2005: The year in review

By Joe Noble

Contributing Writer

While 2005 started with debate over the new CREP 2 bill and
other more contentious political issues, such as an Legislative
Commission on Minnesota Resources overhaul, the year witnessed a
coming together of waterfowl hunters, environmentalists and
conservationists at the April duck rally. The year saw several new
record fish, an abundance of pheasants and all-time high numbers of
turkey hunting permits.

With that in mind, here’s a look back at 2005.

January

Debate over permanent easements in the CREP program ignited at
the Capitol. Eventually 120,000 acres of new habitat and $200
million in federal funding were secured. The state’s
investment: about $45 million.

The DNR held its annual Fishing and Hunting Roundtable at Breezy
Point Resort north of Brainerd. Proposals for changes in how the
DNR manages the deer herd were considered.

The Minnesota Waterfowl Association appointed Les Jones as its
new executive director – another step forward as it digs out of
financial difficulties.

David Chapman of Minnetonka won his third Minnesota stamp
contest in a year with the 2006 wild turkey stamp. He previously
won the 2005 duck and pheasant stamp contests.

February

Discontented waterfowlers embraced a broader coalition of
partners after a disappointing 2004 hunting season. The coalition
eventually led to the April Ducks, Wetlands, and Clean Water Rally
at the Capitol.

The DNR announces that the 2005 Mille Lacs walleye slot would be
the same as 2004, while the Lake Mille Lacs Input Group complained
about unethical handling of unwanted fish by tribal netters.

After 12 years as DNR regional director in northern Minnesota,
Paul Swenson is reassigned; and Regional Wildlife Manager Jim
Breyen announces his retirement. The changes spur some members of
environmental groups to write a letter to Gov. Pawlenty saying the
changes were motivated by politics surrounding off-highway vehicle
policies.

Following the terrible 2004 waterfowl hunting season, DNR
officials begin looking for ways to accelerate the agency’s
waterfowl fall use plan, which is designed to improve hunting.

March

The Minnesota Trappers Association pushed for mandatory trapper
training for first-time trappers.

A debate flared about shooting stray or feral cats.

The state House debated an extension of the ice walleye
season.

The DNR appointed Mike Carroll as Northwest Region director.

After three years in the post, Steve Williams resigned as the
director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ice anglers enjoyed a prolonged season in some parts of the
state.

The DNR announced that Red Lake would reopen in 2006 for sport
fishing with a walleye slot.

April

The state’s waterfowlers, hunting advocates, conservation
organizations and green groups buzzed with excitement after more
than 5,000 people visited the Capitol for the Ducks, Wetlands and
Clean Water Rally.

Dedicated funding bills were tabled at the Legislature,
frustrating advocates and hinting at how legislators would
eventually ignore the call for changes in how the state manages its
water and waterfowl resources that resounded at the duck rally.

As ice melted and open water teased anxious anglers, turkey
hunters took to the woods with a record 31,864 turkey hunting
permits available. Despite the increase, 8,434 turkeys were
harvested, 800 fewer than 2004.

Gov. Pawlenty signs CREP 2 into law. CREP 2 was the largest CREP
agreement ever signed and promises $250 million to restore or
protect 120,000 acres of habitat lands.

May

By early May, the tribal gill-netting harvest on Mille Lacs was
outpacing 2004’s harvest.

A plan to cull double-crested cormorants on Leech Lake began
with sharpshooters trying to kill as many 4,000 pairs of nesting
birds. Cormorants eat walleye and yellow perch, and are the
suspected cause of declining fish populations.

The state House passed a ban on motorized decoys. Non-motorized
spinning and flapping wing decoys remained legal.

Wind, rain and cold welcomed anglers to the 2005 fishing opener.
In terms of numbers of walleyes, various reports from across the
state point to success.

Robin Schmitz caught a state record 12-pound, 11.5-ounce,
28.5-inch redhorse sucker on the Sauk River.

Bass fishing opened on May 28, and muskie opener was June 4.

June

After months of sometimes frustrating and heated discussions, a
new plan to reform the LCMR was presented. In fall 2004, Gov.
Pawlenty unveiled a plan to reform the LCMR.

The Minnesota Waterfowl Association made a public plea for
funding, warning that without an influx of money the organization
would fold.

Corey Thompson, of Maple Grove, hooked a new state record green
sunfish on North Arbor Lake. The fish weighed 1 pound, 4.8
ounces.

A 400-acre WMA in Traverse County is dedicated under the Build A
Wildlife Area campaign.

