Wisconsin announces duck season framework, new crossbow season

Wisconsin duck hunters will have a 60-day season opening Sept. 27, the Department of Natural Resources announced today . Waterfowl breeding populations in 2014 are mostly good to excellent in Wisconsin, according to DNR officials. The youth waterfowl hunt will be held Sept. 20-21.

Changes to waterfowl regulations will include a reduction in the daily canvasback limit from two to one, and an expansion of the Horicon Zone Canada goose limit from six birds to 12.

The daily bag limit for ducks statewide will be six, including no more than: four mallards, of which only one may be a hen; one black duck; one canvasback; three wood ducks; two pintails; three scaup; and two redheads.

For species of duck not listed, such as teal and ring-necked ducks, the combined bag total with all other species may not exceed six ducks. It is important to note that possession limits have been increased to three times the daily bag limit.

The department will offer an early teal-only duck hunting season Sept. 1-7 statewide with a daily bag limit of six teal.

For more information on Wisconsin’s waterfowl seasons, go to dnr.wi.gov and search “waterfowl.”


Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board on Wednesday approved the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ recommendation to establish a deer hunting season in which the use of a crossbow is allowed. A crossbow deer hunting license is available for any qualified hunter to purchase. This will be the first time many Wisconsin deer hunters will have the opportunity to hunt with a crossbow. Previously, only holders of permits for hunters with disabilities and hunters age 65 or older could use a crossbow under the authority of an archer license.

The crossbow deer hunting season will run concurrent with the archery season. During open firearm seasons, a gun deer license will authorize bow and crossbow use. Crossbow licenses include one statewide buck tag and one Farmland Zone antlerless tag. It is important to note that those who purchase both an archery license and a crossbow license will receive only one set of tags. For more information, go to dnr.wi.gov.



Wild rice season opens Friday, but rice may not be ready

Minnesota’s wild rice harvesting season opens Friday, Aug. 15, and runs through Sept. 30. Despite the season dates, harvesters must first ensure the rice is ripe before launching their canoes, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesota’s green rice law does not allow the harvesting of unripe rice, and the late spring means some rice stands may be slow to mature.

More than 1,200 lakes and rivers in 54 counties contain wild rice, with concentrations of rice being the highest in Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca and St. Louis counties.

Rice is ripening similarly to last year. Peak harvesting dates are estimated to be in early to mid-September as long as weather remains mild.

Some beds that held rice last year may have no harvestable rice this fall, said Dave Kanz, DNR area wildlife manager at Aitkin. Scouting will be particularly important this year to find decent stands of harvestable rice.

Here are some rules for harvesting wild rice in Minnesota:

Harvest may take place from a non-motorized canoe, 18 feet or less in length, utilizing only a push pole or paddles for power.

Rice is collected by using two sticks, or flails, to knock mature seeds into the canoe. Flails can be no longer than 30 inches, and must weigh less than one pound each.

Harvesting licenses cost $25 per season, or $15 per day, per person for Minnesota residents.

There is no limit to the number of pounds people may harvest with a permit.

More information about wild rice management, a list of wild rice buyers and processors, and a list of lakes and rivers containing wild rice is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/wildlife/shallowlakes/wildrice.html.

Wild rice harvesting licenes may be purchased online via desktop browser and smartphone at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense or any DNR license agent.

3D archery shoot set for this weekend near Duluth

The Duluth Archery Club will hold its annual Bowhunting Warmup 3D shoot Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-17, at its range, 5979 Eagle Lake Road. Registration is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. The cost $15 for adults, $7.50 for ages 13-17, and free for children 12 and under. The 30-target 3D shoot is open to the public.

New Riverside mountain-biking trail in Mission Creek is open

Another 2.2 miles of mountain biking trail has opened in Duluth in the Mission Creek area of far western Duluth. COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores) announced the opening late last week.

