Expectations and issues ahead for hunters and fishers in '13

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 1, 2013 - 7:29 PM
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The prospect of ending a day's outing with a three-bird limit of rooster pheasants has kept tens of thousands of non-resident hunters returning to South Dakota each fall. But with a conversion of conservation acres and grasslands to row crops, the heyday of the state's ringneck hunting may be past.

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License fee increases

The cost of Minnesota hunting and fishing licenses will increase in March for the first time in 12 years -- a boost DNR officials said was critical to maintaining world-class fishing and hunting. Inflation had eroded the buying power of license fee revenue, and the Legislature approved the long-sought increases. The cost of a resident fishing license, now $17, will rise to $22. A small-game license, now $19, rises to $22; a deer license, now $26, jumps to $30. The DNR also will offer $5 hunting and fishing licenses to youngsters. Nonresidents also will pay more. A nonresident small-game license, now $73, will cost $90.50; a deer license, now $135, will cost $160; and a fishing license, now $37.50, will cost $40.

Fight over invasive species

Minnesota's battle to stop the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels and Asian carp will be ramped up in 2013 -- and that fight will affect the state's estimated 2.3 million boaters. For the first time, the DNR launched random roadside checks of boaters in 2012. But just nine check stations were conducted involving 140 boaters. (The violation rate: 31 percent.) This year, DNR officials plan to boost the number of roadside checks, and will try some in busier areas they avoided last year. Meanwhile, the new Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota will be up and running in 2013 -- but don't expect any silver bullets soon.

Dwindling grasslands Ø

Political gridlock in Washington in 2012 snagged one of the largest sources of conservation funding -- the federal Farm Bill. Congress failed to pass a new five-year farm bill -- and that threatens the future of conservation, including the well-known Conservation Reserve Program. It pays landowners to idle marginal farmland, creating wildlife habitat and reducing soil erosion and runoff. But landowners have been pulling out, enticed by high crop prices. That will impact wildlife, including pheasants, ducks and deer. Lawmakers had agreed to $6 billion in conservation cuts, but even more trims are likely if a bill passes in 2013.

Antler-point restrictions

The future of antler point restrictions for deer hunters in southeastern Minnesota -- and perhaps elsewhere -- will be determined this year by the Legislature. Now in its third year, the DNR's experimental restrictions prohibit hunters (except youths) from killing bucks with fewer than 4 points on at least one antler. Party hunting for bucks also is prohibited. The regs, requested by some hunters, have been controversial. But this fall, many hunters, including some who had been skeptical, said they are seeing the rewards: more big bucks. Last year the Legislature passed a law preventing the DNR from continuing the regs without legislative approval.

Registration fees for boats

Last year, a Dayton administration proposal to raise boat registration fees to fight invasive species failed at the Legislature. The current $5 surcharge -- the main source of funding for invasive species management -- hasn't been raised since 1993. Insiders say the administration likely will seek to boost the fees again.

Duck stamp increase?

Another major bill ensnared in politics was the Sportsmen's Act, a massive piece of legislation that would improve wildlife habitat, expand access to federal lands for hunters and anglers, establish more public shooting ranges and boost the cost of the federal duck stamp by $10 -- the first increase since 1991. Called one of the most important hunting and fishing bills in a generation, it had widespread support among Democrats, Republicans and wildlife, conservation and gun organizations, yet still stalled over a political dispute. Will it be revived in 2013?

Will wolf hunt be killed?

Minnesota's controversial inaugural wolf hunting and trapping season generated intense interest -- and at least one lawsuit. Will the courts intervene this year? Will the Legislature again weigh in on the issue? If allowed, it's possible the DNR will boost the target quota, giving more hunters and trappers the opportunity to take a wolf in 2013.

We know 2013 will bring Minnesotans hunting and fishing license fee increases, and more roadside checks for boaters. But what else? Here's a look at some major issues on the table for 2013:

Fight over invasive species

Minnesota's battle to stop the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels and Asian carp will be ramped up in 2013 -- and that fight will affect the state's estimated 2.3 million boaters. For the first time, the DNR launched random roadside checks of boaters in 2012. But just nine check stations were conducted involving 140 boaters. (The violation rate: 31 percent.) This year, DNR officials plan to boost the number of roadside checks, and will try some in busier areas they avoided last year. Meanwhile, the new Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota will be up and running in 2013 -- but don't expect any silver bullets soon.

Boat registration fees

Last year, a Dayton administration proposal to raise boat registration fees to fight invasive species failed at the Legislature. The current $5 surcharge -- the main source of funding for invasive species management -- hasn't been raised since 1993. Insiders say the administration is likely to again seek to boost the fees.

Antler-point restrictions

The future of antler point restrictions for deer hunters in southeastern Minnesota -- and perhaps elsewhere -- will be determined this year by the Legislature. Now in its third year, the DNR's experimental restrictions prohibit hunters (except youths) from killing bucks with fewer than 4 points on at least one antler. Party hunting for bucks also is prohibited. The regs, requested by some hunters, have been controversial. But this fall, many hunters, including some who had been skeptical, said they are seeing the rewards: more big bucks. Last year the Legislature passed a law preventing the DNR from continuing the regs without legislative approval.

Will wolf hunt be killed?

Minnesota's controversial inaugural wolf hunting and trapping season generated intense interest -- and at least one lawsuit. Will the courts intervene this year? Will the Legislature again weigh-in on the issue? If allowed, it's possible the DNR will boost the target quota, giving more hunters and trappers the opportunity to take a wolf in 2013.

Dwindling grasslands

Political gridlock in Washington in 2012 snagged one of the largest sources of conservation funding -- the federal Farm Bill. Congress failed to pass a new five-year farm bill -- and that threatens the future of conservation, including the well-known Conservation Reserve Program. It pays landowners to idle marginal farmland, creating wildlife habitat and reducing soil erosion and runoff. But landowners have been pulling out, enticed by high crop prices. That will impact wildlife, including pheasants, ducks and deer. Lawmakers had agreed to $6 billion in conservation cuts -- but even more trims are likely if a bill passes in 2013.

Duck stamp increase?

Another major bill ensnared in politics was the Sportsmen's Act, a massive bill that would improve wildlife habitat, expand access to federal lands for hunters and anglers, establish more public shooting ranges and boost the cost of the federal duck stamp by $10 -- the first increase since 1991. Called one of the most important hunting and fishing bills in a generation, it had widespread support among Democrats, Republicans and wildlife, conservation and gun organizations -- yet still stalled over a political dispute. Will it be revived in 2013?

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