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Outdoor Notes for Oct. 29

Smude and Bongs tie for Range Bassmasters Angler-of-the-Year

At the last scheduled bass tournament of the year, Brian Smude did what he had to do and won a challenging tournament on Cedar Lake to earn a tie in total yearly points, joining Bill Bongs as Co-champion of the Range Bassmasters for 2017. This is the first time in the 35-year history of the club that there has been a tie for the top spot.

Filling out the club's Top Six anglers were Emmet Smith, Eric Jex, Steve Quinn, and Jeremy Bjorgaard. Quinn accounted for the Lunker of the Year with a 5-pound 14½-ounce bass from Lake Shamineau.

Wohls secure 1st in last Northerns Inc. tourney of year

The last Northerns, Inc. tournament of the year took place Oct. 7 on Lake Roosevelt. The following are the results:

• 1st place: Jeff and Tracy Wohl, 21 pounds, 8 ounces.

• 2nd place: Ron and Rhonda Wickham, 20 pounds, 6 ounces.

• 3rd place: Jim and Neal Falenschek, 15 pounds, 4 ounces.

• 4th place: Tim Yeager and Zac Watson, 15 pounds, 4 ounces.

• Rod Barnum and Craig Klimek, 14 pounds, 6 ounces.

• Lunker of the day was an 8-pound, 12-ounce fish caught by Jeff Wohl.

Sight firearms with help from conservation club

Sight in your firearms with help from members of the Lakeshore Conservation Club, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 28-29.

The club is located at 9911 County Highway 77, Nisswa. Volunteers are always welcome.

Interested in a night shoot? Shooting trap under the lights? RSVP for 6:30-9:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28. Event will only occur with enough RSVPs. Email contact@lakeshoregunclub.com for more information.

There are still tickets and tables left for the Wild Game Dinner, set for March 19 at the Gull Lake Center at Grand View Lodge. Email or call 218-851-8688 for availability.

$5 raffle tickets are available for purchase. Need not be present to win. Help support the club the easy way, a news release stated.

Get 2018 memberships for $60, by mail or online at www.lakeshoregunclub.com.

DNR gives rundown of what deer hunters can expect

Hunters will have additional opportunities to harvest deer this season thanks to a series of mild winters and conservative hunting regulations, which have resulted in rebounding deer populations across Minnesota.

Firearms deer season opens Nov. 4, and there are 130 permit areas in 2017. Information about each permit area can be found on the DNR's interactive deer map at www.mndnr.gov/deermap, and includes wildlife manager reports, regulations, and statistics about deer harvest and populations on a local scale.

"Deer are everywhere" is a common refrain across the central region this fall. Deer populations seem to have bounced back from a decline following the severe winter of 2013-14.

In fact, many deer permit areas in the region have met or are above population goals, meaning more permits will be available this fall. With rebounding deer populations and ample hunter opportunities, wildlife managers are anticipating a strong harvest in 2017.

Deer look healthy as they shed their reddish summer coats for the more muted gray-brown tones that will carry them through the winter. Summer habitat conditions were ideal with an excellent growing season and plentiful native forage and cover. Does with twin fawns seem to be the norm rather than the exception this year.

Wildlife managers and landowners have noted an abundant acorn crop in the central and southeast portion of the region this fall, which will keep deer feeding and browsing in the oak woods.

Wet conditions in late September and early October have postponed agricultural harvest so hunters may see standing crops well into the firearms season. Fall leaf drop is reported to be later than normal in the southern part of the state, but by early November sightlines should be opened up and the forest floor will have a new layer of fallen leaves. Buck scrapes and rubs are starting to appear and hunters can expect to see deer movement and patterns change as the rut approaches.

Many permit areas in the central region are designated as managed this year, allowing harvest of two deer through the use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit. Five permit areas are designated as intensive, which allows for harvest of three deer using additional bonus permits. There are additional harvest opportunities in the 601 metro deer management area and the 603 chronic wasting disease management zone, both of which offer harvest of an unlimited number of antlerless deer.

Higher deer harvest predicted; hunter expectations up, too

When Minnesota's deer season ends Dec. 31, it is quite likely the harvest will be in the 200,000 range.

This Minnesota Department of Natural Resources projection is above last year's harvest of 173,213, below the 2003 record harvest of 290,525 and similar to the most recent 20-year average of 205,959. Prior to 2000, deer harvests in excess of 200,000 occurred only four times.

