Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Turkey, goose, chicken on DNR meeting platter

Associate Editor

St. Paul Sportsmen and women will get a chance to be heard at a
series of upcoming meetings on DNR-proposed hunting changes.

Among the most discussed outside the world of whitetails are
proposals that would change the September Canada goose and spring
turkey seasons, and create the first hunt for prairie chickens in
60 years.

Geese and the over-water’ restriction

Of states that conduct a September goose hunt as authorized by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota is the only one that
has restrictions on hunting over water, according to Ed Boggess,
DNR Wildlife operations manager. When that September season began
in 1987, nowhere in the state could one hunt Canada geese within
100 yards of water.

However, DNR-proposed changes would open the vast majority of
the state to over-water goose hunting during September.

“We want to allow more hunting of resident geese,” Boggess said.
“Especially in areas where there’s a lot of depredation.” In most
areas, that goose depredation occurs in ag fields.

Eventually, the statewide restriction was amended to exclude the
West Goose Zone, mostly the lower half of the western third of the
state. The current proposal would open up the “Five Goose Zone” as
it appears in last year’s regs. The restriction would remain in
place for the small Northwest Zone, the Southeast Zone and the
Metro Zone.

In the northwest, Boggess said, migrant geese are early to
arrive, and those flocks include members of the Eastern Prairie
Population of geese, a group whose population continues to
struggle.

Regarding the southeast and metro zones, Boggess said there are
fewer areas of water to hold the birds. “We don’t want to run them
out of those areas,” he said.

The over-water restriction was originally put in place for a
number of reasons, Boggess said. First, officials thought the
harvest would be greater if birds were protected over water. That’s
proved to be false, he said. Also, some hunters were concerned
about disturbing ducks prior to the duck season. While there still
are some grumblings regarding that concern, Boggess said there
hasn’t been evidence of that occurring in the West Goose Zone since
it’s been open to over-water hunting for September geese.

Finally, there was concern when the September goose season began
about conflicts with other recreational users of lakes. However,
Boggess said, most geese aren’t hunted on “recreational-type”
lakes.

The September goose season began as a 15-day event, running
Sept. 1-15. For most of Minnesota, the season has run through Sept.
22 the past four years.

Last year, September goose hunters harvested almost 84,000
birds. The kill in 2001 was over 101,000 and in 2000, about 90,000
geese were harvested in September.

Prairie chicken hunt revived

There are now a lot of “probablies” surrounding Minnesota’s
first prairie chicken hunt since the 1940s. The most certain of
which is that the hunt will be revived this fall. It was authorized
by the 2002 state Legislature.

Hunters will probably be selected through a lottery system
similar to turkey hunting. DNR officials expect about 100 hunters
to be selected; they’ll probably be allowed to harvest two birds. A
special prairie chicken license probably will cost about $20; an
application fee, about $4, according to Boggess.

The hunt area will likely include a narrow strip through about
five counties, from the Breckenridge/Fergus Falls area to the
vicinity of Crookston.

DNR officials say the population of prairie chickens, which
exist along gravel ridges in extreme western Minnesota, is between
2,000 and 4,000 birds. They thrive in habitat that’s a combination
of native prairie and some cropland.

“We’ve seen some increases in habitat with CRP (the federal
Conservation Reserve Program), but prairie chickens are attached to
native prairie that they’re not making any more of,” Boggess said.
“We’re doing some reintroductions and we want to restore some
grasslands, but it will be a gradual, long-term increase in
(prairie chicken) populations.”

More time for toms

When it comes to spring turkey hunting, earlier is generally
considered better.

That’s why, DNR officials say, the preference of most turkey
hunters when they apply are the earlier of the eight consecutive
five-day seasons, often leaving the later seasons with more permits
than applicants. The DNR is proposing to add two days to each of
the last two seasons.

“We want to encourage people that don’t normally apply for the
late season to apply then, when extra permits are available,” said
Gary Nelson, DNR turkey specialist and area manager of the Winona
Wildlife office. Adding more hunting time might entice hunters to
apply to hunt those later seasons, he said.

The spring 2003 turkey hunt’s first season begins April 16. The
final season closes May 25. A total of 25,016 permits were
available this year.

All public meetings including these proposals, as well as
proposals to change the deer permitting system, extend the
moratorium on furbearer site-tagging, add a feeding and resting
area for waterfowl on Rice Lake in LeSueur County, and expand the
Timber Lake WMA duck refuge in Jackson County, will be held from
7-9 p.m.

The meeting in St. Paul will be “open house” style. The meeting
dates and locations are as follows:

Feb. 27, Ely, Vermillion Community College Lecture Hall;

Feb. 27, Nicollet, Nicollet Conservation Club;

Feb. 27, St. Paul, DNR/PCA cafeteria, 500 Lafayette Rd.;

March 6, Crookston, Highland Middle School.

Comments also may be emailed to to: info@dnr.state.mn.us, or
sent to: Season Comments, DNR Division of Wildlife, 500 Lafayette
Rd., St. Paul, MN 55155-4007.

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