Dennis Anderson

Dennis Anderson has been a Star Tribune outdoors columnist since 1993, before which, for 13 years, he held the same position at the Pioneer Press. He enjoys casting and shooting. Dogs, too, and horses. Also kids and, occasionally, crusading in his column for improved conservation.

Posts about Equipment

More changes likely for southeast Minnesota deer hunters?

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: December 9, 2009 - 1:10 PM
The Minnesota DNR's long-awaited survey of southeastern Minnesota deer hunters has been released, and it confirms that a majority of hunters there — though not an overwhelming majority — want yearling bucks protected in some form.

A similar majority wants a regulation change that would require hunters in that part of the state to shoot their own bucks. Presently, southeast Minnesota is governed by the same "party hunting'' regulations for deer that apply to the rest of the state.

The survey was conducted this fall and targeted 3,000 deer hunters age 18 and older who hunted either the 3A or 3B firearm deer season last year.

A total of 1,740 hunters responded to the survey, resulting in a margin of error of 2.2 percent.

Results included:

●       53 percent support enacting regulations that protect a majority
of yearling bucks.
●       54 percent support implementing a four-day youth-only deer hunt
over what is commonly known as Minnesota Education Association (MEA)
●       50 percent support requiring hunters to shoot and tag their own
buck, rather than allowing cross-tagging.
●       47 percent support instituting an antler point restriction
●       41 percent support restoring the 3A season to 9 days.
●       34 percent support restoring the 3B season to 7 days.
●       31 percent support delaying the 3A firearm season one week.
●       18 percent support delaying the 3A firearm season to late

“It’s interesting to note there weren’t any differences in
attitudes between hunters from the 3A and 3B seasons,”
Cornicelli said in a news release accompanying the survey results. Cornicelli noted that in the survey 3A hunters self-identify as more traditional and
selective buck hunters whereas 3B hunters describe themselves as more
meat-oriented and less concerned about mature bucks.

Overall, Cornicelli said, a majority of hunters support regulations
that protect yearling bucks.

Support for yearling buck protection was lower than in other DNR surveys, but
the question was more specific on this survey, the DNR said. Previously, the agency has asked
generically if hunters supported mature buck regulations and support was
60 to 65 percent.

“This survey specifically mentioned protecting yearling bucks so it
wasn’t surprising that overall support was slightly lower than
previously reported,” Cornicelli said.

Here are other survey results:
●       24 percent also hunted the archery season and 15 percent also
hunted the muzzleloader season.
●       The average number of years a person has been hunting is 25
and they have hunted their specific deer area for 18.5 years.
●       30 percent hunt on land they own, 74 percent hunt on land they
don’t own and 4 percent leased land for hunting.
●       Only 7 percent belonged to an organized hunting group.
●       Only 8 percent hunted exclusively on public land.
●       3 percent of landowners allow public hunting to anyone who

Whether the survey will result in yet more and different regulations for southeast Minnesota deer hunters is unknown. The agency has its ideas about what it might want to do. So do some hunters in the region who are vocal in their opinions and politically well-connected. And the Legislature doubtless will also weigh in, perhaps as early as its next session.

In 2003 the DNR made antlerless
permits available during the 3A season because of rising deer
numbers. The 3A season was also cut by two days that year and the 3B
season lengthened by two days. Youth hunters were allowed to hunt both
seasons beginning a year later.

The full survey report is available on the DNR Web site at

Note: Portions of the above report came directly from a DNR news release issued 12/9/2009.

Tougher penalties are the only answer to deer poaching

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: November 16, 2009 - 11:55 AM
Deer poaching exists at the level it does in Minnesota because Minnesota, in the form of its Legislature, has decided it doesn't care much about it.

Restitution for the three bucks allegedly illegally killed near Cannon Falls, including what probably will become the highest-scoring 8-pointer of all time?

$500 for each of the lesser deer, and $1,000 for the "trophy.''

Sure, the alleged poacher will also be fined by a court, if convicted, and might even go to jail for a while. But Minnesota's poaching penalties remain far too small, and you have to wonder if they're kept that way intentionally.

