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State walk-in hunting program gets federal funding, will expand

 

 

Minnesota's walk-in access (WIA) program, which had been on shaky financial ground, will continue.

A $1.67 million, three-year federal grant that funds the program has been awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, officials announced Monday. The grant means hunters in western and south-central Minnesota will continue to have access to more than 22,000 acres of existing WIA hunting land, and will get at least 8,000 additional  acres over the next three years.

Here's the rest of the DNR news release:

“We are thrilled to receive news of this grant award,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “These funds open up more opportunities for hunters, especially in areas of the state that are predominately privately owned. The funds also help enhance habitat on these lands.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the grant award., which is through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, which was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill to enhance public access to privately held and operated farm and ranch lands, and improve habitat for wildlife-dependent recreation.  

Launched by the DNR in 2011, WIA increases hunting opportunities in western and south-central Minnesota. In 2015, there are 22,800 acres enrolled in WIA across 31 counties. Bright yellow-green signs mark boundaries of the 200 sites. 

The program provides public hunting access to private lands and pays landowners to allow that access. Landowners are paid $10 per acre to enroll their lands in the program. Bonuses are added if more than 140 contiguous acres are enrolled, if the land is within one-half mile of existing state or federal hunting land, or if a multi-year agreement is signed.

WIA sites are open to public hunting from Sept. 1 to May 31, with no additional landowner contact needed. Hunters must have a $3 WIA validation on their hunting license to legally access WIA lands.

In addition to sustaining the WIA program, the  grant provides funds for landowners to enhance the habitat on WIA acres. The grant will also fund a research project through the University of Minnesota to study both landowner and hunter interest and participation in the program. 

Maps of WIA sites and more information on the program can be found at www.mndnr.gov/walkin.

Time to apply for fall youth hunts is now

If you've got a youngster who wants to hunt this fall, deadlines are fast approaching to apply for several organized youth hunts.

Here are details:

Youth waterfowl hunt

  • For ages 12 to 15.
  • Orientation is Friday, Sept. 11, hunt is Saturday, Sept. 12.
  • Hunts near Twin Cities metro, Detroit Lakes, Morris, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Princeton, Sherburn near Windom, and Fergus Falls.
  • Apply by Aug. 10.

Youth deer hunts at refuges and state parks

  • Ages 12 to 15 in 16 firearms hunts, ages 12 to 17 in two archery hunts.
  • Hunts and orientations held on various dates in October and November.
  • Locations at specific wildlife refuges and state parks throughout the state.
  • Apply by Aug. 14.

Youth and family upland bird hunt

  • For ages 12 to 17, and family members who want to hunt together.
  • Hunts and orientations are Saturday, Oct. 17 or 24.
  • Locations throughout Minnesota.
  • Apply by Sept. 8.

Youth deer season

  • For ages 10 to 15.
  • Season is Thursday, Oct. 15, through Sunday, Oct. 18.
  • Permit areas in southeastern and northwestern Minnesota and portions of the Twin Cities metro area.
  • 27 deer permit areas are open to hunt, see hunting regulations book or DNR hunting page at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer for permit areas.

Take a Kid Hunting Weekend

  • From Saturday, Sept. 26, to Sunday, Sept. 27, adult residents, accompanied by a youth under age 16, can hunt small game without a license, but must comply with open seasons, limits and other regulations.

Application forms and more information can be found at www.mndnr.gov/discover, or by calling the DNR iInformation center, 651-296-6157 or
888-646-6367, or Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator, 651-259-5193.

Camp Ripley archery hunts

This isn't a youth hunt, but applications also are being taken for the popular regular archery deer hunts at Camp Ripley near Little Falls. The deadline is Aug. 14.

Hunters may pick from one of two hunting seasons: Oct. 15-16 (Thursday and Friday, code 668) or Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 (Saturday and Sunday, code 669).

Hunters may choose from four options to apply for the Camp Ripley archery hunts:

  • Through any of 1,500 electronic licensing agents located throughout Minnesota.
  • By telephone at 888-665-4236.
  • Through the DNR’s online licensing site, www.dnr.state.mn.us/licenses.
  • At the DNR license center, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul.

A total of 4,000 permits, with 2,000 per two-day hunt, will be made available. Successful applicants must buy a valid archery license before the beginning of shooting hours the day of their hunt to participate. The bag limit for this year’s hunt is one, and bonus permits may be used to take antlerless deer. Hunt rules and instructions are posted on the DNR deer hunting Web page at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

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