South Dakota pheasant index up 76 percent

A yellow Lab rests with the result of an afternoon hunt.

South Dakota’s pheasant-per-mile index is up 76 percent from last year, according to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. The survey is not a population estimate, but rather compares the number of pheasants observed on the routes and establishes trend information.

“With favorable weather conditions this past winter and spring, along with the availability of quality nesting habitat across the state, we are going to see an increase in this year’s pheasant population,” Jeff Vonk, GFP secretary, said in a statement. “Survey results show pheasant numbers rebounded the strongest in central South Dakota; especially in the Pierre, Chamberlain, Mobridge and Winner areas. Results also indicate that pheasant numbers are substantially higher than 2013 throughout much of eastern South Dakota.”

The 2014 statewide pheasants-per-mile index of 2.68 is up from 1.52 in 2013. The statewide pheasant-per-mile index is similar to 2002 when hunters harvested 1.26 million roosters.

Dave Nomsen, who leads Pheasants Forever’s new regional headquarters in Brookings, S.D., says the positive brood report should excite pheasant hunters but needs to be taken in context with the substantial upland habitat losses of recent years.

“The ‘pheasant crisis’ South Dakota has experienced over the past few years has not been solved,” Nomsen said in a statement. “While tough winters and wet springs play a role in population changes, it’s the loss of habitat that’s responsible for the long-term decline of pheasants in the state. And we haven’t yet replaced the 1.8 million acres of grasslands and prairies lost since 2006.”

South Dakota’s traditional statewide pheasant hunting season opens on Oct. 18 and runs through Jan. 4, 2015.



Small game and duck hunter numbers decline in Minnesota

A yellow Lab retrieves a rooster pheasant during a Minnesota pheasant hunt.

The number of pheasant hunters, ruffed grouse hunters and duck hunters all declined last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Pheasant hunter numbers dropped the most dramatically, down 19 percent from 2012. Pheasant hunters took an estimated 169,100 pheasants, down 36 percent from 264,000 in 2012 and the lowest harvest since 1986. Pheasant hunters took an average of 2.7 pheasants last fall.

An estimated 77,900 people hunted ducks, down 5 percent from 2012. Duck hunters took more than 782,000 ducks, an average of 10.2 ducks each in 2013.

The number of grouse hunters last fall was estimated at 81,100, down 11 percent from 2012. Grouse hunters harvested an average of 3.6 in 2013 compared to 3.7 in 2012. The overall grouse harvest was 288,410, the lowest since 2005-06. The ruffed grouse population fluctuates on about a 10-year cycle and is currently in the lower range of that cycle.

The hunter numbers and harvest figures are based on a survey of small-game hunters by the DNR.

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 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



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.

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

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.




Wisconsin sets wolf season quota at 156

Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board today  set the state’s 2014 wolf season quota at 156, down from last year’s quota of 275. The quota is the same as that proposed by the Department of Natural Resources Wolf Advisory Committee.

Minnesota expects to set its wolf hunting and trapping quotas sometime in July, said Dan Stark, DNR large carnivore specialist.


The quota was set with the intention of continuing to reduce the state’s wolf population in accordance with the goals identified in the wolf management plan, DNR officials said in a news release.


Last fall, hunters and trappers in Wisconsin took 257 wolves. The state’s current late-winter 2014 minimum count is 660-689 wolves. This count represents a decline of 18 percent from the 2013 winter count of 809-834.


The DNR Wolf Advisory Committee is comprised of DNR staff, the Chippewa tribes, partner natural resource agencies and stakeholders representing the agriculture industry, Wisconsin Conservation Congress, sporting groups and organizations with an interest in wolf management.


Though the quota has been decided, the amount of wolves harvestable by state trappers and hunters may be adjusted dependent on tribal harvest declarations.


The department will maintain the 10-to-1 license-to-quota ratio from the 2013 season. One half of available permits will be issued randomly among all permit applications and the second half will be issued through a cumulative preference-point drawing.


