2006: The year in review

By Joe Noble Contributing Writer

Plymouth, Minn. — From expectation to frustration and
disappointment to celebration and more, 2006 had a little something
for everyone. This was the year that “dedicated funding” could have
become law. It didn’t.

More grassland habitat, thanks in part to CRP, resulted in great
wingshooting. The whitetail harvest was also excellent. With the
notable exception of waterfowl, game and fish were generally
plentiful.

With that in mind, here’s a look back at 2006.

January

Smiles greet 2006 when the 2005 hunting season ends as one of
the best in the state’s history with near record harvests of
pheasants and deer.

The DNR unveils an ambitious plan to recover ducks, wetlands and
shallow lakes at its annual roundtable meeting. Two of the main
goals: two million acres of new habitat and one million breeding
ducks.

The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame board of directors
votes unanimously to reject a challenge lodged against Louis
Spray’s nearly 60-year-old muskie record. Spray’s fish weighed 69
pounds. The challenge contended Spray’s fish was a fake.

Dave Schad, a 25-year DNR veteran, is selected as new head of
the Fish and Wildlife Division.

A task force studying fishing fixes for Leech Lake demands a
huge stocking initiative. Brad Walhof, mayor of Walker, said the
lake is “sick, very ill. We are finally over the denial.”

February

Conservation and green groups hold an all-day summit to
strategize passing wetlands and clean water reform legislation.

The 2006 Mille Lacs safe harvest is set at 600,000 pounds of
walleyes, a 95,000-pound increase over 2005.

Amid years of continued decline, the DNR sets its sights on
monitoring the scaup (bluebill) populations in Minnesota with the
goals of ending the slide and increasing the numbers of breeding
pairs.

VP Dick Cheney accidentally shoots a hunting partner while
hunting quail in Texas.

March

The 2005 Legislature opens with ample outdoors bills, and
cautious optimism.

The Wetlands Loan Act picks up momentum when the Association of
Governors backs the program.

State snowmobile fatalities rise to 21, six higher than
2005.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health reports the state’s first
CWD-positive white-tailed deer. It’s the first wild animal in the
state to test positive; two captive elk have tested positive for
the disease.

President Bush names Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne Interior
Secretary.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces a plan to remove the
gray wolf from protection from the Endangered Species Act.

Conservationist Art Hawkins dies at age 92. He was a student of
Aldo Leopold and a prominent state and national
conservationist.

Lance Ness is named Outdoor News Man of the Year.

April

Dedicated funding for natural resources passes the state’s
Senate and heads to the House, where the fires of debate were
stoked into a fury. One of the biggest points of contention is
language that dedicates part of the revenue to “arts and
humanities.”

The U.S. Department of Interior reports a net gain of 200,000
acres of wetlands in the past five years. It also reports the
quality of those wetlands is significantly less than natural
ones.

Trappers enjoy the highest fur prices in 30 years.

Turkey hunters take to the woods amid rain and healthy numbers
of birds.

About 3,000 people attend the second Ducks, Wetlands and Clean
Water rally.

The Minnesota House passes a dedicated funding bill different
from the Senate’s bill. The House bill dedicates 3/16 of one
percent of sales tax revenue, whereas the Senate’s version
dedicates 3/8 of one percent. Both versions contain “arts and
humanities” funding. It is off to conference committee to resolve
the differences.

May

State and federal officials confirm a new exotic invasive
species in Minnesota waters. Called the New Zealand mudsnail, it is
found in the Duluth-Superior Harbor of Lake Superior.

Sign-ups for CRP begin slipping as crop prices increase.

The 2006 walleye fishing season opens.

Cell phone service providers join the DNR in providing a
speed-dial number to turn in poachers. The number is: #TIP.

Dedicated funding dies in conference committee when legislators,
particularly Senate leaders, are unable to agree on changes to
House and Senate versions of the bill. It is a frustrating defeat
for conservationists, and one that many voters remember on Election
Day later in the year.

Other conservation legislation does become law: The Clean Water
Legacy Act and $25 million in funding; an new LCMR dubbed “LCCMR;”
a bonding bill with $20 million for WMAs, and more.

June

The DNR proposes new catch-and-release muskie regulations for
some lakes and rivers.

A Minnesota 9-year-old hooks a rare American eel on Lake
Pepin.

The DNR announces the ruffed grouse population is on the
rise.

Ely outdoorsman, humorist and author “Jackpine” Bob Cary dies at
age 84.

State mallard populations are found to be drastically low,
prompting discussion and debate over how to respond.

Nearly 3,000 cormorants are culled from Leech Lake.