July

With the 2005 season only at the halfway point, boating
fatalities already topped 2004’s season total.

The Legislature finished its work a month late, passing an
environmental funding bill that dropped conservation spending to a
30-year low or one percent of the state General Fund. Conservations
were vocally frustrated, especially after a strong showing at the
April duck rally and a sustained lobbying effort.

Also nixed by the Legislature was the Clean Water Legacy
Act.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists announced that woodcock
populations were stable for the second year in a row, ending a
decade-long decline in numbers. Officials cautioned that the
long-term trend in woodcock populations was still negative.

Amid predictions of low numbers, debate flared over a USFWS
recommendation of a liberal six-bird, 60-day waterfowl hunting
season. The DNR lowered the bag limit to four birds for Minnesota
hunters.

The DNR announced that 14,000 hunters who participated in the
state’s first dove hunt in nearly 60 years shot 107,000 birds.

Gov. Pawlenty pitched his Wetlands Loan Act

August

State conservation leader, Frank Schneider, Jr., passes away. He
was 86.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy authored Wetlands Loan Act bill.

Two zebra mussels were found in Mille Lacs.

In an interview with Outdoor News, Gov. Pawlenty says there is
still hope for dedicated funding, clean water legislation and an
overhaul of the LCMR.

Crow Wing County outlawed the construction and use of permanent
deer stands on its 103,000 acres of county lands.

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman says he would co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Mark
Kennedy’s Wetlands Loan Act bill in the Senate.

September

Minnesota’s second dove hunting season opened Sept. 1.

Officials predicted a banner year for pheasant hunting, but a
below-average year for ruffed grouse.

Joe Hautman won the 2006 Minnesota waterfowl stamp contest.

A judge ordered Rice Creek Watershed District to install a dam
on Rice Lake after one of its drainage ditch maintenance crew
inadvertently drained the lake in the spring. The lake slowly
refilled.

October

Up from the previous year, 284 hunters earned once-in-a-lifetime
permits to hunt moose.

Mark Raveling caught a new state record largemouth bass on Lake
Auburn. The fish weighed 8 pounds, 15 ounces.

The waterfowl hunting season was mediocre at best. Some report
good shooting, while most report a dismal hunt.

Hunters doubled the prairie chicken harvest over 2004.

November

A group calling itself the World Record Muskie Alliance
submitted a report to the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame
challenging the authenticity of the Louis Spray world record muskie
caught in 1949. The record is 69 pounds, 11 ounces.

In almost summer-like heat, hunters killed about 100,000
white-tailed deer on opening weekend. Despite record population
levels, the total white-tailed deer shot fell short of the 2004
tally.

An LCMR advisory group, which is looking into ways to change the
LCMR, began seeking public input to the process.

Jim Roerig caught and released a potential state record muskie.
The fish measured 52.5 inches long with a girth of 28.5 inches.
Weight estimate: 53.3 pounds. Roerig says he had no regrets about
releasing it.

Deer baiting leaps to the front page as a rash of baiting
descends on Minnesota.

Chao Vang gets life in prison without the possibility of parole
for killing six deer hunters in Wisconsin in fall 2004.

Autumn sport netters tossed their nets into lakes pulling in
tullibees and lake whitefish.

John Guenther, head of the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division,
announced he will retire in January 2006. He has served the agency
for 30 years.

December

Ice fishing reports from northern Minnesota began trickling in,
with news of four to six inches of ice on some lakes.

Debate over funding for the Wetlands Loan Act heated up as U.S.
Rep. Mark Kennedy proposes a 133-percent increase in the cost of
the federal duck stamp – $15 to $35 – by 2015.

Carp were found in Swan Lake, an important duck-staging location
in southwestern Minnesota. DNR officials responded with a drawdown
of water levels of the 10,000-acre shallow lake.

A DNR proposal would allow commercial netting of lake trout on a
portion of Lake Superior.

The DNR settled on a Beltrami Island management plan that allows
off-highway vehicle riders to use existing roads.

The DNR finalized its walleye slots and limits for Upper Red
Lake for the 2006 season. Walleye fishing on Upper Red Lake has
been closed since 1999.

Pheasants Forever announced that the 2005 Build A Wildlife
campaign netted more than $220,000 since August. (Outdoor News
helped create the concept and is a founding member of the
partnership.)

A federal law that would allow drilling for oil in ANWR was
defeated in the Senate.

Bovine TB shows up in the state’s northwest deer herd.

Happy New Year!

Categories: Hunting News

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