From Mille Lacs to CWD to the Hautmans to white-tailed deer hunting: the top 10 Minnesota outdoors stories of 2017

After years of decline then some gradual increases, Minnesota’s hunting harvest of white-tailed deer saw another nice bump in the last year. (Photo by Bill Diers)

The print version of this week’s Outdoor News contained the annual “Year in Review” for 2017. It included a sidebar for the Top 10 news stories for the year. Here’s my take on them.

At the end of the piece, you’ll also see some links from the National Shooting Sports Foundation for shooting ranges around the country. I promise those list/links at the end of my story on “guntry clubs” on Page 14 of the Jan. 5 print version of Outdoor News.

  1. Headlines surrounding chronic wasting disease boomed throughout the outdoors press throughout 2017 and across a solid chunk of the country. More cases of wild deer appeared, additional cervidae farms tested positive, and research in Canada suggested the longtime belief that a species barrier that will prevent human infection of CWD may not be as airtight as we’d like to believe. Until a clever scientist somewhere discovers a silver bullet to stop this deer disease, it won’t be leaving anytime soon.
  1. We’ve seen many variations and changes to Mille Lacs walleye fishing seasons before, but the flat-out angling closure from July 7-27 marked a new low. Not only could anglers not keep walleyes on the big lake, they couldn’t even attempt to catch them. With all the problems facing natural resources in this state and nation, the fact that our tax dollars fund this endlessly stressful boondoggle becomes increasingly nauseating every year.
  1. How about a little positivity? Well, after years of decline then some gradual increases, Minnesota’s hunting harvest of white-tailed deer saw another nice bump. Archers, firearms hunters, and muzzleloaders killed more than 195,000 deer through Dec. 31, and there’s another CWD management hunt starting Saturday, Jan. 6 in southeast Minnesota’s deer permit area 603. With what appears to be a low-snow winter thus far, the herd likely will remain stable or even grow into 2018, and just maybe we’ll see an even bigger harvest this fall. (We’ll leave the topic of DNR’s longterm DNR harvest goal of 190,000 for another blog.)
  1. After literally decades of debating scopes on muzzleloaders, the Legislature passed the measure in 2017, and hunters used them this past autumn with little fanfare. Blaze pink also became legal, and the end result of all that debate appears to be some cute kids in the Outdoor News reader shot section wearing pink camo. Both ultimately minor changes on which we expended vast amounts of hot air.
  1. Per my column last week, we’ve got problems in Washington D.C. Our president talked a good game for public lands and natural resources during the campaign, but actions speak louder than words. And the actions haven’t been pretty so far. Check out my print column in this week’s Outdoor News for more thoughts on that topic.
  1. Hard to believe but Outdoor News wrapped its 50th year of publishing last week. It wouldn’t have happened without the vision of Jim Peterson, the business acumen of Glenn Meyer, the hard work of a dedicated staff, and a love for the Great Outdoors by all of the above, plus the tens of thousands of subscribers and loyal advertisers. It’s been a great run, and we’ll look forward to year 100 in 2067.
  1. St. Paul-based Gander Mountain declaring bankruptcy rocked the outdoors industry and left a major void in outdoors retailing across a wide swath of America. New ownership opened one new store on Lakeville last month under the revamped brand “Gander Outdoors,” but we’ll see if it expands and sets roots in a state and nation where retailing has become increasingly challenging.
  1. The brothers Hautman just keep winning that federal duck stamp, with Bob taking the honors in 2017. That’s 13 total between the three of them, and three in a row, which means the 2018 winner will not be a Hautman (rules prohibit winners from entering for three years after claiming the prize.) I’ve been lucky in my career to meet all three men, and I probably know Bob the best, so I was especially happy to see him inch closer to Joe and Jim in total number of individual wins.
  1. The National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic last February at the Minneapolis Convention Center was a great show with strong crowds. A special farm bill forum brought U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who pledged strong support for the Conservation Reserve Program in the 2018 Farm Bill. Attendees and PF leadership openly advocated for a 40-million-acre CRP. That remains the rallying cry as 2018 begins, even if it feels a little unrealistic.
  1. In an unprecedented move, BASS returned its Toyota Bassmasters Anglers of the Year Championship to the same location, Lake Mille Lacs, two years in a row. An Idaho angler won the event and local favorite Seth Feider, who won the event the previous year, placed 13th. It was another great event and positive press for the big lake.

Guntry club story links

Per the story on Page 14 on “Upscale Gun Ranges” around the country, here are the links to a few additional sources that you may find helpful. They come courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Wheretoshoot.org:

https://www.wheretoshoot.org/

First Shots – an intro program for those looking to give shooting a try

https://www.nssf.org/ranges/first-shots/

For more information on NSSF’s Star Rating Range Program:

https://www.nssf.org/ranges/range-star-rating/

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