Consider also the penalties in Minnesota for deer baiting, which has been a problem for a decade or more, and seems to be growing every year.

This year, the DNR has begun confiscating rifles from suspected baiters. That's a good start. But the state could go a lot further toward ending this practice, which has the potential in some parts of the state of ruining deer hunting.

Poach a deer? Get serious. Other states have. If convicted, you should lose your gun, your hunting privileges for 3-5 years and be fined a minimum of $2,000.

The book on what works and what doesn't to deter major game violations has already been written — in Louisiana, among other states.

Ticketed for a waterfowl violation in Louisiana? You must appear before a federal magistrate — there is no "mailing a check to cover it.''

And if it's a serious violation, such as a significant over-limit, you're going to jail. And you're doing community service. And paying fines. And losing equipment.

Minnesota isn't serious about stopping poaching or baiting. Yet.

Maybe the Legislature will get the message in its next session, if enough law-abiding hunters send it.

Some divers move into Minnesota, about on schedule

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: October 26, 2009 - 8:12 PM
Duck hunting has generally been only fair in Minnesota this fall, hurt by fewer ducks returning to the state last spring, and apparently poor production, perhaps due to the wet, cool spring and early summer.
Now some concentrations of divers have moved into the state, improving hunting in some spots.

How widespread the migration is in the state is difficult to judge. Some parts of western Minnesota — long known as a diver corridor — are experiencing increased numbers of birds. And divers have been apparent in the metro area as well.

Typically, diving ducks move into Minnesota on or about Oct. 20. Unlike mallards and some other puddle ducks  — whose migrations can be delayed by mild weather in Canada — divers typically migrate by the calendar.

How long will the birds stay? Improving weather this week likely will discourage a hurried migration out of the state, particularly given that south winds are predicted for much of the week.

Still, ducks that arrive by the calendar often leave by the calendar, making it all the more important for waterfowlers looking to cash in on some action before freeze-up to hunt while some birds are here.

Keeping your guns clean is always a good idea.

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: October 12, 2009 - 5:03 PM
Gun cleaning is something you enjoy or you don't. Some wingshooters just seem to appreciate a clean gun more than others. The same is true for target shooters. These folks regularly break down their guns and clean them, much as a jeweler polishes a fine diamond.

For them, nothing less than a spotless firearm — or weapon — will do.

(Digression, here. Firearms generally refer to sporting guns used to kill game. "Weapons,'' by contrast, more commonly are military in nature.)

If you're among those who time after time returns home from hunting and throws your firearm in a safe or other place without cleaning it, you might want to periodically have a professional break down your gun and scrub it thoroughly.

Pros have the tools and know-how not only to clean a gun well, but to re-assemble it correctly.

Bob Everson, the gunsmith at Joe's Sporting Goods in St. Paul, sees my guns — the semi-autos, anyway — at least once a year.

After the season and before a gun is stored is always a good time to have it cleaned. But right now — assuming you've done a fair bit of shooting this fall — is another good time. This, after all, is when you need a clean, fault-free gun — when you're still shooting in a season, for both pheasants and ducks, in which the best appears yet to come.

Speaking of which: Last weekend, while I was not seeing much for roosters amid all the standing corn, I was noticing a fair number of ducks in southwest Minnesota. I could only assume the weather over the weekend blew in some ducks from out of state.

If so, the influx wasn't too widespread. Waterfowlers I talked to from Morris up to Ashby, down to Alexandria and elsewhere reported fairly slim pickings.

The metro, however, had increased numbers of mallards, it seemed, by Sunday morning.

Which by then was all the more reason to have a gun that was clean and working properly.

Thinking ducks, duck boats and banded waterfowl as Minnesota's duck opener nears

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: September 24, 2009 - 11:21 AM
I wrote recently about duck boats and the allure they have for many duck hunters, particularly those in water-laden states such as Minnesota.

