Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Hunting seasons in plan for Hamden Slough NWR

By Tim
Spielman
Associate Editor

Audubon, Minn. – Waterfowl, deer, and small game hunters could
see additional hunting opportunities in western Minnesota this
year, should proposals be approved – and programs put into place –
on two national wildlife refuges, one near Detroit Lakes, the other
near Thief River Falls.

For the first time in its 16-year history, the Hamden Slough
National Wildlife Refuge near Audubon, may hear gunfire. Mike
Murphy, refuge manager at Hamden Slough NWR, said the current
federal proposal to expand hunting on some refuges in the United
States includes a youth waterfowl hunt at Hamden Slough, as well as
a muzzleloader hunt during the state’s November/December hunt.

‘At public meetings around Detroit Lakes, we had mixed reviews
(regarding the hunting proposal),’ Murphy said. Most like how the
hunting-off-limits area tends to ‘hold’ wildlife – like ducks –
during the hunting season. ‘Eighty to 85 percent (of meeting
respondents) said ‘let’s limit hunting out there,’ ‘ Murphy
said.

There are about a dozen federal waterfowl production areas open
to hunting that are adjacent to the refuge. Most hunters believe
the refuge keeps the ducks and geese in the area longer.

For the muzzleloader season, most of the refuge will be open to
deer hunting, Murphy said. He said it’s unknown how many hunters
would take advantage of refuge hunting should the proposal be
OK’d.

Youth hunters, whose day of exclusive waterfowling is Sept. 16
this year, would be able to hunt around 500 acres of refuge
wetlands.

‘If you’re a kid, you have as many opportunities as you can
shake a stick at (for waterfowling),’ Murphy said.

He said the hunting proposals are part of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service’s goal of recognizing the six key uses of refuges.
Others include photography, fishing, and environmental
education.

The rule on the Hamden Slough NWR proposal – as well as one for
Agassiz NWR, near Middle River – was published in the Federal
Register in late July. The public comment period ends Aug. 16,
giving refuge managers little time to promote and organize the
hunts.

‘If (the proposal) is approved, we’re on a real short timeline
to get the word out,’ Murphy said.

Murphy said the plan for the Hamden Slough NWR has been in the
works for two years, and nearly was accepted last year.

‘This year, we were ready,’ Murphy said.

The story’s slightly different up the road at Agassiz NWR, says
Maggie Anderson. A series of possible hunting changes offered in
the proposal may come to pass, but it depends on when approval for
the plan comes, if it is, in fact, approved.

For Agassiz, the proposal includes a youth duck hunt, youth deer
hunt, archery deer hunt (which would begin with the firearms deer
hunt), small game hunt, and blackpowder deer hunting.

Like Hamden Slough and the rest of the state, the youth duck
hunt would occur Sept. 16, Anderson said, and would take place on
Farmes Pool. The youth deer hunt would take place in approximately
the eastern one-third of the 61,500-acre refuge that was
established in 1937. There would be a ‘scouting’ day the Friday
prior to the Saturday and Sunday, October youth deer hunt.

Because of possible time constraints, Anderson said she’s talked
to members of hunting groups who might be able to help with both
youth hunts on the refuge.

As for the later-season archery, muzzleloader, and small game
hunts, Anderson said there may be hurdles regarding staffing, and
thus, access, should there be snow to move. Also, signage would
need to be in place – yet another thing to do within a short
timeframe, she said.

‘It’s a matter of timing, to see if we can reasonably do this
safely and have enough staff in place,’ Anderson said. She said the
youth hunts are priorities, but, depending on the timing of
possible hunt approval, ‘it may not happen until next year,’ she
said.

Further limiting staff availability at Agassiz is the refuge
staff goal of banding at least 1,200 mallard ducks this fall.

If the hunts do occur this year, participation could be light on
Hamden Slough and Agassiz, simply because there wouldn’t be a lot
of time to get word out.

In 2005, approximately 2.3 million Americans hunted on national
wildlife refuges, and more than 6 million anglers made fishing
trips to the refuge system, according to the USFWS. The National
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 includes hunting and
fishing as two of the six priority uses on the system.

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