Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Minnesota’s outdoor headlines proved to be eventful during past 12 months

Hen turkeys feed under a crabapple tree during the winter months. The Minnesota 2022 turkey hunt produced the fourth-highest spring harvest on record. Hunters killed an estimated 12,279 birds. (Photo by Eric Morken / Outdoor News)

Plymouth, Minn. — As the post-COVID world unfurled in 2022, Minnesotans cautiously resumed normal lifestyles. They interacted again at public meetings, attended big events such as the SHOT Show and Game Fair, and allowed activities such as ballgames and family reunions to interfere with the hunting and fishing that had surged during the pandemic.

But even if license sales declined slightly, the state’s outdoors scene produced another bumper crop of headlines – from a big 100th anniversary party for a Minnesota ammo brand to a long-awaited wolf plan to a new generation of outdoors leaders – and some interesting critters in between.

Here’s a look back at the outdoors year that was 2022.

January

The official score for Indiana hunter Dustin Hoff’s 12-point buck from
autumn of 2021 came in on Jan. 5, and the buck’s score of 211 4⁄8 ranks
it No. 2 all time in the Boone & Crockett record book.

Though the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) returned to Las Vegas
for the first time since 2020, a smaller crowd (maybe 40,000) participated in the event than in past years at the Venetian Expo.

Brainerd resident David Groshong won the new virtual America’s Ice Fishing
Tournament on Jan. 22. The event drew 845 participants from across the ice belt.

Birders flocked to Maine to see a Steller’s sea eagle, a bird native to northeast Asia, last winter. (Photo by Steven Ditzler)

A Steller’s sea eagle, a species native to eastern Russia and
occasionally seen in the Aleutian Islands, made headlines as it cruised up and down the East Coast of the United States.

February

“Spy blind” data from the state’s inaugural early teal hunt in 2021 revealed that Minnesota waterfowlers did well in avoiding “non-target” birds during the hunt.

After being grounded in 2021 thanks to COVID, the state’s elk survey returned in 2022.

A federal judge on Feb. 10 restored protection to gray wolves, reversing a
rule that had removed Endangered Species Act protection from the
animals across most of the country. The ruling prohibited wolf hunting
and trapping in states outside of the northern Rocky Mountains.

The Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame announced that four men and two
organizations would be enshrined in 2022. The inductees included Al
Baert, Gregg Thorne, and Scott and Marty Glorvigen, as well as Joe’s
Sporting Goods and Wired2Fish.

Martha Williams, a former state wildlife director in Montana, was confirmed as
the new head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

March

Mark Holsten, a former DNR commissioner (under Gov. Tim Pawlenty) and state
representative, took the reins in leading the state fishing group
MN-Fish as its new executive director.

An effort to tweak and increase hunting pressure on black bears at
Minnesota’s Northwest Angle led to a misunderstanding between the DNR
and Red Lake Band of Ojibwe.

To provide additional support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion,
several companies, including Remington, Speer, CCI, and Federal
Ammunition announced they would donate 1 million rounds of ammo to the
Ukrainian armed forces.

A Gilbert man, James Mattson, paid a hefty $4,800 fine and restitution
for possessing 53 walleyes too many in a gross overlimit case made by
DNR officers in late 2021.

The DNR announced that CWD had been detected in wild deer near Grand Rapids
– the first time the brain disease had been found in a wild deer in the permit area.

April

The DNR announced that after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19
pandemic, the agency’s spring aerial waterfowl survey would return in 2022.

An investigation in Iowa that began as a turkey-poaching case in autumn of 2021
concluded with five people pleading guilty to 48 wildlife charges and
assessed nearly $83,000 in fines and damages.

Officials in Iowa concluded a poaching case in April. (Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR)

The 2022 northeast Minnesota moose survey, picking up after a year off, estimated the moose population at 4,700, which was statistically unchanged from the most recent survey in 2020.

Howard Vincent, St. Paul-based Pheasants Forever CEO since 2000, announced he would retire in early 2023.

Outdoor News named Ruth Hoefs, of Le Center, its 2022 Person of the Year.

 

DNR COs in April investigated the wanton waste of snow geese. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR)

A state conservation officer in New Ulm and two others were looking for the culprits who dumped whole snow geese carcasses in three places.

A multi-year effort to reduce the state walleye limit from six to four returned again during the 2022 legislative session. Although it gained support, the plan eventually fizzled out.

 

 

May

Ray Scott died at age 88. Scott was a consummate promoter who helped launch
professional bass angling and became a fishing buddy to presidents
while popularizing the conservation practice of catching and releasing fish.