Deer harvest totals typically relate to the size of the deer population and to a lesser degree to weather conditions immediately before and during the hunting season.

This should be a good deer season barring any unforeseen unusual weather. Deer numbers are up following three years of conservative harvest regulations designed to rebuild the population, coupled with three relatively mild winters. As a result, more antlerless permits are available this year, and hunters in many parts of the state will have additional opportunities to harvest more deer because of other more liberal season framework changes. Unfavorable weather, like heavy snowfall immediately before or during the hunting season, is the main factor that would prevent a harvest increase.

The highest deer harvests occurred during the early to mid-1990s and from 2000-2008. During this latter period, the harvest topped 200,000 each year. The high harvests in the early 2000s occurred at a time when the overriding harvest strategy was to reduce the deer population so it wouldn't grow out of control, as had happened in certain eastern states, and to address certain environmental, economic and social concerns. Deer harvests in excess of 225,000 occurred only once in the 1990s. Going further back, the harvests in the 1970s never topped 100,000. The harvests in the 1980s were under 150,000. Today, there's growing discussion in the hunting community as to what's a reasonable harvest target, and that's a good conversation to have.

The DNR's aim is to keep deer numbers at population goals identified during periodically occurring public goal-setting processes. There are 130 different deer permit areas throughout the state, and nearly all permit areas have a numeric population goal range. Population goals range from as low as a handful of deer per square mile in intensively farmed areas to 20 to 25 deer per square mile in prime forested areas. A few permit areas are too small or have too low of a harvest to model the local population.

Many hunters are curious as to how the DNR makes its decisions on antlerless permit numbers and season structure. The process starts immediately after the deer season closes. That's when area wildlife supervisors and staff monitor deer harvest results in their local areas and collect informal feedback from hunters, conservation officers, foresters and others.

In spring, after winter severity has been monitored and deer mortality losses have been estimated, research staff run population models for each permit area based on the last year's harvest, winter mortality, anticipated fawn births, predation and other data. These calculations are the basis of research staff recommendations for season permit area designations (lottery, managed, intensive harvest, etc.) and the number of antlerless permits that should be made available to hunters in each lottery permit area in order to achieve population goals.

Research staff recommendations are sent to all area wildlife supervisors, who then have the option of agreeing with them or modifying them based on their own local observations and informal input. Often, these recommendations agree with each other, but not always. When this happens, differences get resolved at the regional or St. Paul office level.

Ultimately, the agreed upon season structures and number of permits to be issued for each area are communicated to hunters through the multi-colored deer map that is part of the hunting regulations booklet and a new, more informative interactive deer map on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/deermap.

That's perhaps the hardest part of deer management, and it's often a function of scope and scale, a news release stated. The DNR's focus is on the big picture and a half-million hunters. Conversely, the individual hunter is most interested in what's happening within their immediate hunting area, which is often as little as 40 acres.

It's not well known, but among 13 Midwestern states, only Missouri manages deer populations at a finer spatial scale than Minnesota.

Today with the ease, convenience and popularity of phone and internet game registration, the DNR no longer has staff at deer registration stations. And people don't visit DNR offices like they once did because so much information is available on the DNR website.

This past winter, the DNR received more than 1,400 comments during a three-month long deer management plan public input effort. DNR officials were pleased with the response, the release stated, yet those 1,400 comments from an engaged and important audience represent only a minute fraction of the hunting public.

There's an irony in the fact that even though it is easier to be connected to one another these days because of smartphones and other technology, many people feel less connected than they once did. Figuring out how to maintain strong relations with hunters and other stakeholders is something on which the DNR plans to continue working on.

Minnesota's first-ever deer plan will outline key concepts and crucial, ongoing work needed to manage deer, one of the state's most popular and economically vibrant natural resources. An important aspect of the plan is how DNR will reach out and communicate deer management needs, necessary actions and reasons for those actions.

A draft plan will be available in early 2018.

Video explains mandatory CWD testing in central, north central and southeast

A video about how to get deer tested for chronic wasting disease is available on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at www.mndnr.gov/cwd.

"Getting a deer tested for CWD only takes a few minutes and the video takes hunters through steps that make the process go smoothly, such as positioning their deer so the head is easily accessed in the vehicle," said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager, in a news release.

Testing will be required in portions of north-central, central and southeast Minnesota during the opening weekend of firearms deer season. "We want to thank hunters for cooperating during this sampling process," Cornicelli said.

