DNR invites public to serve on council to help boost hunter, angler numbers

Efforts to increase the number of hunters and anglers in Minnesota will gain new focus with advice from a 15-member council that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is establishing to zero in on hunter and angler recruitment, retention and reactivation.
“Getting more people out in the water, in woods and fields is a significant challenge and worthwhile goal for all Minnesotans,” said James Burnham, DNR hunter and angler recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) coordinator. “The outcome may decide the success of conservation efforts valued by Minnesotans whether or not they hunt and fish. But we need the public’s help and guidance to move the needle.”
Citizens can nominate themselves through Friday, June 22, to serve on the 10 open seats of the council, for two-year terms, with meetings scheduled every three months.
The council will work with and advise the DNR on R3 efforts, programs and potential partnerships that will benefit the recruitment of new hunters and anglers, the retention of current outdoor enthusiasts, and the reactivation of individuals who have not been active recently in hunting or fishing.  
This council will build on previous work from an R3 summit convened by the DNR in 2016 with a variety of interested groups. Out of the summit came a recommendation for creating a council made up of Minnesota residents to help shape R3 efforts across the state.  
The DNR has invited groups to nominate members to help lead the council, including the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Women Hunting and Fishing in all Seasons, Trout Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.  
“We welcome anybody to apply who’s interested in helping reverse a projected national decline in hunting and fishing and the corresponding shortfall that will follow in how we manage natural resources,” Burnham said.
Applications and more information on R3 in Minnesota can be found at mndnr.gov/R3.
Any questions about this process, or the role of the R3 council, can be directed to James Burnham at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 651-259-5191.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

2018 Minnesota Governor's Pheasant Hunting Opener set

Planning is underway for the eighth annual Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener schedule Oct. 12-13.
This year’s event will be held in Luverne, located in the southwest corner of the state. It is the first time Luverne has hosted the event.
“I thank the people of Luverne for graciously offering to host the 2018 Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener,” said Gov. Mark Dayton. “The Pheasant Opener has become a special Minnesota tradition, made possible by our tremendous host communities. I look forward to another fantastic opener in Luverne this year.”
Luverne was selected through an application process that considered hunting land in the area, event facilities and community support. The greater Rock County area has a rich outdoors heritage that includes Blue Mounds State Park and Touch the Sky Prairie.
“We’re very excited to host the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener,” said Rick Peterson, chairman of the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener committee in Luverne. “This will be a great way to showcase the many hunting and unique tourism opportunities available in Rock County.”
In addition to pheasant hunting, the weekend event includes a public dedication of Rooster Ridge Wildlife Management Area west of Luverne, and a Governor's Pheasant Hunting Opener Community Banquet. Information and updates will be available at www.exploreminnesota.com/MNGPHO.
The Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener was initiated by Gov. Dayton in 2011. The event highlights the local hunting, recreational, and tourism opportunities host communities have to offer visitors.
Explore Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are assisting local partners in planning the event.
Follow along for social media updates using the hashtags #MNGPHO2018 and #OnlyinMN.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

New fisher, otter management zones in effect for trapping season

MADISON, WI - Wisconsin trappers will observe a change to the number and configuration of fisher and river otter management zones for the 2018-19 season.
New, simplified zones are now identical for fisher, otter and bobcat.
Previously, Wisconsin was divided into six fisher zones and three otter zones. The number of fisher zones made population data collection and analysis challenging, and two of the six zones were without management goals or population models. For otter, the central and southern zone seasons and permit levels were similar enough for the zones to be merged into one, while the northern zone remains unchanged.
For both fisher and otter, the previous management zones have now been consolidated into a northern and southern zone divided by Highway 64. The two-zone framework will improve population models in each zone and provide a consistent zone boundary.
The new zones are not anticipated to impact the number of fisher and otter permits available to the public, nor the wait time required to receive a permit. Rather, the two-zone framework will allow trappers the flexibility to trap these species across a larger area than under the previous framework, which restricted trappers to smaller zones. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Furbearer Advisory Committee will determine quotas and permit levels for each new fisher and otter management zone at the end of May.
When applying for a fisher or otter permit, trappers will now select either the northern or southern zone. Permit applications are due on Aug. 1 each year, and may be submitted through gowild.wi.gov.
For more information on trapping, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "trap."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Preliminary 2017 bobcat harvest information available

