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Duck opener was better than expected

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The opening day, on Saturday Oct. 4 was good, a good deal better than expected. The weather got a bit cooler; there was some rain, and some widgeon, gadwall, a few mallards showed up in bags. It is not likely that there will be a big push of migratory waterfowl show up until it gets really severe, but duck hunting locally was pleasing to many guys. We had some visitors from the Twin Cities, and from St. Cloud that I'm acquainted with, who said that hunting hereabouts was as good as most anywhere. And I'd predicted that it was going to be a poor season.

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The restriction on bluebills and a closed canvasback season wasn't of much concern to hunters in our area. With the weather pretty stable for the first two weeks, anticipation is running pretty high for a much better waterfowl season this year. Geese, as always, has been a bright spot, but a lot of us don't want all that many geese. We're after mallards!

Safe bullets for good venison

The big three in manufacturing rifle ammunition, Winchester, Remington, and Federal, have had copper jacketed bullets for several years now. But, they're more expensive than the lead core bullets, and they do mushroom better. So why not stay with a winner, the lead slugs?

Each of the big three markets a copper jacketed bullet, available in all of the popular deer calibers. The old lead core bullets have always mushroomed beautifully. That is to say, they anchored your buck effectively. But sometimes they fragmented. That is, frequently they shed some of their weight, and this is the way the venison becomes contaminated with the toxic lead. If you, at home, or your processor didn't diligently trim away all soft tissue in the wound channel, there was some danger of lead fragments remaining.

Like a whole lot of hunters with whom I've talked with, I do not become alarmed about toxic venison -- the ground meat and the sausages especially -- as having dangerously high levels of toxicity. For many years, families of deer hunters in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas have taken our deer home and used it in delicious family meals. It is only now, with venison becoming available to other people through the food bank donations, that this has been cited as a problem. Well, we'll just have to live with the revised law, continue to donate the solid cuts of meat, those said to be likely less toxic than the ground venison.

Pheasant forecasts

For the past three seasons, Minnesota's hunters have been taking home about 600,000 pheasant roosters each year. The bags have been better than they were back in 1964, when we thought that a harvest of about 375,000 birds was a pretty good season. We're down a bit this year, but hunting in Minnesota will nevertheless be pretty good. The crowing counts done by the DNR were above average, but we had spring weather, which wasn't conducive to the best climate for young chicks. A wet, chilly spring doesn't produce the insect protein needed for survival. The protective habitat across the usual Minnesota pheasant range -- the south and southwest part of the state -- has been lessened too, about 38,000 acres of CRP are gone, with another 98,000 acres more expected to expire last month.

The bag limit goes up to three roosters per day on Dec. 1st. We'll have a pretty good ringneck season in Minnesota. The season opened on Sat., Oct. 11, and I've heard reports of some very satisfying number of flushes when experienced hunters were out in traditionally good pheasant range using good dogs.

South Dakota is simply awash with pheasants. The north central part and the northeastern counties are way up this year, and that's the area we like because there are fewer miles to drive, and fewer hunters. Gas prices are down a trifle, but some hunters, half a continent away may not be on the scene this year.

North Dakota is poised for another very good season on roosters -- perhaps not a record -- but a good one. The southwest, the areas where DL's Don Tietz' Red Rock pheasant Mecca is located, will be one of the best locations you can head for. The location of Tietz' spread is northeast of the town of Richardton. Less CRP hasn't diminished Don's hunting areas. The usual farm crops of corn, sorghum and alfalfa were all grown there this summer, and I look for sensational bird hunting there soon now. There's been sufficient rainfall in southwestern North Dakota, always a factor in production of birds.

Iowa, well, not so good. It was so-so last year due again to poor production, wet and cold weather being blamed. CRP loss in Iowa was severe. Iowa's harvest estimate of 500,000 birds is less than Minnesota's. But, a bad year in Iowa would be considered very good in many states.

Wolf management

A U.S. District Court judge has terminated Minnesota's management of wolves. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has resumed control, and has placed the wolf back on the Endangered Species list. In March 2007, when wolf delisting took effect, it became a threatened species in Minnesota. Animal rights activist the Humane Society sued the federal agency. The Management by the State Of Minnesota was declared as premature, and it reverted to federal control. We have more wolves in Minnesota than any other place except Alaska and Canada, and things were running along smoothly. So this action is startling. It is indeed unfortunate, that after a year and a half, Minnesota once again loses control. Our Minnesota DNR has a lot of very capable wolf experts, and this fact was apparently ignored.

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