Precautionary testing from 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 will determine whether chronic wasting disease may have spread from captive deer to wild deer in central and north-central Minnesota.

Central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 218, 219, 229, 277, 283 and 285.

North-central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 155, 171, 172, 242, 246, 247, 248 and 249.

Testing in north-central and central Minnesota became necessary after CWD was found in multiple captive deer on farms near Merrifield in Crow Wing County and Litchfield in Meeker County. Test results will determine whether CWD may have potentially been passed from these captive deer to wild deer.

Deer harvested in southeast Minnesota's permit areas 343, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349 also are subject to mandatory testing Nov. 4-5 because they are adjacent to permit area 603, the only area of Minnesota currently known to have CWD-infected wild deer.

All hunters in affected deer permit areas will be required to have their harvested deer tested Nov. 4-5. After field dressing their deer, hunters must take them to a sampling station. DNR staff will remove lymph nodes, which will be submitted for laboratory testing.

Hunters must register their deer by phone, internet or in person at any big game registration station. Harvest registration will not be available at CWD sampling stations.

For sampling to accurately detect whether CWD exists in wild deer, the DNR needs hunters' help to collect 3,600 samples in the north-central area, 1,800 in the central area and 1,800 in the southeast.

Proactive surveillance and precautionary testing for disease is a proven strategy that allows DNR to manage CWD by finding it early and reacting quickly and aggressively to control it, the release stated. These actions, initiated in 2005 to successfully combat bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota deer and in 2011 to eliminate a CWD infection in wild deer near Pine Island, provide the best opportunity to eliminate disease spread.

Hunters not in a mandatory testing area can collect their own lymph node sample and submit it for testing to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota for a fee. A video showing how to collect a lymph node sample and a link to the lab's website are at www.mndnr.gov/cwdcheck.

Hunters reminded about importance of registering deer

Hunters are reminded to register deer before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Deer registration provides information that is essential to our ability to manage deer populations," said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager, in a news release. "Hunters are required to register deer and it's a fairly simple process."

Hunters register deer with a phone call, online or in person. Before registering a deer, hunters must validate their site tag. The validated tag must be attached to the deer when the deer is placed on a motor vehicle or an all-terrain vehicle, a vehicle or a trailer being towed by an ATV or brought into a camp, yard or other place of habitation.

Register deer via phone by calling 888-706-6367. Directions are printed on each deer hunting license. Have a pen or permanent marker ready. A confirmation number will be given; it must be written on the license and site tag.

Register deer via internet at www.mndnr.gov/gameregistration. Directions will be similar to phone registration, and a confirmation number must be written on the license and site tag.

When phone or internet registration is not possible, hunters must take their deer to a big-game registration station. The person whose name appears on the license must be present at the registration station with their deer. They will receive a big-game possession tag that must be attached to the hind leg, ear or antler where the site tag was attached. A list of all stations organized by city and county is available at any DNR wildlife office or at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

During registration, the hunter must use the permit area number where the deer was harvested; using the wrong deer permit area for registration is illegal. Registration instructions for all methods are available at www.mndnr.gov/gameregistrationhelp.

DNR to take questions about Forest Bat Habitat Conservation Plan

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Michigan and Wisconsin natural resources departments, will take questions about the Lake States Forest Bat Habitat Conservation Plan 3 p.m. Tuesday. The phone conference is for anyone interested in the integration of forest practices with conservation measures to support bat populations.

Forest bat populations are rapidly declining, and one or more species may soon be reclassified as endangered. If reclassified, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides the opportunity to develop a habitat conservation plan. A plan helps endangered species recover by setting out habitat conservation plans during land management activities, a news release stated.

In preparation, Minnesota and neighboring states are developing a forest bat plan aiming to maintain bat habitat and allow important forest management activities to continue. Input from forest landowners, forest managers, conservation groups and other stakeholders is essential to developing an effective habitat conservation plan.

An introductory video describing the HCP process and how to participate is available at https://youtu.be/46IAHTaqJQE. The DNR encourages participants to watch the video prior to the Oct. 31 Q-and-A session.

To access the session, in the 10 minutes prior to the call start time, participants should dial 855-802-6790 toll-free and, at the prompt, enter the conference ID code 93441291.

Anyone requiring an accommodation to participate in the phone conference is asked to email bathcp.dnr@state.mn.us or call 651-259-5919 as early as possible.

More information is available at www.mndnr.gov/bathcp.

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