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

Another big bear taken, this time by a 12-year-old hunter

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: September 17, 2009 - 4:46 PM

The killing of a 658 pound black bear near Cumblerland, Wis., last weekend, and reported here, drew a lot of comments from readers.

Pictured above is another big bear, this one weighing 580 pounds and shot by a 12-year-old boy, Cole Martinsen, near Barnes, Wis.

Minnesota DNR wildlife officials say bear hunting here has been fairly productive since the season opened Sept. 1 - this even though the dry weather throughout much of the state has kept many animals from coming to baits.

In Wisconsin, of course, bear hunting is also allowed with dogs, something many people, including some hunters, find objectionable. Others find hunting over bait objectionable.

Fair enough. But bears present a special hunting problem. Unlike out West, hunters in forested states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin wouldn't have much of a chance to find a bear if they were to "spot and stalk.'' That's because the landscape here offers few long views.

Still, that would be no problem, if only hunters were inolved in the equation. But home and cabin owners and others regularly report problem bears, and in some areas bears can be overpopulated. Wildlife officials tend then to issue enough permits to kill enough bears to keep the population manageable.

Which is how we end up with baiting and hunting over dogs. It's the only way bears can be hunted effectively in the Upper Midwest.

Speaking of bears, click here to read an interesting story from British Columbia about how a bow hunter fought off a grizzly bear, using only an arrow.

One more bear item, when I was in Alaska recently, I was checked twice by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent who said that during his career he had been bluff-charged more than 20 times by grizzlies. Each time he stood his ground - he said he had no option - and each time the animal backed off.

Except once. His only mauling occurred when he was hiking with his girlfriend, and he suprised a sow and her cub. One of his legs was messed up pretty badly. His girlfriend survived virtually unharmed.

The kicker: It was the only one of all of his bear encounters that occurred on his day off.

DNR sets fall waterfowl seasons. Wood duck limit to stay at two.

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: August 6, 2009 - 4:52 PM
The DNR has decided to stick with two wood ducks daily for waterfowl hunters this fall, with four in possession.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service again this year offered states in the Mississippi Flyway the option of taking three woodies daily. Last year, all other states in the flyway took the service up on that option, with the exception of Minnesota.

Minnesota traditionally has attempted to manage its ducks conservatively. The thinking here is that, even though the state has lost some 40,000 duck hunters since 2000, managing wood ducks with an eye toward conservation was the best move.

Unlike most states, Minnesota has a resident wood duck population, whereas hunters elsewhere shoot migratory woodies.

Of note also is that Minnesotans will get two bluebills this fall, a change from a year ago when a limit of one daily was in place for part of the season.

Possession limits will be twice the daily limits.

Below is the DNR announcement of fall waterfowl seasons, including goose hunting.

With continental populations of many species of ducks again near record highs, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has established a 60-day duck season that opens Oct. 3 with a daily bag limit of six ducks.


Bag limits for most species will be the same as last season, except hunters will be able to harvest one canvasback and the scaup limit will be two for the entire 60-day season. This good news for diver duck hunters is based on increased numbers of canvasbacks and scaup in the continental breeding duck survey.


Based on an increase in breeding waterfowl populations and pond numbers across Canada and the northern plains, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering states in the Mississippi Flyway, including Minnesota, a 60-day season that could include a six-duck limit with two hen mallards and three wood ducks. Minnesota will continue with a daily bag limit of one hen mallard that has been in place since 2005.

Likewise, the DNR is maintaining a conservative approach to wood ducks by maintaining a two-bird limit.


The bag limits will continue to protect local breeding mallard and wood duck populations and will provide more opportunity for Minnesota hunters to benefit from high continental waterfowl populations if habitat conditions and weather cooperate, and migrant ducks move through the state in ample numbers.


“We knew the wood duck limit would be of interest to our hunters,”

said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “So we reviewed the biological information, took some additional public input through a new online questionnaire, and in the end decided to maintain the two-bird limit again this year.”



The regular waterfowl season will open Saturday, Oct. 3, at 9 a.m. and continue through Tuesday, Dec. 1. The six-duck bag may include no more than four mallards, with only one hen mallard, and one black duck, one pintail, one canvasback, two wood ducks, two redheads and two scaup.