Those interested in obtaining a license or a preference point for the 2014 season must apply by Aug. 1. The permit application fee is $10, and applications may be purchased from authorized license agents, over the Internet through the DNR Online Licensing Center or by phone at (877) 945-4236 toll-free.


The state’s wolf season will begin Oct. 15 and will run in each zone until the zone is closed or the last day of February, whichever occurs first. The department has the authority to close hunting zones when quotas are met or if deemed biologically necessary.

Minnesota DNR officials say they plan to set the state’s wolf season quotas in July.

Hermantown, Hibbing qualify for state high school trapshooting championship

High school trapshooting teams from Hermantown and Hibbing were among 24 teams that have qualified for Minnesota’s 2014 State High School Clay Target State Tournament. The tournament will be held Saturday at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake, Minn.

The event is co-sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League and the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. Minnesota is the first and so far only state to sanction a state championship in clay target shooting.

Clay target shooting is a relatively new high school sport, open to both boys and girls who participate on the same team.



Short walk yields shed antler

Ingrid Lund, 4, of rural Carlton County, found this shed antler while she was out for a walk with her dad, Al Lund, last Thursday night near their home. (Al Lund photo)

Al Lund and his 4-year-old daughter, Ingrid, went for a little walk in the woods last Thursday evening before bedtime. The Lunds live in Kalevala Township in Carlton County. During the walk, they were lucky enough to find a shed antler left behind by a white-tailed deer. It’s the first shed antler they had ever found, Lund said.

“We found this antler 60 feet away from our house, behind one of the girls’ forts in a stand of cedars,” Lund said. “While walking around with my Sunday morning coffee, I found the other half about 100 feet away from the first. It is incredible how smart and sneaky these deer are. Neither my wife, myself nor our girls have ever seen this (or any) buck in our yard in the seven years we’ve lived here. Pretty cool.”

Yep. Pretty cool.


Whitetail fawns showing up now

Brandon Friermood captured this photo of a doe and her newborn fawn Sunday evening. (Brandon Friermood photo)

The first whitetail fawns are just beginning to appear now. Brandon Friermood took the photo above of a doe and her fawn Sunday evening near Barnes.

Wildlife officials in both Minnesota and Wisconsin urge people to leave newborn fawns alone, even if a doe isn’t present. Here’s information from a news release from the Minnesota DNR today:

“While a new fawn may appear helpless, it’s important to keep your distance and not interfere with the doe’s natural instinct for raising its young,” said Jeff Lightfoot, DNR northeast regional wildlife manager. “Leave fawns alone and let wildlife remain wild.”

Deer rear their offspring differently than humans. Most fawns are born in May, and within hours of birth the fawn is led to a secluded spot so it can nurse. With a full stomach, the fawn is content to lie down and rest. If the doe has twins, it will hide the second fawn up to 200 feet away. Then the doe leaves to feed and rest herself, out of sight but within earshot.

In four or five hours, the doe will return to feed the fawns and take them to a new hiding place. Deer follow this pattern for two to three weeks, and only then – when fawns are strong enough to outrun predators – do the young travel much with their mother.



Photographer captures drumming ruffed grouse on North Shore

A male ruffed grouse drums on his drumming log in Cascade River State Park on Minnesota’s North Shore. (Paul Sundberg photo)

Grand Marais professional photographer Paul Sundberg went back to visit an old friend of his recently — a ruffed grouse nicknamed “Cascade Rusty.” The bird drums on a moss-covered log in the park to attract females this time of year.

“Two of the many sounds of spring that I eagerly await are the frog choruses and the drumming of the male ruffed grouse,” Sundberg wrote.

Below is another photo that Sundberg made of the grouse. For more of Sundberg’s photography of this grouse, go to his website, Here’s the link. Look for the “Photo of the Week” feature.

A male ruffed grouse displays on its drumming log. (Paul Sundberg photo)