Anoka-based Federal Ammunition celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2022. The company
released a 244-page book, titled “Federal Ammunition: The First Hundred
Years,” detailing the company’s history during the past century.

The MN-Fish Coalition held its first-ever State of Fishing Summit at the Clam headquarters in Rogers. Gov. Tim Walz attended.

Citing myriad reasons, state Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, announced she
would retire at the end of her term in 2022. Ruud had chaired the Senate
Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee.

Al Baert, one of the founders of the Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame, died May 2 at age 98.

Concerns about ice being an issue across northern Minnesota for the 2022 Fishing
Opener largely melted away with warm, windy weather in the days leading up to opener.

Duluth Conservation Officer Kipp Duncan was the DNR’s CO of the Year.

After a bear entered a rural Medford, Wis., home and attacked a man and
woman, it was shot dead in a hallway. The bear had crawled through a window.

June

In early June, public policy wonks were debating whether a special session
might occur following the end of the regular legislative session, which
accomplished little for conservation. No special session occurred.

The DNR reported that though the season got off to a slow start, the
Minnesota 2022 turkey hunt still produced the fourth-highest spring
harvest on record. Hunters killed an estimated 12,279 birds.

In Brooklyn Center on June 9, the DNR hosted its first in-person Roundtable event since early 2020.

Minnesota State-Mankato anglers Nathan Thompson (l) and Brian Linder won big in the college bass-fishing world series in June. (Submitted photo)

A Minnesota State-Mankato duo of Nathan Thompson and Brian Linder won the 2022 Strike King Bassmaster College World Series in Bay City, Mich., with a two-day total of 44
pounds, 3 ounces.

Four youth shooters had perfect scores at the 2022 Minnesota State High
School Clay Target League Championships in Alexandria, June 13-21.

 

July

National hunting and conservation groups collectively blew a gasket when a group
of 54 Republican U.S. House members, including one from Minnesota,
signed onto legislation that would effectively eliminate the
Pittman-Robertson Act.

A 4-3 court ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that Fred Prehn
could remain on the state’s Natural Resources Board until the state’s
Senate approved his replacement. Prehn’s term had ended a couple of
months earlier.

The Carlton County Board of Commissioners voted to implement a temporary
ordinance stopping new cervid (elk and deer) farms from opening in the
county for one year.

John Maile is the DNR’s new Wetland Habitat Program lead. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR)

John Maile, who previously had overseen the DNR’s Walk-In Access program,
was named to lead the agency’s Wetland Habitat Program.

A mountain lion that had appeared in several locations in the Twin Cities south metro ended up dead after it was struck by a vehicle in Savage near the intersection of highways 13 and 101.

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring population counts were up unexpectedly from 2021. The DNR chalked up the slight increase to favorable winter weather for the birds as well as good spring nesting conditions.

 

August

After more than seven years with the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association,
Craig Engwall announced he would be stepping down as the group’s executive director.

Thanks in part to fluctuating water levels in the spring, the outlook for the state’s 2022 wild rice season was fair to poor.

Game Fair founder Chuck Delaney was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Outdoor News Managing Editor Rob Drieslein. (Staff photo)

Outdoor News gave a first-ever Lifetime Achievement version of its annual Outdoor Leaders Award to Chuck Delaney, owner and founder of Game Fair.

The results of the 2022 Waterfowl Breeding and Population and Habitat Survey, conducted for the first time in three years, showed a total spring population index of 34.2 million ducks. That was 12% below the 2019 index and 4% below the longterm average.

Advocates for increased regulations on wakeboat use scored a victory when the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District approved expanding the no-wake zone from 150 feet from shore to 300 feet.

With bear baiting season about to get under way, the state’s black bear population was enjoying an abundance of natural foods across the species’ range.

September

The National Park Service reported that wolf transplants on Isle Royale
were taking hold with the total number of wild canines up to 28 on the island.

The DNR reported that results from the recent roadside surveys showed the state
pheasant index up 18%, which placed it above the 10-year average but
below the long-term average.

Ed Boggess, a former DNR Fish and Wildlife Division employee, received a
lifetime achievement award for service to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cannon Falls artist Jim Caturia won this year’s Minnesota waterfowl stamp contest with a painting of a blue-winged teal.

The DNR picked Patty Thielen, a 27-year veteran of the agency, to lead the Forestry Division.

Two Major League Fishing bass tournament anglers were cited on Sept. 11 for
fishing with one too many lines during an event on Lake Mille Lacs.