MADISON, WI - Hunters and trappers harvested 548 bobcats in Wisconsin, according to preliminary harvest data for the 2017-18 bobcat seasons.
Preliminary data combines both state and tribal harvest information, and final harvest information should be available by mid-June. With the addition of the southern management zone, 2017 marks the fourth year of statewide bobcat harvest.
Bobcat harvest is divided by northern and southern management zones. In 2017, the harvest goal for the northern zone was 550 and the harvest goal for the southern zone was 200 for a total harvest goal of 750 bobcats statewide. Both zones saw harvest goal increases for the 2017 season, with a substantial increase in the northern zone.
"Harvest goals and permit levels for each management zone are evaluated annually based on review of bobcat population data," said Shawn Rossler, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources furbearer ecologist. "Bobcats are managed through a preference point lottery system that allows harvest by trappers and hunters with a permit."
The Furbearer Advisory Committee, which includes DNR Staff, tribal and partner agency representatives and individuals from key user groups, provides annual harvest goal recommendations to the DNR.
The DNR's bobcat population estimate research is led by Nathan Roberts, DNR furbearer research scientist.
"We are learning a lot about this elusive animal through active research efforts. Monitoring bobcats via satellite collars allows us to evaluate harvest mortality rates," said Roberts. "Over the last four years, 90 bobcats have been collared and monitored."
Rossler said the information from this research will allow the department to maximize bobcat harvest opportunities while ensuring the long-term stability of the bobcat population.
The annual application deadline for the bobcat harvest permit drawing is Aug. 1. Wisconsin's bobcat hunting and trapping seasons are divided into early (mid-October to Dec. 25) and late (Dec. 26 to Jan. 31) time periods.
For more information regarding bobcat hunting and research in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "furbearers."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Plum City's Hanson wins Wisconsin's Ethical Hunter Award

BARNEVELD, WI - Cody Hanson, from Plum City, WI, was awarded the 2017 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Ethical Hunter Award by Chief Warden Todd Schaller of the DNR and Nick Laufenberg, of Vortex Optics, in Barneveld recently.
The award was presented May 17, at the new Vortex Optics Headquarters in Barneveld, WI. Vortex Optics, a worldwide company, has been a corporate sponsor of the award the past two years, gifting the ethical hunter an item from its line of rifle scopes, binoculars and range finders manufactured in Barneveld.
Hanson was hunting with Payton Koff, 13, on opening day of the 2017 Wisconsin gun-deer season on public land in Pierce County.  
“A nice eight-point buck came and stood 12 yards from our ground blind,” Hanson said. “I told Payton to hold off until we could see better. It was just a bit too dark to make sure of what may have been beyond the target.”
The two hunters sat for a few minutes, watching and whispering, and then the buck ran off.
“We were right to wait, I told Payton. I know he was bummed not being able to take the shot, but better safe than sorry,” Hanson recalls telling Payton. “It’s the first day in the season and another buck is likely to come along.”
None did. The two hunters finished the season without shooting any deer, but with memories and making plans for the 2018 deer season.
Payton’s mom, Pauline Koff, nominated Cody for the ethical hunter award after hearing the story of how he rightfully explained to her son the ethical thing to do.
"They still had fun and were very excited about seeing a buck that close,” Pauline said.
“About 50 years ago my great grandfather was shot while hunting on public land when another hunter mistook him for a deer during poor light conditions,” Cody said. “The hunter just didn’t know his target for sure. That ended my great grandfather’s hunting and everything else.”
After the season, Cody and Payton talked more and realized the special moments they had with a buck standing 12 yards away.
In discussing the nominations, Steve Dewald, one of the four committee members, explained that every hunter understands the need to follow the law.  
“However, this year’s ethical hunter went beyond the legal requirements, holding himself and a young companion to a higher standard," Dewald said. "By reinforcing the importance of also being ethical in the presence of a young hunter, his actions fit the theme of the award, which is behavior that reflects positively on the tradition of hunting.”
Bob Lamb, another committee member who, along with Dewald, helped to initiate the award, said, “There was a great group of nominations for the 2017 award, but this one stood out because of the ethical behavior shown toward the young hunter by his older companion.
“Although shooting hours were legally open, the young hunter listened to his companion, followed his suggestions, and also remembered his hunter education of knowing your target and what is beyond,” Lamb added. “This example of ethical behavior is exactly what this award is all about.”
The Ethical Hunter Award was created in 1997, by Lamb, Dewald and Jerry Davis, all of whom are committee members along with Warden Schaller.
Nominations for the 2018 award are due Jan. 15, 2019, and can be sent to Warden Schaller, any committee member, or any Wisconsin DNR field warden.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or 608-924-1112.

