MN Pheasant numbers are down; confiscated firearms auction info…

You can see it for yourself when driving down rural roads in western Minnesota.  Areas where broods would be seen scurrying across the road and roosters would flush from the ditches, now seemed vacant of the prized wild pheasant.  Once in a while birds are still spotted, but numbers are clearly not what they were.  A few factors are involved of course, from the loss of CRP to 4 out of the last 5 winters and springs proving to be difficult for nesting.    Now we have the proof from the DNR”

8613 - pheasant brood

MINNESOTA DNR NEWS #68                                                                                 Sept. 9, 2013
All news releases are available in the DNR’s website newsroom at
Follow the DNR on Twitter @mndnr.
Minnesota’s pheasant index down 29 percent from 2012
New season structure closes crow season Sept. 20
DNR confiscated firearms auction set for Sept. 28
DNR predicts ‘brilliant’ fall colors season
Montrose artist wins 2014 duck stamp competition
CWD surveillance, deer feeding ban 
 continues in southeastern Minnesota
DNR conservation officer honored by Minnesota Trappers Association 
REMINDER: Families, youth and women can go afield with upland bird mentors 
   in October
Question of the week: open water waterfowl hunting



Minnesota’s pheasant index down 29 percent from 2012

A long winter followed by a cold, wet spring contributed to a significant decrease in Minnesota’s pheasant count, which declined 29 percent from 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Minnesota’s results reflect what we’re seeing in other states,” said Rachel Curtis, DNR wildlife research biologist. “South Dakota had a 64 percent decrease in its brood survey. North Dakota’s most-recent rooster crowing count is down 11 percent from last year. And Iowa reported a 19 percent decrease in its August roadside count.”

Minnesota’s 2013 pheasant index is 64 percent below the ten-year average and 72 percent below the long-term average.

Pheasant hunters still are expected to harvest about 246,000 roosters this fall. That’s down 44,000 from last year’s estimate and is less than half the number of pheasants taken during the 2005-2008 seasons when hunting was exceptionally good.

The highest pheasant counts were in the southwest region, where observers reported 51 birds per 100 miles of survey driven. Hunters should find good harvest opportunities in west-central, east-central and south-central Minnesota.

“Pheasant populations respond to habitat abundance and changes in weather,” Curtis said. “The steady downward trend in Minnesota’s pheasant population during the past several years is primarily due to habitat loss. Weather has caused minor fluctuations.”

The most important habitat for pheasants is grassland that remains undisturbed during the nesting season. Protected grasslands account for about 6 percent of the state’s pheasant range. Farmland retirement programs such as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Reinvest in Minnesota and Wetlands Reserve Program make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.

High land rental rates and competing uses for farmland diminish the economic attractiveness of farmland conservation programs. CRP enrollment declined by 63,700 acres in Minnesota’s pheasant range over the last year and contracts for nearly 400,000 acres of statewide CRP lands are scheduled to expire during the next 3 years. If not re-enrolled, this would reduce CRP acres in Minnesota by 30 percent.

To help offset continued habitat losses caused by reductions in conservation set-aside acreage, the DNR has accelerated acquisition of wildlife management areas in the farmland region of Minnesota. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service also acquires and protects habitat across the state. In addition, the DNR supports habitat conservation on private lands by working with a variety of partners in the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership and Working Lands Initiative.

High spring precipitation and below average temperatures hurt nesting this year. This year’s average hatch date was delayed to June 20, which is 11 days later than the 10-year average of June 9.

Although fewer broods were seen, brood size was larger than last year and comparable to the long-term average. Actual reproduction rates may be higher than the survey suggests. Hens that were successful nesting later in the season tend to be underrepresented in roadside data and it is possible that hens were still nesting or in heavier cover with young chicks during the survey period.

The pheasant population estimate is part of the DNR’s annual August roadside wildlife survey, which began in 1955. DNR conservation officers and wildlife managers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first half of August. This year’s survey consisted of 171 routes, each 25 miles long, with 152 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, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves and other wildlife.

The gray partridge index also decreased from last year and remained below the 10-year average. The cottontail rabbit index increased from last year but stayed below the 10-year and long-term average. The jackrabbit index was 87 percent below the long-term average. Finally, the mourning dove index was 20 percent below last year and lower than the 10-year and long-term averages.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  Sept. 9, 2013

New season structure closes crow season Sept. 20

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds crow hunters that the fall crow hunting season closesSept. 20, a change from previous years when the season ran into mid-October.

