s business done on a compressed timeline.
One of the main agenda items this year is a bonding bill, which could be as big as $1 billion. That bill traditionally has been a good source of funds for conservation, particularly for programs such as Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve. We’re hoping RIM has a strong presence in this year’s bill.
Also, we’re closely watching the Outdoor Heritage Fund bill, which eventually will be rolled into a larger Legacy bill. The Outdoor Heritage Fund bill – HF 1926, authored by Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul – cleared its first House committee yesterday and will be heard in the House Legacy Committee next week. The bill includes more than $100 million for conservation and natural resources projects across the state.
The Legacy bill was a source of great controversy last year, but there are some indications that might not be the case this time around. Stay tuned.
A number of other bills dealing with the outdoors also have been introduced, but at this early time, it’s hard to tell exactly what will move forward and what won’t. So far, there isn’t anything that directly affects waterfowlers in terms of regulations or anything like that.
But keep checking the blog and we’ll keep you posted on the goings on at the Legislature.
February 13, 2014
We’re fresh off our annual Waterfowl Symposium, conservation awards banquet, and induction of new members into the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame. It was a busy first weekend of February – and the days and weeks leading up to it were jam-packed, too – but now we’ve got a little time to breathe.
But only a little.
The Minnesota Legislature is back in session on Feb. 25. And while it appears a big part of the session will be about removing old and unnecessary laws from the books, we’ll be watching to see what’s happening on the conservation front.
At this time, one of the big issues is a piece of legislation passed last year as part of the Tax bill. Basically, it doesn’t allow local assessors to reduce the property value of conservation easements. So if an acre of farmland is worth $7,500 without an easement, and $1,500 with an easement, then it would be taxed at the $7,500 level.
Our fear – and that of a whole host of other conservation groups – is that such a change will cause people to opt against enrolling in land conservation programs like Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve/Wetlands Reserve Program. And since we can’t buy all the habitat we need, easements on private land are growing increasingly important as we try to conserve habitat.
We’ll keep you posted on how this piece of legislation, and others, play out during the session.
Dates to remember
It seems a little odd to be talking about summer when we’re stuck in this long winter, but just wanted to throw out a couple of dates to remember.
Woodie Camp is set for Aug. 10-16 at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls. The application deadline is May 16, 2014. More information is available here.
Also, the Second Annual Minnesota Waterfowl Association golf tournament is set for July 14 at the New Prague Golf Club. We had an awesome time last year, and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different.
January 24, 2014
Hard to believe we’re only a week away from our annual Waterfowl Symposium. For a link to the agenda, click here. One of the main focuses of this year’s symposium is blue-winged teal. We’ll have biologists from both Minnesota and Wisconsin talk about them.
It’s no secret that teal are really important to hunters in Minnesota. But the main reason we’re highlighting them at this year’s symposium is because of all the chatter surrounding the potential for an early teal season in Minnesota and other production states.
The Mississippi Flyway council, of which Minnesota is part, has recommended that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allow production states to hold early teal seasons. The Service hasn’t said yes to the idea, but, more importantly, it hasn’t said no, either.
The idea is still in the early phases, so it’s too soon to know exactly what an early season would look like in Minnesota. Nevertheless,it’s easy to see a few sides of this issue.
As duck hunters, we all know how many blue-winged teal often are around during September. In some cases, a whole bunch of them have left by the time we get the chance to hunt. An early season would potentially give us an opportunity for some fantastic shooting. And the weather likely would be warm – or comfortable, at least – so it could be a good opportunity to get new hunters into the field under some pretty good conditions.
On the other hand, if there’s one complaint about the Youth Waterfowl Day, it’s the belief some have that it drives ducks out, or at least moving them around. And Youth Waterfowl Day includes about 5,000 hunters. Following that line of thinking, can you imagine what it would be like during an early teal season, when anyone who wanted could head to the marsh?
We’ll have to wait and see how the early teal season turns out. It seems unlikely it would happen as soon as this fall, but you never know. Regardless, we’re looking forward to some pretty good discussion on the topic at this year’s symposium.
January 11, 2014
The 17th annual Minnesota Waterfowl Symposium will be held in conjunction with the Minnesota Decoy Collectors show on Saturday, Feb. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ramada Airport Bloomington Hotel. The featured topics at this year’s symposium will be blue-winged teal and wild rice. Leading waterfowl and wetland experts from Minnesota and neighboring states and provinces will give presentations.
