Various hunting seasons open as fall arrives

A lot of folks probably don’t want to accept it but the weather this past week tells me that fall is here.

That and the fact that a number of hunting seasons have already opened and a few more are set to commence seals the deal.

And if you want to take part in any of those, depending on your age, you’re going to need a firearms safety certificate.

In Minnesota any person born after 1978, upon reaching the age of 12, must have one.

There are plenty of options around for earning one around the Iron Range.

The Virginia Rifle and Pistol Club and the Virginia Recreation Department are sponsoring a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Field Day for students who have completed the online Firearms Safety Course on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Class will begin at 5 p.m. at the Miners Memorial Building, followed by outdoor exercises at the Virginia Rifle and Pistol Club outdoor range on Saturday, Sept. 21.

A parent and/or guardian must be present, and the online completion voucher is required.

Class size is limited.

Preregistration is available by calling 744-1772 or 749-5940.

For those of you closer to Buhl, firearms safety classes start Tuesday at the Buhl-Kinney Senior Center and will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. six weeks, culminating with a field session on a Saturday where students will participate in a simulated hunt and fire 15 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition at paper targets.

Students must 11 years-old or older by the start of class to participate.

Class size is limited so if you’re interested you need to give instructors Rudy Krueger (258-3370) or Mark Maki (258-1010) a call right away.

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Bear

hunting

The 2019 bear season kicked off on Sept. 1 and so far, hunters have found success.

Tom Rusch, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Manager for the Tower area, reported this week that the preliminary bear harvest registration through Tuesday was 1018.

That number is about 40 percent higher than last season at this time and the third highest three-day opening tally since 2013.

Last year, hunters harvested about 762 to open the season.

State-wide, the ratio of males killed to females was 58 percent to 42 percent, which is the way DNR officials would like to see it since females are the key to population growth.

Locally the numbers are similar: In Bear Zone 24 the ratio of males to females was 65 to 3. In Bear Zone 25 it was 59 to 41. And in Bear Zone 31 it was 60 to 40.

Bear season continues through Oct. 13.

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Waterfowl

The DNR is reporting that there were no significant changes for the 2019 duck season.

The State-wide Early Goose season opened Sept. 1 and runs through Saturday. The bag limit is five while possession limit is 15.

The Waterfowl opener is Saturday, Sept. 21. There will be a three-zone, 60-day season again this year.

In the North Duck Zone (north of Highway 210), the season runs from Sept. 21 through Tuesday, Nov. 19. Shooting hours are a half hour before sunrise for opener until 4 p.m. through Friday Oct. 4 and until sunset thereafter.

Bag limits are six ducks a day and possession limits are three times the daily bag limit for all migratory birds:

•Four mallards (2 hens).

•Three wood duck plus scaup.

•Two canvasback, redhead and black duck.

•One pintail

•Six ringneck, b/w teal and g/w teal.

State Waterfowl Refuges in Tower Area

The DNR reminds hunters that Butterball Lake (created in 2016) and Little Rice Lake (re-established for 2019, created in 2013) are waterfowl refuges established to provide secure feeding and resting cover and improve hunting in northern St Louis County during waterfowl season (Sept 1- Nov. 25).

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Ruffed Grouse

The ruffed grouse season opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 1.

Rusch said the drumming counts were unchanged from in 2018 state-wide, with 1.5 drums per stop. Drum counts are the way wildlife officials estimate the population size.

Early field reports indicate average reproduction in northern St Louis County, Rusch said, with field staff seeing scattered broods throughout the summer

Nesting conditions were normal as June was wet and then July and August were drier. Heavy rainstorms (which can wash away nests and young) were not an issue across most of the area and temperatures were warm, above average.

Grouse populations typically rise and fall on a 10-year population cycle. Rusch said the population crashed in 2009 and should peak between 2018 and 2020 but most likely peaked in 2017.

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Pheasants

According to the DNR, when the Minnesota pheasant season opens on Oct. 12, hunters are likely to find some areas with plenty of pheasants and other areas where the birds will be tougher to find, judging by results of the annual roadside pheasant survey.

The roadside pheasant survey showed a 17 percent decrease in the overall pheasant index this year from 2018. The 2019 index was 11 percent below the 10-year average, and 60 percent below the long-term average.

This year’s statewide pheasant index was 37.4 birds per 100 miles of roads driven.

Uplands that escaped spring snowstorms and flooding, and contain native grasses and wildflowers provided the best opportunities for hens to nest and raise young. These areas typically provide the best hunting opportunities as well.

Looking at the survey results, the pheasant index decreased throughout much of the pheasant range, except in the south-central and east-central regions. There, the index grew by 24 percent and 13 percent, respectively, from 2018. The highest pheasant indexes were in the west-central and south-central regions where observers reported 43 to 49 birds per 100 miles driven. Hunting opportunities will also be good in the southwest and central regions.

Weather and habitat are the main influences on Minnesota’s pheasant population trends. Weather causes annual fluctuations in pheasant numbers, while habitat drives long-term population trends.

Winters that linger can delay the start of the breeding season and reduce the success of early nests. Heavy rain, particularly at or just after hatching, can reduce chick survival.

This year, deep snow cover blanketed most of the pheasant range in February and March. Snowmelt and rainfall in April and May contributed to widespread flooding and estimated hatch dates indicate that nesting activity was delayed over much of the pheasant range. The range-wide hatch date in 2019 was nearly a week later than in 2018, and also a week later than the 10-year average.

The season runs through Wednesday, Jan. 1.

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