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

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Prairie chicken hunt bags about 100 birds

Editor

Crookston, Minn. Participants in Minnesota’s first prairie
chicken hunt since World War II were singing the praises of the
opportunity early this week as the hunt wound down.

As of Tuesday morning, hunters had registered 96 prairie
chickens, according to DNR Farmland Wildlife Program Leader Lloyd
Knudson. The five-day hunt began on Saturday, Oct. 18, and was
scheduled to end Wednesday, Oct. 22.

The 100 hunters drawn for the hunt were limited to two prairie
chickens of either sex. As of Tuesday, 93 hunters had purchased a
license.

Hunters had until Thursday to register their prairie chickens.
Knudson said a final harvest tally should be available next week.
He estimated the final harvest should top 100 birds.

Knudson’s three-person hunting party did very well, taking their
full bag of six birds. Warm weather conditions made for some
beautiful sunsets, but 75 degrees was a bit warm for upland bird
hunting, he said.

“It was probably harder on the dogs than the hunters. Our dog
was pretty whooped,” he said.

The birds tended to “flush wild” Knudson said, often getting up
60 to 80 yards ahead of the hunters and dogs. That made for some
long miles of walking.

“Sunday night, we were going to watch a little baseball, but
after putting 20 miles on the past two days, we were out by 9 p.m.
Didn’t see much baseball,” he said.

The DNR estimates about 6,000 prairie chickens exist in the
remnant and restored prairie country of northwestern Minnesota.
This summer presented prime habitat conditions for the birds, and
Knudson sees no reason 2004 won’t contain another season.

“Absolutely, unless something unexpected happened to the
population,” he said. “If it holds anywhere where it is now, we’ll
be back at it next year.”

He reminded state hunters that the DNR didn’t recommend and
implement the hunt with a goal of killing 200 prairie chickens.
Rather, the goal was to bring attention to state’s prairie habitat
and efforts to restore it and the unique species that inhabit it,
like prairie chickens.

Brainerd-based wildlife photographer Bill Marchel echoed that
opinion and commended the DNR for holding the hunt and its habitat
efforts in managing and restoring state prairies.

“I hope this will bring awareness to the plight of prairie
habitat,” he said.

Marchel and his hunting partner found that they had scouted
almost too well for their hunt. Pass-shooting near some roosting
grounds where they’d seen birds earlier, several flocks of prairie
chickens swung directly at them just as shooting hours began.

“That early, we weren’t going to start walking the fields, so we
saw a flyway and went out and stood there, like duck hunting,” he
said. “All of a sudden, here they come. Boom, boom season
over.”

Though he and his partner had no way of knowing if any other
hunters scored first, given the time of day, the birds they bagged
may have been the first legal prairie chickens killed in Minnesota
in 61 years.

Marchel said he “hunted” some chickens with his camera later in
the day and saw many birds.

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