July

Woodcock populations hold steady in 2006, a welcome change to
several years of declining numbers.

In an effort to attract new CREP sign ups amid competition from
higher land values and crop prices, BWSR effectively doubles
payments to landowners.

A key subcommittee in U.S. Senate throws its support behind the
new Wetlands Reserve Program, recommending full funding for up to
250,000 acres in 2007.

While Minnesota’s duck populations are found to be lacking,
continental duck populations increase slightly. Debate over bag
limits for the upcoming waterfowl season erupts due to what is seen
as “liberal” federal guidelines.

State officials unilaterally lower Minnesota’s bag limit from
six to four ducks per day.

The DNR announces that the 2005 pheasant harvest was the highest
since 1964. Exciting news since 2006 looks better than 2005.

Fire scorches thousands of acres of the Boundary Waters.

August

U.S. Senate approves an electronic duck stamp.

Despite solid numbers of lake trout, the DNR refuses to allow
increased netting on Lake Superior by commercial fishermen, citing
concerns over increased sea lamprey wounds and the possibility of
decreased funding for lamprey control efforts.

Avon, artist Laurence Huls wins the 2007 Minnesota Trout and
Salmon Stamp design contest.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denies a request by the Great
Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission to allow waterfowl
baiting and a 40-duck limit on off-reservation lands. The
Commission cries politics.

September

Dove, woodcock, grouse, bear and early Canada goose hunting
seasons open.

It is election year, and Minnesota’s governor’s race heats up
with Tim Pawlenty and Mike Hatch each claiming to be friends of the
outdoors.

Thomas Moen, of Montrose, wins the 2007 Minnesota Duck Stamp
design contest.

Minnesota’s 2006 duck hunting season opens Sept. 30 with lower
bag limits.

The DNR announces it found milfoil in 11 more Minnesota
lakes.

The California-based Animal Protection Institute sues the state
in an effort to change Minnesota’s trapping rules.

Minnesota’s moose hunting season opens. Hunters take 157 animals
during the month-long season.

October

“Gobbler of the Lone Oak Meadow” by Ron Nelson is the Outdoor News
Conservation Print of the Year.

Joe Hautman, of Plymouth, wins the 2007 Pheasant Habitat Stamp
Contest sponsored by the DNR.

Deer hunters are allowed a special two-day season in five
northwest and three north metro permit areas in an effort to manage
growing deer herds. Hunters take 2,000 whitetails during the
special hunt.

Pheasant opener is Oct. 14. High expectations accompany
opener.

Long time conservationist and lobbyist, Gary Botzek is tapped to
direct the Minnesota Conservation Federation.

Fall wild turkey hunting opens for two five-day seasons. Results
are below average.

Dennis Welckle landed a 47.5-pound muskie on 10-pound line, a
record in the muskie power-trolling subdivision.

Deb Luzinski, of Woodbury, arrows a 24-point nontypical buck in
Ramsey County.

Conrad Christianson, furbearer specialist is St. Paul, retires
after 30 years with DNR.

November

The 2006 whitetail deer-hunting season opens with CWD and
baiting concerns and high expectations. Opener weekend sees 125,000
deer killed. Total harvest is expected to push 250,000 animals.

Voters shake up the state Capital, handing the DFL control of
the Legislature while returning Tim Pawlenty to the governor’s
office.

The DNR reports fewer youth are taking up the tradition of
hunting, prompting officials to encourage more hunting in order to
manage the state’s wildlife populations.

A workgroup formed to address the use, overuse and misuse of the
state’s WMAs, issues its recommended measures to protect state
lands.

December

Three Minnesota hunters die during 2006 deer firearms season.
One waterfowler is killed.

Already ice anglers are pulling fish from frozen lakes in
northern Minnesota.

Upper Red Lake anglers may see increased limits as early as open
water 2007, the DNR announces.

The DNR bans recreational deer feeding in northwestern Minnesota
in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of bovine
tuberculosis among deer and elk.

Lake Superior water levels are at their lowest since the 1920s,
and are affecting fish populations.

Gene Merriam steps down as head of DNR, a move few people saw
coming. As commissioner, Merriam was generally liked and respected.
Speculation about his replacement swirls for a few days before Gov.
Pawlenty names deputy commissioner Mark Holsten as Merriam’s
successor.

The debate over the use of lead shot reemerges.

On Thursday, Dec. 28, the DNR announces that Laurie Martinson is
the new deputy commissioner, effective Jan. 2. She is the highest
ranking woman in the history of the agency.

And that’s a look back at 2006. Stay tuned for 2007, there are
sure to be more headlines.

Happy New Year!

Categories: Hunting News

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