Possession limits remain at twice the daily bag limits.


Except for opening day, when shooting hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., shooting hours will be from one half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily through Saturday, Oct. 10, and from one half hour before sunrise to sunset thereafter.


Motorized decoys or other motorized devices designed to attract migratory birds may not be used from the opening day of duck season through Saturday, Oct. 10. Motorized decoys or other motorized devices designed to attract migratory birds may not be used at any time during the season on water bodies and lands fully contained within state wildlife management area boundaries.


Additional details on the duck, goose and migratory bird hunting seasons will be in the 2009 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations, available in mid-August.



Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Saturday, Sept. 19. Hunters age 15 and under may take regular season bag limits when accompanied by a nonhunting adult (age 18 and older, no license required). Canada geese, mergansers, coots and moorhens may be taken from one-half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. Motorized decoy restrictions are in effect. New for this year, five geese may be taken statewide. There are no license requirements, except hunters age 13 to 15 must have a firearms safety certificate or an apprentice hunter validation in their possession. All other migratory bird hunting regulations apply.



Minnesota’s regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season on Saturday, Oct. 3, except for Canada goose seasons in the West-Central Goose Zone, which will open on Thursday, Oct. 15. The daily bag limit will be two Canada geese statewide. Possession limits are double the daily bag limits. Efforts to increase Minnesota’s daily goose bag to three statewide except for the West Central Goose Zone were not approved by the Mississippi Flyway Council.



The early Canada goose season will open statewide on Saturday, Sept. 5.

The September season is designed to harvest Minnesota-breeding geese prior to the arrival of migrant geese. Hunter survey results show about

36 percent of Minnesota’s goose harvest occurs during the early September season. The early season is open statewide through Tuesday, Sept. 22. Bag limits for Canada geese will be five per day, statewide.

A required $4 permit is valid for both early and late season goose hunting. Permits are available wherever hunting and angling licenses are sold.


New this year, the restriction prohibiting hunting within 100 yards of surface water has been lifted for the Southeast and Metro goose zones.

Now this restriction applies only to the Northwest goose zone, the Carlos Avery WMA and an area surrounding Swan Lake in Nicollet County.

Early season goose hunters should consult the 2009 Waterfowl Supplement for details.


Regular Goose Season

In the West Central Zone, the regular Canada goose season will be open from Oct. 15 through Oct .18, and from Oct. 24 through Nov. 29. In the remainder of the state the season will be open from Oct. 3 through Dec.

11. The daily bag limit will be two Canada geese.


Late Goose Seasons

December Canada goose seasons will be offered statewide except in the West-Central Goose Zone. Late season hunters must have a $4 permit, which is valid for both early and late special goose seasons. The late season will be open Dec. 12 to Dec. 21, except in the Southeast Goose Zone, where the season will be open Dec. 19 to Dec. 28.


Bag limits for Canada geese during the late season will be five per day, except in the Southeast Goose Zone, where the bag limit will be two.


The season for light geese (snow, blue and Ross’ geese) and brant will be Oct. 3 through Dec. 28, with a daily limit of 20 light geese and one brant. The season for white-fronted geese will be Oct. 3 through Dec. 27, with a daily limit of one white-fronted goose.





Lyme disease in dogs as difficult to diagnose as it is in humans — maybe more so

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: August 3, 2009 - 3:18 PM
Doug Smith's story on Page 1 of the Star Tribune today points up the many threats that Lyme disease poses to people. Also, as is commonly known, this disease — which in its advanced stages can be debilitating — is difficult to diagnose.
My experience is that dogs suffer equally in the face of this tick-borne disease, and perhaps more so, given that they are lower to the ground, and that their owners often fail to provide protection for them in the form of sprays or other repellents.

Most important is to understand that if you're a grouse hunter in Minnesota, the chance that your dog will not come in contact with deer ticks is almost non-existent. The only question is whether, in the course of a season, the dog will be bitten by a tick that potentially can cause Lyme disease, and whether, separately, the dog will be afflicted.

My opinion is that many people and many dogs are bitten by ticks that can cause the disease, but that not all humans and dogs come down with Lyme.

