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License costs may increase

The Minnesota Legislature is currently considering a bill, which if enacted, would increase the cost of a resident fishing license to $21 in 2011 and to $25 in 2015. Today, a fishing license costs $17. The DNR has not asked for an increase, or provided support for the bill. The committee that oversees the DNR budget has recommended a license fee increase. The Game & Fish Fund, which is made up largely from license sales, will dip into the red in 2014.

4X magnification scopes on muzzle loaders

The Minnesota Deer Hunter's Association has lent support to a bill that would permit a modest 4X scope on your muzzle loader. This is something of a compromise in the bitter contest to allow scopes on these firearms.

CRP is still alive

The Conservation Reserve Program, the principal provider of habitat protection, has the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA's Secretary, Tom Visack, said so at the annual Pheasants Forever convention at Des Moines a few weeks ago -- to the extent of about 32 million acres, down about 2 1/2 million a year ago. Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and Ducks Unlimited officials at the Des Moines bash were encouraged by the USDA announcement but disappointed that it isn't larger. Minnesota has about 1.6 million acres in CRP. Considering the severity of this winter on Minnesota's pheasant belt, the USDA commitment is good news. Minnesota will have considerable acres now in CRP, to expire in the next three years.

The walleye stamp

It isn't necessary to buy one in order to catch and keep walleyes, but the stamps are on sale for $5 where licenses are sold. For an additional $2, the DNR will mail you the actual stamp. Buying a stamp is a good way to provide funds for walleye stocking.

Reserve a "boomer" blind

A prairie chicken viewing blind is available to the public on the Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge located 10 miles northwest of Detroit Lakes. The blind accommodates four people. Phone (218) 847-4431 to reserve the blind. Get there long before sun up, and be quiet. Take binoculars, a thermos of coffee and a coffee can. We've tried it, and it is a delight.

Migrating waterfowl

On the weekend of March 13 and 14, we began to notice flocks of geese arriving. They first made a showing at Lake 413, the sewer pond at the corner of West Willow and Highway 59. The mallards came too, but in far less numbers. By mid mornings, they flocked in numbers of about 25 or 30, and flew northeasterly toward fields east of Callaway. The geese were also seen on the barren fields adjacent to Highway 59 North of Ogema. There were a few fields of standing corn, and the Canadas helped themselves. One farmer decided it was about time to cut the corn. Big machinery and trucks were moved in and the geese had quite a time at the location for the next few days. All of the lakes were still iced in but they flocked to the center of Round Lake, Mary Yellowhead and possibly others.

Some of these Canadas may decide to end their voyage north while they make the stop here. But most will get restless, disturbed by auto traffic and people. They'll group, fly off in early evening and be gone.

The mallards, teal, wood ducks, gadwalls and other dabblers will arrive when some water is open. It is these ducks that will nest here and provide early season hunting when the season opens in late September.

U.S. Army adopts air guns

In order to teach rifle marksmanship, the U.S. Army gas gone to the .177 caliber pellet gun. Made by RWS of Stuttgart, Germany, it is far different from the usual break-barrel firearm we've become familiar with. It still loads the pellets individually but instead of the usual piston, it uses a system of charging a cylinder with compressed air, electrically stimulated. The firearms are big and bulky, usually topping eight pounds.

Amazingly accurate, they'll pile all the pellets into a one-inch group at several hundred yards. Of course, with no gunpowder, only compressed air with a forward thrust, the reverse of recoil, there's no fear of kick or a loud recoil. The average guy coming into the Army these days has even less gun familiarization than we did when we entered the Service before WWII.

The Army has high hopes for an air gun program, expecting to train new GIs into better riflemen.

Delisting the Timber Wolf

The Minnesota DNR has filed a petition with the U.S. Department Of The Interior. The State asks the Feds to immediately remove wolves from the endangered species list. Since wolves were relisted last fall, in Midwest states there has been no movement by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have an estimated 4,000 animals and this could be higher. Minnesota has the largest number of wolves in the lower 48 states.

Minnesota claims the state has a better handle on management than does the Federal group.

There are wolf-human conflicts, of course. More than 3,000 incidents involving depredation of farm animals. These occur mostly in the forested areas where cattle raising is attempted. Minnesota continues to have a growing problem there. The Minnesota Department Of Agriculture supports the DNR delisting proposal, with wolf control reestablished in the state.