The crow hunting season was changed for this year to address nuisance crow issues and provide more chances for hunters to take crows opportunistically while hunting other species. Season dates are Aug. 1 through Sept. 20; Dec. 15through Jan. 15 and March 1-31.

“The new season structure allows hunters to take crows during the late summer and early fall, when other early migratory bird seasons, such as dove and early goose season are open,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager. “It also allows hunters to take crows during the winter, when the birds feed in harvested fields by day but roost in high concentrations in urban areas at night.”

The new season dates were developed with input gathered at last winter’s statewide public input meetings. Late summer/early fall season dates were extended after a number of crow hunters expressed concerns that an original proposal did not provide enough opportunity during this period.

“Although the original proposal received support from a majority of those who attended a meeting or provided online comments, a number of crow hunters expressed concerns,” Merchant said. “We modified the proposal based on these comments.”

Under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines, states within the Mississippi Flyway are allowed 124 days to hold a crow season. Season dates and structure are determined by state wildlife management agencies. According to DNR surveys of small game hunters, the average annual crow harvest is about 11,500 birds.



DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                             Sept. 9, 2013

DNR confiscated firearms auction set for Sept. 28

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will hold a public auction of its inventory of confiscated hunting and fishing equipment Sept. 28 at the Hiller Auction Barn in Zimmerman. Hiller Auction is located 2 miles east of the Highway 169 and the County Road 4 intersection in Zimmerman.

Inspection of items runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 27 and at 8 a.m. Saturday. The auction starts at 10 a.m.

Items for sale include: firearms, bows, tree stands, fishing rods and reels, tip ups, traps, trail cameras, spotlights, ground blinds and a hand ice auger. There are more than 200 firearms and 40 bows available. Once auction begins there will not be access to the firearms. In addition, there are 200 hunting and fishing items including deer antlers (sold in lots), an ATV, a jet ski, snowmobiles and a boat/motor/trailer combination. A complete inventory list will be posted on the Hiller Auction website at

All property will be sold “as is,” and all sales will be final. Payment may be by credit card or check to Hiller Auction. Items cannot be returned once purchased.

Hiller Auction will conduct a background check of bidders on sight before releasing the gun(s). Following the approved background check, buyers can take possession of their property immediately. Buyers may bring their own cases or there will be cases available for purchase to transport firearms.

Proceeds from the auction will be deposited in the Game and Fish Fund. Revenues from the fund are dedicated to fish and wildlife management in the state. All proceeds from vehicles sold at the DNR auction as a result of a Driving While Impaired (DWI) related offense go into the DWI forfeiture account.

For more information, contact Hiller Auction at 763-856-2453 or 800-889-3458.



DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                               Sept. 9, 2013

DNR predicts ‘brilliant’ fall colors season

During the next seven or eight weeks, waves of fall color will roll across Minnesota’s forests and prairies, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Trails Division encourages families to get out and enjoy them.

The statewide fall color report at ( is updated everyThursday by staff at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. These reports include percent of color change, peak color projections and three state park or trail destinations considered “hot picks” of the week.

“We’re predicting it will be a brilliant fall color season,” said Patricia Arndt, communications and outreach manager for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Although it’s been dry lately, the trees got adequate rain earlier this season. Now we just need a combination of sunny days and cool nights in the weeks ahead to bring out the fall colors. We’ve timed many of our fall hiking, biking, geocaching and paddling programs at Minnesota state parks and trails to coincide with peak color, and we hope to see lots of people getting outdoors to enjoy this beautiful time of year.”

Colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in northern third of the state, between late September and early October in central third and between late September and mid-October in southern third (which includes Twin Cities).

Fall color programs are listed in the free “Feel the ‘Wow’ of Fall” brochure at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, Twin Cities libraries and REI stores and the Parks and Trails kiosk across from food court at Rosedale Center. The DNR Information Center will also mail the brochure to anyone who requests it.

In addition to its weekly online reports, the DNR offers fall colors “to go” on a mobile website compatible with smart phones and tablets. These reports include percent of color change, integrated with Google maps. To access the mobile site, scan the QR code at or visit and bookmark the site on a smart phone or other mobile device.

