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Time to start thinking about waterfowl season

At the Mississippi Flyway Council meetings, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has offered Minnesota more liberal waterfowl limits, but our DNR for the second year in a row, has opted for more restrictive limits. Opening on Saturday, Oct. 3rd, it will run for sixty days.

There will be a two wood duck limit, and a hunter can take a hen mallard. Not a great idea, but some hunters seem to kill a hen on a regular basis. You can kill a canvasback, and two bills a day.

We produce a lot of wood ducks in Minnesota, so taking a pair of these colorful, beautiful drakes will set well with our state's hunters.

Our DNR wanted a more liberalized goose hunt this year, but that proposal ran into trouble at the flyway meetings. The season will remain as it was last year. Geese showed up well in hunter bags last season.

Pintails were a brisk topic of conversation at the meetings. Everyone had concerns about the scaup-bluebills. It's the habitat, not the hunter harvest that continues to be the blame. The smaller ringbills -- cousin to the bluebills -- are a bread and butter duck in Becker County, and hunters are going to have some of these in their bags. The limit will be six ducks daily, double that in possession, which is certainly enough of a daily take to satisfy all of us.

It seems pretty certain now that the Federal Duck Stamp will rise in price to $25 beginning next year.

MWA is back in business

The Minnesota Waterfowl Association is out of the red and is back to providing and developing duck and goose habitat here in Minnesota. After paying off its debt to the DNR for misuse of funds, this totally Minnesota minded group is effectively developing projects once again.

Yes, you should join MWA, along with Ducks Unlimited. The MWA has a local chapter, and stages a great dinner fundraiser in Callaway soon.

Minnesota had some duck hunting

In reverse of the national trend, Minnesota's duck and goose hunters bagged more birds last season. Duck hunter numbers are up in the state, but there is a national decline. They're not out hunting as we used to. Our 71,100 hunters bagged 584,000 birds last year. It was pretty slow, in general, and fair in Becker County. The Mississippi Flyway harvest was down, with Arkansas the top area for harvesting ducks.

Wind farms and ducks

Those tall towered windmills are appearing more frequently in North Dakota where there are lots of ducks. Do these towers with the big blades constantly circulating affect the wildlife? Research has begun to determine this. Hens are captured and fitted with tiny radios that weigh 9 grams, or about the weight of a Jefferson nickel. Some birds have perished, but not from collision with the towers or the blades. That's good news, but it's too early in the research to draw any conclusions.

The perfect repeater

Winchester's classic Model slide action shotgun is the best gun of its type ever made. The Model 12 first appeared in July 1913, and only in 20 gauge. It was discontinued in 1964, as it was just too costly to produce. Hunters wouldn't pay $108 for a Model 12, with Remington's Model 870, a satisfactory shotgun, selling at $69. The Model 12's sales reached more than two million, but the 870 has passed eight million and continues.

The Model 12 is all machined parts that are hand fitted in assembly, and the gun has always functioned flawlessly. It ruled the trap and skeet fields for five decades, with the Browning A5 semi automatic and the semiautomatic Remington Model 1100 on the market. But the whims of American shooters changed to semi-auto guns and finally the over-under shotgun came into favor. Engraved models, very fancy walnut, and classic custom guns were offered by Winchester. Some of the long record runs in the shotgun games are still held by the Model 12. For a short time, the skeet models included a 28 gauge, the rarest of all Model 12 designs. Still a collector's item, the many variations of the shotgun continue to interest collectors. It was the Model 12 that introduced the 3" magnum shotshell to the shooting-hunting public. This was named "the heavy duck gun", and it weighed nearly nine pounds. Lowell King, the DL Winchester salesman, and I were early fans of this model. The Model 12 took its share of waterfowl in the marshes of Becker County, including the prestigious duck clubs that existed on the lakes where Tamarac National Wildlife now exists. Model 12 shotguns continue in trap or field use, but this classic is gone. Many enthusiasts and collectors will never let its memory die. Classics are like that!

Culling the cormorants

This flocking bird is a fish eater. Preying on walleyes, crappies, sunfish, bass, whatever, wherever fish are present. The latest area in which cormorants are destroying the fishing is at Waconia. Four years ago there were about 400 nests on Coney Inland in Lake Waconia. Today, there are more than a thousand. And sport angling has hit the skids.

At Walker's Leech Lake, shooting done by specially trained marksmen working for the USDA Wildlife Services have successfully reduced the cormorant numbers.

Double crested cormorants are protected by the federal migratory bird act, which is probably too broad and is in need of revision. There are certain species that are detrimental to man's needs or aims. The cormorant has about as much welcome as rattlesnakes and mosquitoes.

There are about 38 cormorant breeding sites in Minnesota with about 16,000 breeding pairs here now. Depredation permits are available from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and are issued to individuals and to our Minnesota DNR. A cormorant eats more than a pound of fish daily. The birds employ clever, effective hunting methods, including overflying a lake and concentrating the fish into a shallow cove where they are more easily taken by aerial assault. I've seen this at Leech Lake. The water surface was alive with thrashing fish -- walleyes in this case -- and the cormorants fed hungrily. Petitions are circulating among the sport fishermen at Waconia, which will insist on more control by the federal sharpshooters. Bemidji is yet another area where some stepped up control is needed. Our walleye, and other fishing is going down the greedy gullet of the cormorants. We have to offer visiting guests good fishing, and take it away from the cormorants.

Arland Wisted: Senior Shooter

He is the eldest active competitor at trap shooting in the Becker County Sportsmen's Club. Approaching 90 years, he still lugged a chair to the firing line each week, and shot some very enviable scores. 25s and 24s out of 25 were commonplace, almost predicted. Encouraged by his gracious wife, Lois, Arland continued to bust 'em up throughout the arduous 16-week season. Arland has won trophies in the senior veteran class in competitions in Fargo, Alexandria, St. Cloud, and Bemidji, always giving a good account of himself. A credit to competition and sportsmanship, we expect that Arland will reappear when the BCSC trap season resumes in April.

The Grand American Trap Shoot

Brett Friesen and his family of competitive trap shooters made the 14-hour auto trip to the big event in Sparta, Ill. Young Tony Friesen is a veteran gunner now is in the junior class. Tony shot 200x200 to end up in a shoot-off. There were 54 shooters competing, nine from Minnesota. When the smoke cleared, Tony was the runner-up. Jona Friesen shot 90x100 in the sub-junior class. The pressures in these competitions are tremendous, and the Friesen kids show remarkable courage and endurance in finishing at or near the top, time after time.