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.
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 DAY
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.
EARLY SEPTEMBER GOOSE SEASON
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.
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 email@example.com, and I'll try to get a gallery of these Minnesota craft online for readers to assess.