The symposium is free and open to the public, but there is limited seating. The programs will address the current status of waterfowl populations, hunting regulations, species management issues, decoys, and the future of waterfowl hunting recruitment and retention.
The MWA awards banquet is set for 5 p.m., following the symposium. It will include four conservation awards, plus the induction of the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame’s fifth class. The Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame recognizes conservationists, hunters and others who have had a significant impact and lasting legacy on waterfowl hunting and waterfowl conservation in Minnesota.
Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by calling the Minnesota Waterfowl Association office at (952) 767-0320.
The Waterfowl Symposium is sponsored by the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and is supported by other individuals and organizations.
For more information about the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, symposium details, and the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame visit http://www.mnwaterfowl.com. or contact the Minnesota Waterfowl Association at 952-767-0320.
January 2, 2014
It’s hard to believe, given how cold it’s been recently, that it wasn’t all that long ago the last of the state’s waterfowl seasons wrapped up. (The final goose season wrapped up in the South Zone on Dec. 28.)
In general, we heard good reports from the duck season – not great, but just kind of consistent. The goose season seemed to be a little different, and we heard very few reports from late in the year. In fact, the most common report was from the late spring time period, when reports of Canada geese just kind of walking around in a daze were common.
If you need a waterfowl fix, but don’t want to travel to get it, you’ll have to wait until March 1, when the season for light geese opens in the state. That runs through the end of April, though anyone who’s ever targeted the snows and other light geese in Minnesota knows it can be maddeningly inconsistent.
Then, there are a few months without goose-hunting options before the August season in the state’s Intensive Harvest Zone kicks off Aug. 9 and runs through Aug. 24. Things are closed for a bit after that, and then it’s September again. (We know, it’s cruel to be thinking about August and September – heck, even March and April – when we’re in the middle of this deep freeze, which shows signs of deepening before things normalize.)
According to the DNR, the early season for Canada geese is tentatively set for Sept. 6-22; Youth Waterfowl Day is tentatively set for Sept. 13; and the tentative opener for this year’s regular waterfowl season is Sept. 27. So there you have it – some dates so you can fill up the calendar.
It’s been a little quiet the past few weeks, given the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s, but we’re looking forward to a fantastic 2014, and hope that you are, too. One of the first things on the agenda is the annual DNR Roundtable, which this year is set for Bloomington. We haven’t seen an agenda yet, but if it’s anything like those in the past, there will be plenty of topics on which to chew.
And in a few months, we’ll have our annual waterfowl symposium and awards banquet, so stay tuned for that.
December 20, 2013
Sad news reached our office late last week. Rob Naplin, a longtime employee of the DNR, died suddenly last week. Rob most recently was the area wildlife supervisor in the Park Rapids area, and before that served in the same role in the Willmar area.
In addition to his excellent work with the DNR, Rob was instrumental in the creation of Woodie Camp and, indeed, was one of its founders. He’d attended every year we’ve held the camp. Rob wasn’t typically the center of attention, and often flew under the radar, but his contributions to the state’s outdoors scene can’t be overlooked. He was involved in a wide range of groups, including the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, and waterfowl were his “thing.”
According to reports, Rob had been cleaning ice off the sewer vents on the roof of his rural Park Rapids home when he fell and died.
His memorial service was today in Park Rapids.
Just a sad story all around. Rob had a great sense of humor and an easy way with people – adults and kids alike. He was a longtime firearms safety instructor, and youth conservation education was extremely important to him.
He’ll be missed greatly.
December 4, 2013
Just a reminder that next week – Tuesday, Dec. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. – we launch our new program called Waterfowl 365.
We really don’t have any grand plans, except to offer a forum in which waterfowl hunters and enthusiasts can get together and talk shop. We expect to start the discussion with one topic, but fully expect it will move on from there.
Anyone is welcome to attend – the more the merrier. Tell your friends or anyone you know who might be interested in waterfowl conversation. It will be held at our state office, which is at 907 First Street North in Hopkins.
If you plan to attend, or want more information, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (952) 767-0320.
Duck season ends
The duck season has come to a close, and based on reports we’re hearing – and our own experiences in the blind – about the best way to describe the season is OK. Most everyone saw and shot ducks. But there was never that huge grand passage of birds, and in many instances, ducks seemed to be here on day and gone the next.