For more information, visit the online calendar at or call DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A vehicle permit is required for entrance to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Visitors may start with a one-day permit for $5 and visit as many state parks as they choose. The one-day permit may be traded in before the end of the day for $5 off a year-round permit. Year-round permits, $25, provide unlimited access to all 76 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a year from the month of purchase.

Visitors to Minnesota state parks can upload fall color photos to the DNR’s fall color website.



DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                Sept. 9, 2013

Montrose artist wins 2014 duck stamp competition

A painting of a Canada goose painting by Thomas Moen of Montrose will be featured on the 2014 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

Moen’s painting was chosen from among 30 entries in the annual state duck stamp contest sponsored by the DNR. Moen also won the contest in 1998 for his painting of a Harlequin duck and in 2007 for his painting of a lesser scaup.

The other finalists were Stephen Hamrick, Lakefield, second place; Michael Pangerl, Minneapolis, third place and Timothy Turenne, Richfield, fourth place.

The five-member panel of judges included David Andersen, University of Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor; Mark McNamera, Minnesota Waterfowl Association; Tom Cooper, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Joe Albert, Outdoor News.

The $7.50 state duck stamp is required of all Minnesota waterfowl hunters age 18-64. Stamp sales generate about $700,000 per year for waterfowl habitat restoration and enhancement projects on state wildlife management areas and shallow lakes.

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 2015 stamp design will be the Harlequin duck.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                               Sept. 9, 2013

CWD surveillance, deer feeding ban continues in southeastern Minnesota

Mandatory testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) and a related ban on deer feeding continues in southeastern Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Sampling of deer harvested in permit area 602 will begin again when the archery deer season opens Saturday, Sept. 14. Hunters are required to register their deer in person and may not remove the carcass from the area until a negative test result is reported. Phone and Internet registration options are not allowed for deer harvested in this area.

The following registration stations will be open during archery season:

  • Neptune Bar and Grill, 468 Highway 60, Zumbro Falls.
  • Greenway Cooperative, Pine Island.
  • Archery Headquarters, 3440 Northern Valley Place, Rochester.
  • Gander Mountain, 3470 55th St. NW, Rochester.
  • Kasson Hardware Hank, 11 4th St. SE, Kasson.

Due to the low numbers of deer that are taken, DNR staff will not be staffing these stations during either the archery or muzzleloader seasons. Instead, hunters will be required to submit the head of adult deer for sampling. A box will be located at each site with specific instructions regarding how to submit the sample. Hunters are encouraged to plan ahead and have a place to store their deer until test results are available if they plan to transport it outside of the 602 area. Deer cannot be transported out of the area without a negative test result.

Samples will be submitted every Monday and Thursday during the archery season and results will be reported back within three business days. Test results can be checked online at

Deer feeding prohibited
In addition to continued CWD surveillance, a deer feeding ban remains in place for Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha counties.

“The prohibition on feeding has been in place to reduce artificial concentrations of deer,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor. “Animals congregating around a food source, even a bird feeder if accessible, increase the odds of spreading an infectious disease like CWD.”

The current feeding ban, which includes attractants such as salt and mineral blocks, is effective through February 2014.

DNR has been actively on the lookout for CWD since 2002, when the disease was first detected in captive animals. Surveillance efforts increased in southeastern Minnesota during fall 2009 after a captive elk farm near Pine Island was infected with CWD.

During fall 2010, a hunter-harvested deer was found positive for CWD, the first occurrence of CWD in wild deer in the state. As a result, a CWD surveillance zone (permit area 602) was created to help DNR manage the outbreak of the disease in wild deer.

Intensive surveillance efforts in 2011 and 2012 have failed to find any additional positive cases. The DNR CWD response plan requires 3 years of testing without a positive result before an area has its disease management status designation removed. If no positive results are found this year, the zone’s disease management status may change.

Detailed information regarding CWD management, registration, sample submission and carcass requirements can be found on the DNR website at Hunters are encouraged to monitor this site as new information is added as it becomes available.




DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                               Sept. 9, 2013

DNR conservation officer honored by Minnesota Trappers Association

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officer Tricia Plautz of Henning was recently named officer of the year by the Minnesota Trappers Association (MTA).