I rode the trail on Sunday, and it’s spectacular. It’s a wide “flow” trail that rides like a dream as it winds around the ravines and beneath towering white pines between Minnesota Highway 210 and the St. Louis River.

A mountain biker negotiates a bridge on a new segment of mountain biking trail in the Mission Creek area that opened this past weekend. Hansi Johnson shared this photo. For more photos of this trail segment, visit Johnson’s “Universal Klister” blog at universalklister.blogspot.com. (Hansi Johnson photo)

The trailhead is 1/4 mile up Highway 210 on the left side from Chambers Grove and Minnesota Highway 23. The trail was built by Aaron Rodgers and his Upper Peninsula crew from Rock Solid Trails.

I’m not an expert rider by any means, and I was comfortable on the entire trail, even some of the bridges that had some elevation change to them. However, beginning mountain bikers might find some of the short, steep drops on the trail and on some of the bridges more than they want.

Here’s how I’d compare the trail to other mountain biking trails around town. It’s wider than the trails at Hartley and along Amity Creek. It’s as wide as the Duluth Traverse segment along the Lester River which opened recently. It’s much less rocky and rooty than the trails at Hartley. The bridges are much wider than those at Hartley and some along Amity Creek.

Mostly, it just flows beautifully and offers gorgeous views of that mature maple and pine forest around every corner.

The Rock Solid trail crew is still working on the trails on the upper side of Highway 210, and those trails remain closed, COGGS reminds riders. Rock Solid is in the U.P. this week and will return the week of the Kraus-Anderson Bike Duluth Festival to put the finishing touches on that trail.


Night fishing will open July 21 on Mille Lacs Lake

The night-fishing ban for walleye anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will be lifted July 21 at 10 p.m., according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

In past years, the Mille Lacs Lake night closure, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., began the Monday after the May opener and continued through mid-June. This year’s regulations originally extended the closure to Dec. 1 to help ensure state-licensed anglers did not catch more walleyes than the lake’s safe harvest limit allowed. If that limit was reached, anglers would have had to release all walleyes instead of being allowed to keep two. The possession limit is two fish from 18 to 20 inches. One fish may be longer than 28 inches.

The night-fishing ban was lifted because anglers are catching fewer walleyes on the lake this summer. So far, anglers have caught about 10,000 pounds of walleyes, DNR officials said. Fisheries officials believe anglers won’t catch more than the harvest limit of 42,900 pounds of walleyes.

Anglers have caught fewer walleye because walleyes are feeding on an abundance of perch in Mille Lacs this year and because of reduced fishing pressure.

“The DNR is not removing the night closure because Mille Lacs Lake has recovered,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief. “More young walleye still need to survive their first year and keep growing from year to year into larger walleye. Conditions this year combined for a slow bite, allowing DNR to re-open an activity that helps the Mille Lacs area economy and is a tradition among many fishing families.”

When miniature hot-air balloons go bad

Here’s an entry from today’s conservation officer reports from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Conservation officer Matt Miller (Marine Unit, Lake Superior) checked big-water anglers (on Lake Superior)… A group launching small paper-and-bamboo balloons out over Lake Superior was asked what their plan was to retrieve the balloons. When they said they were not going to, they were reminded that litter is litter, whether it is dropped out of a moving vehicle or launched for fun over the lake.

Images of high summer in the North

A great blue heron flies along the shoreline of Fish Lake north of Duluth on Wednesday evening. (Sam Cook photo)

This time of year is what a friend of mine calls “high summer.” We’ve reached the high point of summer’s fullness. Fish are chunky and full of feed. Deer are wearing their deep red. Baby birds are growing stronger. The roadsides are a blur of daisies, lupine, orange hawkweed and buttercups. Soon: Fireweed.

Food is plentiful. Life is good. The light is rich and full.

A few images from recent days seem to reflect this mood of high summer. I saw the great blue heron, above, walking along a shoreline of cattails Wednesday evening while I was doing a fishing story on Fish Lake. When he took flight, I grabbed a few shots of him. Such a graceful creature.