On a positive note, the sales of state duck stamps increased again this year. While the increase was small, sales now have risen for a few years in a row.
November 20, 2013
The duck season may be on its last legs, but we’re excited to unveil a new program that’s catered especially to waterfowl enthusiasts.
It’s called Waterfowl 365, and it’s designed to be informative and educational, and to take place in a casual atmosphere and setting.
The idea is to provide a forum that allows waterfowl hunters – or even simply waterfowl enthusiasts – to come together and participate in conversations and discussions about a broad range of topics in the waterfowl world.
We want all of us who love waterfowl to be able to spend some time with like-minded individuals.
The plan is to meet on the second Tuesday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Minnesota Waterfowl Association state office in Hopkins. (Added benefit: You’ll be able to check out the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame and Museum.)
The first get-together is set for Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The idea is that every month we’ll have a specific topic about which we’ll start our discussion. This isn’t going to be a lecture or presentation, per se, but rather an opportunity for everyone who attends to have their say. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss your concerns and thoughts, or simply to share stories about waterfowl hunts of the past. In the end, we want you to have a voice on waterfowl issues in Minnesota and beyond.
Each month, there will be coffee and light snacks available.
Please RSVP to the following email address: email@example.com. Or call the state office at (952) 767-0320 and let us know you’ll be joining.
We look forward to seeing everyone, hearing about your waterfowl season, and simply talking ducks.
November 14, 2013
Let’s jump right into this week’s blog with a little mixed bag of items:
• Remember the duck season closes Nov. 19 in the state’s North Duck Zone. Based on reports we’re hearing, it sounds like a lot of birds have left that part of the state as a result of the cold nights that have caused ponds and wetlands – and even some smaller lakes – to have at least a skim of ice on them. The season runs through Nov. 24 in the Central Duck Zone, and through Dec. 1 in the South Duck Zone.
• Has anyone tried open-water hunting yet? Did you have any success? We’d love to hear from someone who gave it a shot!
• Remember that Thursday, Nov. 14, is Give to the Max Day. It’s a great time to think about a donation to the Minnesota Waterfowl Association.
• Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in town recently, and several of us from MWA were onhand to see her at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Jewell, the relatively new Interior Secretary, talked about the importance of refuges to local communities. It was good to see Jewell, and good to hear here talk about her support for our public lands.
• Can you believe it’s already been five years since the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed? Since its passage in 2008, nearly $400 million has been put directly into fish and wildlife habitat. Given everything we’re seeing on the landscape today, it’s pretty hard to imagine where we would be without the amendment.
October 17, 2013
The partial shutdown of the federal government has ended, which is good news for those of us who value conservation.
But let’s start a week ago, when it appears pressure applied by conservation groups and others caused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do an about-face and reopen waterfowl production areas, which the agency had closed to that point of the shutdown.
Remember, hunters like you and I who purchase federal duck stamps are the primary purchasers of these areas, since it’s mostly duck stamp revenues that fund them. There were real questions about why the Service opted to close them to access. However, it’s worth noting that many of our WPAs are in the South Duck Zone, which was closed through Oct. 11.
The Service reopened WPAs on the eve of the Minnesota pheasant opener, which was Oct. 12, so there likely were a bunch of duck and pheasant hunters who never really noticed the WPAs were closed. But you can bet those hunters in more northern reaches of the state took note.
So have you seen much for migrating ducks?
We’re getting reports that some decent pushes are occurring. Still a lot of local birds in hunters’ bags, but that should be flipping a little bit as we transition further into the season. In fact, if you read the reports from conservation officers in the southeastern part of the state, it sounds like the Mississippi River was absolutely ridiculous last weekend in terms of the number of teal hunters shot. Lots and lots of limits.
I’d guess ring-necked duck abundance will peak this week and into next, so there should be some good shooting opportunities there, too.
And we’re interested in hearing from anyone who plans to – or already has – done some over-water hunting in Minnesota. Remember, the DNR opened a limited numbers of lakes to open-water hunting this year. It’s unlikely a lot of hunters will try it, but once those divers start heading into the state, you can bet some people will give it a shot.
If you do, let us know how it goes.
That’s it for this week. Have a safe hunt.