In North Dakota, in fact, it's often said by residents there that a Minnesota waterfowler easily gives himself away — because more often than not, he's pulling a boat. Most North Dakota hunters, by contrast, keep to fields, passes or other landscapes that are drier than they are wet.

My two sons and I have been getting a new duck boat ready for the season. Actually, it's not a new boat. It's a Montgomery Ward jon boat that dates in origin perhaps to the early '80s, and perhaps even the 1970s. I paid $200 for it about 25 years ago.

It's a good boat in that it's shallower than many jons built today. I say that having looked at a number of the new models, and drooled over many of them. Alumacraft, for instance, makes a wide variety of jons that work nicely for duck hunting. G3, owned by Yamaha, also has a supurb offering. I may test one or more boats from these lines sometime in the future and report back.

For now, there's our jon, shown in the accompanying photo, with a fresh camou paint job. There are a lot of ways this can be done, some cheaper than others. Our method — actually, the boys did the painting — was  cheaper than most. I simply bought a can of Acetone from a hardware store and used this to clean off assorted scum on the boat (wear protective gloves when you use this stuff.) Then the boys, using about a dozen cans of camou spray paint I bought at Fleet Farm for about $3.79 a can, mixed tan, black and natural green to create the camou you see.

The colors are specially mixed to create a "flat'' non-glare appearance.

I think the boat looks pretty good, though if you're looking to do this yourself, you can spend more money, and do a more detailed job. Stencil kits are available at Cabela's, Gander Mountain and elsewhere, along with paint that is similar to the kind we bought at Fleet Farm. Chances are using these kits will give you a more professional look. But I'm not sure they'll hide the boat any better from ducks.

We're not done with the boat. As you can see we've got a mud motor on it, in this case a 2000 Go Devil long tail. We bought it from a friend who wasn't using it, and have learned quite a bit about maintaining these rigs in the time since. More on that later.

As for the boat, we're going to rig it with a blind. We've done quite a bit of research about how to do this best, and think we have a plan that won't cost a lot of money. What I don't want is a cheap aluminum frame setup that can't take the abuse it will have to take from my two sons and me and our dogs.

I have written before about a different boat I bought for duck hunting, a 15 foot, 11 inch Peenoe Sport Canoe. This is a great boat, made by in Arkansas. But I've decided instead to stick with our old jon boat for duck hunting — its size will better accommodate the three of us and a dog — and now have the Peenoe, reluctantly, for sale.

On a related subject, I was in Alaska recently hunting black brant, a sea goose, at the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the end of the Alaskan Peninsula. (For story and video, click here.) The limit on these great birds is only two a day, four in possession. Yet even with these low limits, we killed quite a few banded birds, a rarity.

Since my return, I've heard from the Fish and Wildlife Service and from a native Minnesota biologist, Chris Nicolai, now living in Nevada who might be the only waterfowl researcher to take his master's and doctorate studying brant. He moved to Alaska in 1997 to study brant.

"We might have as many as one in nine brant banded,'' Chris reports.

Here, from the Fish and Wildlife Service, courtesy Bruce Casler, who is stationed in Cold Bay, Alaska, is the history of the banded brant we shot. Notice how old some of these birds are.

1)    1767-2871
"I do not have a record for this band, which suggests it was deployed this summer on the Yukon Delta.  The Black color indicates that it was banded there.''

2) 3617-19190; U23 (white band, black letters)
"White U23: Banded on Yukon Delta in July 1997 as an Adult Male and seen previously in winter/spring on Vancouver Island in winter 1998-1999 and 2000-2001.''

3) 3617-32647; 506
"Black-506: Banded on Yukon Delta in July 2006 as a Juvenile Female and not seen since banding.''

4) 1347-58566; Y21 (blue band, white letters)
"Blue Y21: Banded while molting on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic in July 1993 as a Adult Male and seen previously breeding on the Yukon Delta in 1994.''

5) 3617-28993; Y67 (black band, white letters)
"Black Y67: Banded on Yukon Delta in July 2004 as a Adult Female and not seen since banding.''

Interested, finally, in where ducks banded in Minnesota and the Dakotas are recovered? Click here.


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