Here are a few more photos that seem to capture the essence of high summer in the North.

Sarah Stirewalt took this photo of Minnesota’s state flower, the showy lady slipper, while she was biking on the Munger Trail in Duluth this week. (Sarah Stirewalt photo)

Loon chicks are growing fast now. Here’s a loon family riding the waves of Pelican Lake near Orr on Thursday. (Sam Cook photo)

Nothing says summer like a beefy largemouth bass draped in aquatic vegetation and wearing a saucy swim jig in its lip. This largemouth bass was caught by Butch Furtman of Orr on Pelican Lake on Thursday afternoon. (Sam Cook photo)



MDHA issues final report on 2014 emergency deer feeding

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has prepared a final report on this past winter’s emergency deer feeding effort. For the complete report, go to the MDHA website at mndeerhunters.com.

Here are some highlights from that summary:

  • The program was paid for by the DNR through an account funded by a surcharge of 50 cents per deer license. The fund was initiated by the Minnesota Legislature in 1996.
  • A total of 1,056,000 pounds of feed, or 528 tons, was purchased and distributed across more than 12,000 square miles during the six-week initiative. A total of 969 individuals obtained feed through the program. These volunteers put feed out at 1,123 documented sites across the 13 DNR-approved Deer Permit Areas in Northeastern Minnesota.
  • A total of $200,225 was spent on feed procurement and shipping/handling. Under the terms of the grant, MDHA paid the feed procurement expenses as they were incurred, and subsequently requested reimbursement from the DNR. DNR reimbursed MDHA for appropriate expenses from the “Emergency Winter Deer Feeding/Wild Cervid Health” account.
  • A minimum of 72 volunteers handed out feed on a weekly basis at the eight distribution points for a total of 288 volunteer hours per week and 1,728 total volunteer hours for the six-week period. A total of 885 hours of MDHA staff time was used to support the feeding program. The cost of this staff time was $32,990.




Unfortunate encounter with a woodchuck along Lutsen’s Alpine Slide

Paul Sundberg of Grand Marais, shared the following story about an unlikely encounter with a woodchuck recently. Sundberg was for years the manager of Gooseberry Falls State Park for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He’s a professional photographer who each week shares his recent photos of the outdoors and other happenings at his website, paulsundbergphotography.com.

Be warned: The story about the woodchuck has a sad ending.

Sundberg’s  granddaughter, Addie, 6, was visiting from the South, and on the last day of their visit, they took a ride on the Alpine Slide at the Lutsen Mountains ski area. At the Alpine Slide, visitors ride small sleds down a long hill in a winding concrete trough. Here’s Sundberg’s account:

“We took (Addie) on the Alpine slide. She rode down on my lap. About two-thirds of the way down, we are flying along and here in the middle of the concrete runway ahead of us is a woodchuck that fell into the track,” Sundberg wrote in an e-mail.

“They tell you not to stop because you can get hit from behind by another rider. I slow up and it looks like the woodchuck is going to climb out. At the last second he slips on the concrete and slides back in again. Now I can’t stop in time and know I am going to hit him. He is either going to come on top of the slide and end up in Addie’s lap or he is going under the sled.

“He goes under, and I think he is far enough on the side that he goes through. Not so. Soon the sled is going slower and stops. I quickly grab Addie and throw her out of the sled on the grass so nobody hits us. I jump out and pick up the sled.”

The woodchuck, Sundberg said, had been hit by the sled but did not immediately die. It managed to crawl off into the woods, although Sundberg feared the animal would not survive.

“Addie looks up at me and says, ‘I didn’t do that, Poppy. You were driving,’ ” Sundberg wrote.

As a result of the incident, they received another ride down the slide, compliments of the Alpine Slide staff, he said.

“The guy standing in line ahead of us said that the same thing happened to him 12 years ago,” Sundberg said.