3 states collaborating on ruffed grouse West Nile virus monitoring

A region-wide effort to better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse is underway in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“In the Great Lakes region, West Nile virus has been found in a small number of grouse with no known population-level effects at this point,” said Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Still, we want to let hunters know we’re in the first steps of monitoring the virus, and we’re planning to do some limited testing of birds this fall.”
In 2017, West Nile virus was identified in more ruffed grouse in the Great Lakes states than in the past. The virus has been present in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin for about 17 years.
West Nile virus has been documented in more than 250 species of birds. However, not all birds develop clinical disease from the virus. Corvids (including blue jays and crows) are very prone to illness and death from the virus, while other species may be less so or may not develop symptoms at all.
Last year, Michigan had 12 positive cases of West Nile virus in ruffed grouse. Before 2017, only one positive ruffed grouse had been found in Michigan, and that was in 2002. The virus was confirmed in one ruffed grouse in the early 2000s in Minnesota, and is yet to have been detected in a Wisconsin ruffed grouse.
West Nile virus in ruffed grouse has become a topic of concern because of a recent study in Pennsylvania reporting that the virus may have contributed to population declines in areas of lower-quality habitat or where habitat was scarce.
Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the early stages of planning to test samples from grouse this fall, but at this point there is no evidence that the virus is having a population-level impact in the Great Lakes region.
“By monitoring birds at a regional level, we will be able to gain a better understanding of this disease in ruffed grouse,” said Kelly Straka, state wildlife veterinarian with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Ruffed grouse are hunted annually by around 300,000 hunters across the three states. Preliminary reports from 2017 hunters were mixed across the Great Lakes region. While the virus could impact brood survival of grouse, other factors such as cold, wet springs during nesting and hatching, drought conditions, or habitat decline can also affect birds seen and harvested.
Biologists in the region are optimistic the great habitat for ruffed grouse in the Great Lakes states will help populations thrive despite the virus.
“We are looking to hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to help us in this endeavor,” said Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “This is an excellent example of agencies and organizations taking a proactive approach and working together to expand our knowledge about WNV and ruffed grouse.”
Recently, the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Health Committee held its annual meeting in Traverse City, MI. West Nile virus was one of the topics for state wildlife health leaders. More than 25 wildlife health professionals from 13 Midwestern states and Canada were in attendance.
Individual agencies are currently reviewing ways they will be monitoring their grouse populations for West Nile virus and additional information will be shared when more details are determined.
Like humans, wild animals can be exposed to West Nile virus and survive the exposure. Currently, there is no evidence of humans becoming infected by consuming properly cooked birds or by handling birds. Research has shown dogs can be infected, but are very resistant to developing clinical signs of the disease and are considered an end host.
Ruffed grouse hunting is open in the fall and Minnesota hunting information can be found at mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Applications open May 1 for Wisconsin elk hunt

MADISON, WI - As anticipation and excitement build around Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history this fall, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that the elk hunting license application period opens May 1.
"The most common question I've been asked is how many people we expect to apply for a tag," said DNR deer and elk ecologist Kevin Wallenfang. "With 600,000 deer hunters and over 120,000 people applying for bear tags each year, a chance to pursue yet another great big game animal in Wisconsin is going to be very appealing for a lot of hunters. We encourage everyone to throw their hat in the ring to be one of five lucky people with an opportunity to hunt elk come October."
A total of five once-in-a-lifetime bull tags are being made available to state hunters for the inaugural hunt. Four tags will be awarded through a lottery drawing, with the fifth awarded through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffle. Hunters may enter both, but can only win once. Those interested in entering the RMEF raffle should look for more information on the organization's website at www.rmef.org/Wisconsin.
Elk license applications can be purchased in the DNR Go Wild license system from May 1-31, and only Wisconsin residents may apply. Each potential hunter may apply once online at gowild.wi.gov or by visiting a license agent. The application fee is $10. RMEF raffle tickets are also $10 each, and there is no limit on the number of raffle tickets each individual may purchase. The cost of an elk hunting license for the winners of the license drawing is $49.
State drawing winners will be announced in early June and the winner of the RMEF raffle will be announced in August. Prior to obtaining an elk hunting license, all winners will be required to participate in a Wisconsin elk hunter education program offered before the hunt. The class will cover tissue collection and health testing, regulations and more.
The 2018 hunting season will occur only in the Clam Lake elk range in parts of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties in far north-central Wisconsin, where the original restoration effort was initiated with 25 elk from Michigan in 1995. The herd is projected to comfortably surpass 200 animals this year.
"I've also received a number of questions from folks who are concerned that, if they draw a tag, they won't have a place to hunt," Wallenfang said. "With approximately 70 percent of the elk range under public ownership and open to hunting, finding a place to hunt should not be a concern. Despite the somewhat remoteness of the area, there are campgrounds, hotels and restaurants, so everything you need is within easy reach."
Wisconsin's inaugural elk hunting season will adhere to the following guidelines:
* Season will be open from October 13 to November 11, 2018 and Dec. 13-21, 2018.
* Only bull elk may be harvested.
* Areas where Kentucky elk were released between 2015-2017 will be off limits to hunting until the population increases to levels identified in the elk management plan.
* Only Wisconsin residents are eligible to receive an elk license.
* An elk license may be transferred to a Wisconsin resident youth hunter 17 years old or younger, or an eligible Wisconsin resident disabled hunter.
For more information about elk in Wisconsin, go to dnr.wi.gov and search the keyword "elk." To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "elk in Wisconsin" and "wildlife projects" distribution lists.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR