Good news for South Dakota pheasants

South Dakota’s pheasant population is up 42 percent over last year, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department announced Thursday. The statewide PPM index is similar to 2011 when hunters harvested 1.56 million roosters.

t10.15.2014 -- Sam Cook -- cookPHEASANT1026c3 -- Along a rural road near Windom, Minn., a rooster pheasant sits in a tree on a frosty October morning.

This year’s population index is more than double the 2013 level, when hunters harvested just under one million pheasants. The index continues to lag behind the 10-year average due to the extremely high counts from 2005 through 2010.

South Dakota’s traditional statewide pheasant hunting season opens Oct. 17 and runs through Jan. 3.

The highest counts in the survey were recorded in the Chamberlain, Pierre and Winner areas.

Women’s mountain-biking clinic coming to Duluth

Duluth native Amy Thomas who now lives in Denver sent along a note today letting us know about a women’s mountain-biking clinic that’s coming to Duluth on Aug. 29-30. It’s sponsored by the VIDA MTB Series. The clinics have also been held in Sedona, Angel Fire, Keystone and Crested Butte, Thomas said.

“This year we added Duluth because I convinced my partners that Duluth is on the path of becoming the Moab of the Midwest,” she said.

Cost of the two-day clinic is $310. For more information or to register, go to


DNR: Minnesota’s wolf population statistically unchanged

Minnesota’s wolf population remains about the same as in recent winters, according to results of the latest survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The latest survey results estimate that within Minnesota’s wolf range there were 374 wolf packs and 2,221 wolves last winter. Although this year’s specific population estimate is lower than the previous winter’s estimate of 2,423 wolves, there has been no statistically significant change in population size during the past three years, state wildlife officials said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife photo

U.S. Fish and Wildlife photo

The population survey is conducted in mid-winter near the low point of the annual population cycle. Immediately following birth of pups each spring, the wolf population typically doubles, though many pups do not survive to the following winter.

“Results from the 2015 wolf survey demonstrate that the wolf population remains well established across northern and central Minnesota,” said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the DNR.

Minnesota’s wolf population remains above the state’s minimum management goal of at least 1,600 wolves and is above the federal recovery goal of 1,251 to 1,400.

Minnesota announces duck and goose season framework

Minnesota duck hunters will see a season framework similar to last year’s, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today. The state’s regular waterfowl season will open a half-hour before sunrise on Sept. 26, with similar bag limits and season dates that were in place last year.

Duck season will be open for 60 days in each of the three waterfowl zones.

t10.2.11 Sam Cook -- cookDEVILS1009c2 -- Lily, Dave Kent's yellow lab, returns to the boat with a duck during a morning of hunting on Devils Lake.

In the north zone, duck season is Sept. 26 through Nov. 24.
In the central zone, duck season is Sept. 26 through Oct. 4, closes for five days, then reopens Oct. 10, and runs through Nov. 29.
In the south zone, duck season is Sept. 26 through Oct. 4, closes for 10 days, then reopens Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 4.
The only bag limit change from the 2015 season is for canvasbacks, which increases from one to two per day. The daily duck bag limit remains six ducks per day. The mallard bag limit remains four per day, including two hen mallards. The daily bag limits remain at three for wood ducks and three for scaup.

The waterfowl seasons are based on a federal framework that applies to all states in the Mississippi Flyway.

More information on duck, goose, sandhill crane and other migratory bird hunting seasons will be available in the 2015 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations, available in mid-August in booklet form and online at

All states in the Mississippi Flyway were offered the option for a September teal season or two bonus blue-winged teal during the regular season. Minnesota did not participate in either teal option last year and again made the choice not to take a teal season or bonus blue-winged teal option this year.

Mallard abundance from a continental spring survey that includes Minnesota is used to determine overall duck season length. This year’s estimate was 11.8 million mallards, which was well above the long-term average. Since 1997, duck season length has been 60 days each year and the mallard population has ranged from 6.8 million to 11.8 million mallards.

“The status of mallards, and most other species of ducks important to Minnesota hunters, is very good this year based on spring populations surveys,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.

Youth waterfowl day

Youth Waterfowl Day will be Sept. 12. Hunters ages 15 and under may take regular season bag limits when accompanied by an adult age 18 or older.

Canada goose seasons and limits

Canada goose hunting is open in the three duck zones, and also in an intensive harvest zone. For a map of the intensive zone and other information, see

The early September Canada goose season will open statewide on Sept. 5, and run through Sept. 22. Bag limits for Canada geese are 10 per day in the intensive harvest zone (west-central Minnesota) and five per day in the rest of the state. A $4 permit is required to hunt Canada geese during the September season.
Minnesota’s regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season statewide on Sept. 26, with a bag limit of three dark geese per day the entire season.  “Dark” geese include Canada geese, white-fronted geese, and brant. Goose season will be closed in the central and south duck zones when duck season is closed.
Sandhill crane season

The season for sandhill cranes is Sept. 12 Oct. 18 in the northwest goose and sandhill crane zone only. The daily bag limit will be one sandhill crane per day. A $3 sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license.

Lake Superior paddleboarder urges caution

Due to strong winds, stand-up paddleboarder Jared Munch has revised his itinerary for this final day’s paddle of his circumnavigation of Lake Superior.

Here’s the plan:

At 1 p.m., he’ll depart from the University of Minnesota Duluth aquatic center on the Duluth-Superior harbor, near Minnesota Avenue and 15th Street.
At 1:30 p.m., he plans to paddle from the harbor, through the Duluth Ship Canal, onto Lake Superior.
At 2 p.m., he plans to be on the beach at Endion Station to greet the media and the public.
He’ll depart from that beach and paddle the Duluth shoreline to the mouth of the Lester River.

Between 4 and 5 p.m., he plans to reach the mouth of the Lester River.

Munch has said he invites others to paddle the final few miles with him, but due to today’s high and gusty winds, Munch encourages only experienced paddlers with proper safety gear to join him on his final stretch.

Day’s end

A sailboat rests in Superior Bay at sunset on Saturday evening. (Sam Cook photo)

A sailboat rests in Superior Bay at sunset on Saturday evening. (Sam Cook photo)

My wife and I were leaving the beach at Park Point on Saturday night when I saw the sunset over Superior Bay. Grabbed a quick iPhone shot of it. Nice place, Duluth.

Canada goose hunting opens Aug. 8 in western Minnesota

Hunters can hunt Canada geese in west-central Minnesota from Aug. 8 through Aug. 23, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Hunters are allowed to shoot up to 10 Canada geese per day, but there is no limit to the number of Canada geese a hunter can possess.

t10.02.2014 -- Sam Cook -- cookGEESE1005c1 -- In the pre-dawn darkness Thursday morning, Reed Ylitalo of Grand Rapids places a Canada goose decoy in a field of wheat stubble near Cohasset before a morning of goose hunting. Ylitalo and his dad, Tom Ylitalo, put out six dozen decoys and two dozen goose silhouettes to attract geese.

Reed Ylitalo of Grand Rapids places a Canada goose decoy in a field of wheat stubble before a morning of goose hunting.

“The state’s Canada goose population remains high, and the August management action is one way to control goose numbers,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR. “This harvest helps limit the amount of damage the birds cause to crops in the western portion of the state.”

The August goose harvest will open only in the intensive harvest zone in west-central Minnesota, with shooting hours from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. A small game hunting license, special goose permit and state waterfowl stamp are required. A federal waterfowl stamp is not needed; however, it is required to hunt geese and other waterfowl beginning in September.

This is the third year the DNR has held an August goose management action.

“Last August, about 5,500 hunters harvested about 21,000 Canada geese, compared to 24,000 in 2013,” Cordts said. “Factors like weather and progress of small grain harvest tends to affect hunter success.”

The DNR in August will announce details of fall waterfowl seasons, including the September Canada goose season that runs from Sept. 5 through Sept. 22, and the regular Canada goose seasons that tentatively begin Sept. 26.

Climbing rendezvous at Ely’s Peak on Saturday

The Duluth Climbers Coalition will hold a 2015 Mid-Summer Climbing Rendezvous on Saturday at Ely’s Peak. The event is free, open to the public and open to climbers of all skill levels and all ages (including kids).  Equipment and free instruction will be provided by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Recreational Sports Outdoor Program. Staff from Vertical Endeavors Indoor Climbing Facility and the College of St. Scholastica’s Outdoor Pursuit Program will also be available to ensure safe climbing.

From Duluth, drive south on I-35 and take Midway Road exit. Turn left and go 2.2 miles south on Midway to parking lot on left. It’s a ¼-mile hike to Ely’s Peak. It’s a wilderness setting — no bathroom facilities.

Climbing will happen from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by food and drink for purchase from 3 to 6 p.m. at Spirit Mountain’s Grand Avenue Chalet.

Minnesota walleye stocking on par with recent years

Walleye anglers across Minnesota will benefit from another year of walleye stocking by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Aaron Murphy of Cohasset displays a 23-inch walleye he caught on Cut Foot Sioux Lake north of Deer River during the 2014 Minnesota fishing opener Saturday morning. (News Tribune file)

Aaron Murphy of Cohasset displays a 23-inch walleye he caught on Cut Foot Sioux Lake north of Deer River during the 2014 Minnesota fishing opener Saturday morning.
(News Tribune file)

This year, fisheries officials took more than 582 million eggs, close to the 10-year average, according to the DNR. Those eggs were raised to so-called fry stage, tiny fish just beyond the egg stage. About 115 million of those fry are now being reared in 286 rearing ponds and will be stocked as fingerlings. About 296 million fry will be stocked in 272 lakes.

Here are some walleye stocking facts:

Length of a walleye fry — about 1/3-inch.
Length of a walleye fingerling — 4 to 6 inches.
Lakes stocked with walleye (each lake usually every other year) — about 1,050, all over the state.
Lakes where, without any stocking, anglers can still catch walleye: 260, mostly in the northern half of the state.
Estimated percentage of walleye harvested that result from natural reproduction — 85 percent, with about half from popular walleye lakes like Lake of the Woods, Leech, Red and Winnibigoshish.
For stocking information about individual lakes, enter the lake name on LakeFinder at the DNR Fish Minnesota page,


Minnesota mallard numbers down, other species up

Minnesota’s breeding mallard population counts are down from last year, but other species saw increases, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today.

Each year, the department conducts spring waterfowl surveys across the state. This year’s mallard breeding population was estimated at 206,000, which is 20 percent below last year’s estimate of 257,000 breeding mallards, 17 percent below the recent 10-year average and 10 percent above the long-term average measured since 1968.

The blue-winged teal population is up 66 percent at 169,000, compared to the 2014 estimate of 102,000, but the population remains 21 percent below the long-term average of 212,000.

The combined populations of other ducks, such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads was 149,000, which is 29 percent higher than last year and 16 percent below the long-term average.

The estimate of total duck abundance (excluding scaup) was 524,000, similar to last year’s estimate of 474,000 ducks.

The continental waterfowl population estimates will be released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later this summer and will provide an indicator of what hunters can expect this fall.

This year’s Canada goose population in Minnesota was estimated at 250,000, which was similar to last year’s estimate of 244,000 geese.