Medical experts may disagree, but that's my experience. For example, I've been bitten by scores of deer ticks, and have never had Lyme. Similarly, I've taken lots and lots of ticks off dogs that never have been afflicted. Whereas others have.

Here's advice I follow: If your dog shows any unusual symptoms, especially if they concern lameness or an inability to get up or move easily, take the dog to the vet — but suspect Lyme disease.

It's possible Lyme isn't the cause. But it's possible — even likely — it is. Where things get troublesome is when a vet can't find what's wrong with a dog, and the dog seemingly gets better for a time. Or perhaps a right rear leg was bad first, then the dog was OK, then the lameness comes to the left front.

In these and similar cases, suspect Lyme first and foremost.

And insist that your vet start your dog on a course of the proper antibiotics. If the problem isn't Lyme, there will be no harm done by the prescription. If it is, you'll see an improvement fairly quickly, usually within two or three days.

I know quite a few people who have spent thousands of dollars on their dogs trying to beat Lyme after it has set in. You can prevent this, in most cases, if you are attentive to your dog, and if you remember to think "Lyme'' when a mystery ailment strikes.

And remember, also, to insist that your vet begin antibiotics immediately, regardless of his or her hesitation or reluctance to do so.

Thinking duck boats — and how to help save ducks in Minnesota.

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: July 16, 2009 - 10:09 AM

I'm fishing three or four times a week at this time of year. But increasingly I find myself thinking about bird hunting, duck hunting in particular — and especially duck boats.

I am fascinated by all types of boats, and if money were no object, would own a small fleet — a small fleet of duck boats, alone, in fact.

A couple of weeks ago I succumbed to the duck boat bug and bought another one — a 15 foot 11 inch long Peenoe.

I found this unit on the Internet in International Falls, used, a 2000 model. I had been looking for one every since I was first exposed to Peenoes quite a few years ago. Star Tribune freelance outdoors columnist Bill Marchel of Ft. Ripley has one, and the two of us have fished and hunted from it often.

The one I bought is factory camouflaged, but I will do my own camou job on it, and to complete that task have just ordered a stencil kit from Cabela's. At the same time, I plan to camou a 14-foot jon boat my two sons and I fish from, and will also use for duck hunting this fall.

The advantage of a Peenoe (see video above; that's a Peenoe we're fishing with) is that it has a pointed bow, like a canoe, and therefore can get through cover more easily than a john boat. A further — and equally important — advantage is that it is highly stable, due to its overall design, and particularly the line of its chine.

Bill and I have hunted rails from his Peenoe, with me standing in the bow, he standing in the stern, poling, and his dog in the middle. I would shoot, and the dog would jump from the boat, all without the boat becoming unstable.

My Peenoe has a square stern, allowing for a motor of up to 10 horsepower to be added. But I think the boat is best served by the way Bill has it configured, with a long-tailed mud motor. This type of motor allows for a more shallow-running craft, obviously, and because a mud motor is air cooled, concerns about overheating an outboard in tough conditions go by the wayside.

My dream duck boat is similar to the Peenoe I bought. But rather than being made of fiberglass (actually, the new ones are a composite), Gator Trax duck and fishing boats — made in Louisiana — are aluminum. Check these boats out at the Gator Trax site. They're worth a lot of consideration, once you start looking seriously at the many ways a duck boat — or shallow running fishing boat — can be configured.

None of which matters, of course, if there are no ducks to hunt. In a Star Tribune column published a week or so ago, I said what's needed — especially now, considering that Minnesota ducks are still further in the tank, given the most recent spring breeding counts in the state reported by the DNR — is a new outfit (or consortium, or call it what you will) — whose goal is to argue for straight talk about what's killing ducks in this state.

As I said in the column, DU, MWA and Delta Waterfowl, among others, all do great work. But too often these groups — and the DNR — are prevented by political or financial or other pressures from calling a spade a spade in the effort to conserve wetlands, uplands and the wildlife that depend on them.

I set 1 p.m. Aug. 8 at Game Fair as the time and place that an organizing meeting will be held to discuss this possibility.

