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Bernie Revering column: MN?food banks received a lot of venison

The 2007 deer harvest in Minnesota ranked about fourth in seasonal kills. Not a record, but it did result in a very large amount of delicious wild game finding its way into area food banks. Sportsmen were given the opportunity to do so, thanks to a new plan, which paid for processing of the meat. Paid $71 per deer, processors await payment, while some of the venison remains in locker plants, as many food banks don't have the refrigeration facilities standing by to take it all in.

Gerard Franks of Audubon Meats, Hoffman's, and Ketter's in Frazee all sent venison to food banks here, and to some more distant places. Doing this generous thing provided a special treat to a large number of families who would never have had any wild game at all. Now that it is established, it is expected that it will grow. One proposal is to increase the resident license cost by $l next year in order to fund processing costs.

It may be downhill from here

The Conservation Reserve Program came in at about the right time. It is almost 25 years old now, but it may shrink from now on. The high commodity prices are receiving much of the blame, with some of the medium size producers pulling out. They prefer to, once again, plant the acres that for the past decade or so provided habitat. This is going to have an impact, as it provided food and cover for pheasants, waterfowl, deer, and sharptails, as well as countless songbirds -- creatures hunted and non-hunted varieties. Habitat loss will occur now, and it will affect hunting -- particularly on the waterfowl production areas under federal administration and the state's wildlife management areas.

We probably can't blame producers for pulling out. After all, their return isn't very great and more money can be made by returning to farming them, with bigger commodity prices.

There are some new options available, however. SAFE Conservation Practices #38 was introduced at the recent convention of Pheasants Forever last month in St. Paul. This involves 23,100 acres in Minnesota and 260,000 acres in an l8 state area. It will be the core of a new scheme involving the U.S. Department Of Agriculture. Its aim will bee to enroll up to half a million protected acres nationwide. In Minnesota the target areas will be in the very southern part, which is our best pheasant range to be sure!

We may be past the peak of the best pheasant hunting years, in Minnesota, and it is going to take money, dedication and hard work to achieve this very ambitious program. CRP may have peaked, and it will be an uphill fight.

The timber wolf is not threatened

But the Humane Society Of The United States wants our citizens to believe it is. This strong, active anti-hunting, anti-gun group, which has a $100 million bankroll, has instituted a lawsuit against the federal agency The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to return the timberwolf back to the endangered status. The Humane Society wants to protect everything from the grasshopper to the giraffe and everything in between. Every creature "has a soul" they claim. How this group looks at fresh meat in the butcher's shop or leather used in shoes and clothing, I don't know.

We have an estimated 3,000 wolves running at large in Minnesota. The wolves are running free, doing whatever wolves must do in order to survive, including killing some of our deer, domestic animals, farm dogs, along with rabbits and voles and mice. Minnesota is doing a good job of managing the wolf in the state. Some of these are at risk with the present statute, but there is no clear reason why the courts should take control. Lobo is at home here in northern Minnesota.

Minnesota's ice fishing season

Statewide it has been a fair ice fishing season for taking walleyes. Locally, it has not been spectacular. Hence a number of parties have made the several hour trip in a pickup truck to such places as Lake Of The Woods, Leech Lake, and the popular Mille Lacs, and Osakis. The season will wind down soon, but the angler always has the option of fishing for crappies and sunnies without the ice shelter. This is often the most eagerly anticipated part of the winter ice fishing. Fishing for the panfish is often better in the Detroit Lakes area than it is in other places. Crappies from Lake Melissa has always been a very dependable spot. I've fished the reef about a hundred yards adjacent to the west shore, some distance south of the reed beds. Water depth there is about twenty feet. It is good too, in the summertime, but it is tricky to find the drop off, which must be located.

Collin Peterson; an important conservationist

Our very own Collin Peterson is the Seventh District Congressman, a Democrat of Minnesota in the U.S. House Of Representatives, and he serves as the Chairman of the important Agricultural committee. Collin was a centerpiece at the recent 25th Anniversary party of Pheasants Forever in St. Paul.

Other important congressmen were there too, but we're very proud of Peterson and what he is doing. Particularly important is his past and present influence on the Conservation Reservation Program as part of the new farm bill.

Bunnies and bushytails

In between the cold days this winter, there have been hunters about in the wooded areas of Becker County. Hunting cottontails and gray squirrels is super sport, and there is little competition for them. Cottontails are particularly abundant -- for reasons unknown -- but squirrels are less prominent in the woods than they are in the residential areas of our town.

Some of the best areas I've found for rabbits has been the west side of County 29 Highway, south of Needlewoods Animal Park, the oak woods on the west side of Highway 87. The west side of Rush Lake has always been a good place for cottontails, and isn't getting much hunting play this winter.

If you like wintertime hunting and want a few sunny hours in brisk weather, hunting small game in Minnesota's late winter hours may just be the change you're looking for. A 22 rimfire rifle, or a 20 gauge semi-automatic are the best guns to use, but anything will do nicely.