Tying his brother Jim, Joe Hautman won his sixth federal duck stamp contest
with a painting of three tundra swans. Along with brother Bob, the three
Hautmans collectively have won 15 federal duck stamp contests.

In a scandal that drew headlines from national media sources, two pro
walleye tournament anglers at a Lake Erie event were caught allegedly
stuffing egg weights and fish fillets into fish they had caught.

October

The St. Louis County Board voted to prohibit new deer farms in the county
in an effort to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Jesse Koskiniemi, of Nimrod, shot a 685-pound black bear on Oct. 3 with a
muzzleloader in Wadena County. The bear’s green score topped the
previous largest bear taken in the state via blackpowder.

Dave Carlson, leader of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance for the past six years, told Outdoor News that he would be stepping down as head of the state outdoors umbrella group by the end of the year.

The Minnesota-based International Wolf Center convened the world’s top wolf
researchers for a four-day symposium in Brooklyn Park.

Preliminary black bear harvest in 2022 showed a kill of about 2,238 bears, down 25% from 2021.

Celebrity bowhunting couple Josh and Sarah Bowmar from Ankeny, Iowa, pleaded
guilty to conspiracy related to time as clients at Hidden Hills Outfitters in Nebraska.

November

The DNR announced that it had certified a new catch-and-release Minnesota
state record muskellunge that Eric Bakke, of Princeton, caught on Lake
Mille Lacs in June.

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association announced that it had hired Jared Mazurek as its new executive director.

Scientists with the Voyageurs Wolf Project shared video that one of their cameras
had captured of a mountain lion in northern Minnesota.

Jared Mazurek is the new MDHA director. (Photo courtesy of MDHA)

Democrats took narrow majority control of the state House and Senate during the
Nov. 8 midterm elections, and Gov. Tim Walz was elected to a second four-year term.

The DNR announced a winter walleye regulation on Lake Mille Lacs of one walleye between 21 and 23 inches or one longer than 28 inches.

The DNR confirmed that a whitetail buck harvested by a firearms deer hunter south of Bemidji indeed carried chronic wasting disease.

Lance Ness, longtime leader of the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance
announced that the organization’s board had voted to dissolve the group.

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office reported that nearly 200 people were
rescued on Nov. 28 after they became trapped when an ice chunk broke
free on Upper Red Lake.

December

With a new majority in the state Senate, Democrats named Sen. Foung Hawj, of
St. Paul, the chair of the Senate Legacy and Natural Resources Committee. Nick Frentz, of Mankato, chairs the new Energy, Utilities, and Climate Change Committee.

An Outdoor News story profiled Joe Swanson and Pipasu Soni, two Twin Cities-based real estate investors who spent $20 million to buy four resorts in the Wheelers Point area of Lake of the Woods.

Firefighters from Thief River Falls rescued this big buck in December. (Photo courtesy of TRFFD)

Thief River Falls fire department volunteers secured and dragged to freedom a ‘local legend’ whitetail buck that was trapped in the icy waters of the Red Lake River.

The so-called spy blind report compiled by the DNR to
track hunter compliance during the early September teal season showed hunters performed better than 2021 and were well within federal guidelines to continue the experimental hunt.

At the behest of anglers, the DNR offered an official proposal that would add many new species to the catch-and-release program while also
establishing some new certified weight records for the State Record Fish Program.

The DNR unveiled a revised and finalized state wolf management plan, more than
two years in the making. The plan includes a “framework” for how the
state will approach decisions about wolf hunting and trapping if the
species is federally delisted.

As of Dec. 19, the cumulative 2022 deer harvest was at 170,207 – 7% lower
than 2021 and 9% lower than the five-year mean. It was on track to be
the lowest kill since 2015 when state hunters killed 159,343 deer.

The DNR announced that for the first time, the 2023 Roundtable – an annual
gathering of conservation partners to discuss fisheries, wildlife, and
ecological and water resource topics – would include an open
registration opportunity for what has historically been an invitation-only event.

Outdoor News’ top-10 stories from 2022

• New state wolf management plan

• Federal Ammunition marks 100th anniversary

• Hunters kill fewest number of deer since 2015

• Chuck Delaney given Outdoor News Lifetime Achievement Award

• Joe Hautman ties brother Jim with sixth federal duck stamp win

• Lake Erie walleye tournament cheating scandal rocks pro fishing world

• CWD continues to expand to new regions of Minnesota and Wisconsin

• Howard Vincent announces retirement from Pheasants Forever

• DNR unveils new state record fish program

• B.A.S.S. legend Ray Scott dies at age 88

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