Again, I am not thinking of a group that would hold banquets or raise money (keep supporting these; they do a great job). Instead, it would form opinions — based on statewide representation — on threats to ducks and other wetland resources, and attempt to change public attitudes about these matters, and perhaps even inform public policy, or help do so.

Either that or we can all sit around doing what we've been doing, and get results that likely won't differ much from those we've already experienced.

And, soon enough, we won't need duck boats. Not in Minnesota, anyway.

Meanwhile, if you're a duck-boat nut, email me a photo at, and I'll try to get a gallery of these Minnesota craft online for readers to assess.

Retriever training is a summer-long exercise — are electric collars really needed?

Posted by: Dennis Anderson Updated: June 9, 2009 - 10:18 AM
I was at Cabela's in Rogers over the weekend and stumbled onto the dog training section. The presence there of so many electronic dog training collars only confirmed what most people in the retrieving game already know: that most owners of field retrievers today use these collars for training.
In fact, most hunters now go into the shooting field with electronic collars on their retrievers?

Is this really necessary? Or is it a shortcut that now has become the norm — in part because "everyone is doing it'' and in part because many of the retrievers bred in America today need a collar so as to fashion some sort of control over what often are unruly and hyperactive dogs — and need a collar also because of the nature of our field trials and even hunt tests?

A distinction here: I'm not talking about pointing dogs, which for many and varied reasons are trained today, as they have been for decades, using electronic collars. The topic today is only retrievers.

The difference is important not only because retrievers and pointers (or setters) are different types of dogs used for different purposes. Additionally, retrievers and pointers (and setters) have different temperaments and the proper leverage of those temperaments by the trainer is critical to achieving a particular animal's full usefulness.

To those who would argue that an electronic collar is required to train today's retrievers, I would point them to Great Britain, and in fact all of the European countries, where the electronic collar is all but outlawed, and in any case frowned upon in knowledgeable sporting dog circles.

It's in Britain, for example, where Labradors and other retrievers are required to sit quietly for up to an hour while a driven shoot is conducted — a shoot in which hundreds of rounds might be fired (granted, most drives today are smaller than that). During this time, the dog can't so much as whimper or, during a trial, he is eliminated. Similarly, the dog can't move and in fact can't show nervousness or come up off his haunches.

"Breaking,'' or running in, during a drive (or during a walkup) is, of course, out of the question.

Additionally, when these dogs are sent for retrieves, they are required to ignore game in the field that they flush (pheasants, grouse, rabbits, hares, woodcock, snipe) while continuing to the area of the "fall,'' whereupon, if necessary, they must stop upon being whistled by their handlers and take directions to the left, right or back.

If all of this can be accomplished without an electronic collar, then why are the collars so popular here?

Three reasons, I would submit.

One is that it has become the norm, and retriever owners here now expect that a collar should be used.

A second is that American field trials (certainly) require the use of a collar, because corrections must be made at such great distances. Similarly, hunt tests today, particularly at the master level, require — because of the way they're structured — long-distance corrections.

The third reason is that in America we've been breeding so many generations of Labradors now that are capable of taking the collar in their training (particularly the harsher uses associated with the early generation collars, and particularly when collars are used by amateurs unfamiliar with their use and misuse) that we now produce dogs that often can't be trained, or controlled, without a collar — particularly in those instances in which the amateur is unwilling to put in the time necessary to train a retriever "the old way,'' meaning with a leash.

This way also means putting in time obedience-training a dog for months and months, and delaying the time that a dummy is thrown for a retriever, or other field training is begun.

Good examples of what can be accomplished can be found in seeing eye dogs and helping dogs, both of which are trained extremely well in terms of their obedience. Hunters could accomplish the same result, if only they took time to appreciate what can be accomplished without an electronic collar — assuming the same hunters have a training plan they understand, and stick to it.

Best this summer for those retriever owners who have young dogs six to 10 months of age is that they train and re-train "Sit,'' "Stay,'' "Come,'' and "Heel,'' over and over. Only when the dog has learned these lessons should he begin field training.

Keep this in mind: Commonly in Britain, a retriever is not taken into a shooting field until he is fully trained, meaning, trained to take hand and whistle signals at distances of 100 yards and more.

More on this subject in subsequent posts.


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