The officer of the year is selected for their work on MTA’s tanned fur project where donated raw furs are tanned, dressed and used for educational purposes at such places as county fairs, youth outdoor programs and trapper/hunter education classes.

“Trapping is a heritage tradition and I enjoy seeing many continue the sport for future generations,” Plautz said. “I especially enjoy educating young adults on the aspects of trapping and value of each animal.”

Although the majority of the furs included in the collections are donated by member trappers, a substantial number of limited species (fisher, marten, otters, bobcats) are donated through a cooperative agreement with the DNR’s Enforcement Division where confiscated, road-killed and surrendered out of season catches are donated for education.

“In response to higher fur prices offered over the past few years, donations are down across the board,” said Shawn Johnson, MTA president. “Participation by conservation officers like Plautz becomes that much more vital to the survival of the program.”

The Trappers Association is working with DNR Enforcement to eventually provide complete tanned fur collections to all of the DNR’s 18 enforcement districts for education.

“Officer-to-officer word of mouth about our program and referring educators to us for resources has been our greatest form of advertising and participation,” Johnson said.

MTA membership stands at nearly 2,700.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                               Sept. 9, 2013

REMINDER: Families, youth and women can go afield with upland bird mentors in October

Inexperienced families, women and youth hunters are reminded to apply by Sept.16 for a chance to step into the field with an experienced upland bird hunter at locations across much
of Minnesota on Saturday, Oct. 19, or Saturday, Oct. 26.

“Participants are offered a hands-on approach that shows them hunting techniques, outdoor skills, safety and how wildlife habitat plays a big part in upland bird management and hunter success,” said Mike Kurre, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) mentoring program coordinator.

Co-sponsored by the DNR, hunt participants are paired with mentors from Pheasants Forever, Woodcock Minnesota and the Ruffed Grouse Society. After discussing safety, habitat, ethics, scouting for places to hunt and securing landowner permission when necessary, mentors take participants into the field.

A limited number of family hunts allow all family members to participate. For youth hunts, parents or guardians must accompany youth hunters at all times and at all events but cannot carry a firearm.

To participate, youth must be 12-17 years old as of Oct. 19; have earned a valid firearms safety certificate; possess a small game license if required; and have a parent, guardian or adult authorized by a parent or guardian accompany them as a nonfirearms carrying mentor. The adult must accompany the youth during the orientation and the hunt.

A small game license is not needed for youth younger than 16. A $5 reduced-price license is required for youth 16 and 17.

People 18 and older do not need a parent or guardian to accompany them, but will need a valid firearms safety certificate if required or an apprentice hunter validation certification, pheasant stamp (if pheasant hunting) and a small game license.

Up to four family members can participate in a family hunt. Adult and youth family members must meet all eligibility requirements. Applicants who apply for a family hunt but are not selected in the lottery can opt to allow their children to participate in the youth hunt if spots remain open.

All applicants must specify the county or area they want to hunt, if they are willing to travel farther if their choice is not available and the distance they are willing to travel.

Applications are available online at or by contacting the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157, toll-free 888-646-6367 or Successful applicants will be notified via mail or email by end of September.

The winner’s notice will contain information about hunting license requirements, equipment and hunt coordinator contact information. All winners must contact their hunt coordinator after receiving notice.

Landowners with pheasant or grouse-producing property interested in allowing youth or novice families or women to hunt on their land can help out by contacting Pheasants Forever’s Eran Sandquist at 763-242-1273.




Q: Recently, the state Legislature made a change to allow open water waterfowl hunting for the first time in Minnesota since 1915. Why was the change made, and which bodies of water does it affect?

A: The change was made to provide a unique waterfowl hunting opportunity on a small number of lakes. Typically hunters in open water use layout boats, large decoy spreads and target diving ducks that often raft offshore. The bodies of water selected are large border waters (with the exception of Mille Lacs Lake) where open water hunting is already legal in the adjacent state/province and disturbance to ducks will be minimal. The other lakes are Lake of the Woods, Lake Superior, and Lake Pepin. On the Mississippi River south of Hastings, hunters must be in partially concealing vegetation or within 100 feet of the shoreline including islands, which is consistent with Wisconsin regulations on this stretch of river. On all these bodies of water, hunters must be at anchor.

-Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl staff specialist

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