S.D. sees 42 percent increase in pheasant brood counts

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department today said pheasant brood counts are up 42 percent from last year in the statewide pheasants-per-mile index. The index represents an increase of 150 percent from a recent low only two years ago.

sdfezchartIn a news release, Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s director in South Dakota who leads the group’’s regional office in Brookings, said he views the recent increases as motivation to continue charting a roadmap for further habitat programs in the state.

“Pheasants Forever is thrilled to see rebounding pheasant numbers which will make for a great hunting season in ‘The Pheasant Capital,’” Nomsen said in a statement. “Still, we must keep in mind the obstacles in subsequent years related to pheasant habitat loss. In the next five years alone, South Dakota is set to expire nearly 390,000 acres of CRP. Pheasants Forever is advising state leadership to consider more strategic conservation programs to help safeguard South Dakota’s pheasant hunting traditions over the long-term.”

“Habitat continues to be at the forefront of the conversation and is a crucial factor in pheasant numbers,” stated Kelly Hepler, SDGFP Secretary. “Bird numbers are higher in parts of the state where quality habitat conditions still exist, primarily on grasslands including those enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program as well as fields of cereal crops such as winter wheat. We continue to work in cooperation with the Governor’s Habitat Work Group, landowners, partner organizations and agencies to provide an improved future for wildlife habitat in our state.”

Bear baiting, Rydell youth deer season updates

A couple of outdoors nuggets as we hit the August homestretch:

  • Minnesota’s bear season opens Tuesday, and if baiting reports are any indication, hunters should have a better time of it than they did last year, when an abundance of natural foods kept bears away from the bait stands.

Hunters and guides could begin bear baiting Aug. 14.

“From folks I’m talking to, bear baits are being hit pretty readily,” said Jeremy Woinarowicz, conservation officer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Thief River Falls.

Woinarowicz said this year has been the worst  he’s encountered for nuisance bear complaints, a problem likely driven by the poor berry crop.

“This year was worse than the 10 other years I’ve been on combined,” he said. “There were more complaints, whether it was bird feeders, dog food or garbage.”

Woinarowicz said there also were more complaints of bears going into farmyards and even small towns such as Hallock and Karlstad, Minn.

“Speaking to my bear guides, bears are responding well,” Woinarowicz said. “One of my guides last year was down to 20 percent success from 80 to 90 percent.”

With baiting underway, Woinarowicz said he continues to encounter violations for not registering and signing their bait stations. All bait stations must be registered with the DNR and marked with a sign made of plastic, wood or metal at least 6 inches by 10 inches, on public land, and no more than 18 inches by 24 inches. The sign must include either the licensee’s name and address, driver’s license number or the licensee’s DNR number for whom the bait is being placed.

Bear season continues through Oct. 18.

  • Rydell National Wildlife Refuge near Erskine, Minn., posted an update on its Facebook page Tuesday night saying only eight of a possible 15 slots were filled for the special mentored youth deer hunt set for Oct. 17-18 on the refuge. Anyone who knows of a youth between the ages of 12 and 15 who has completed firearms safety training and has an adult mentor willing to oversee them for the two-day hunt should contact the refuge by calling Gregg Knutsen, refuge manager, at (218) 687-2229 ext. 16.

Lake Alice to open for ice fishing

Ice fishing enthusiasts in the Devils Lake region will have even more water to explore this winter.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that Lake Alice will be open to ice fishing beginning this winter. A proposal to open the lake to ice fishing has been in the works for the past year or so.

Lake Alice, which covers about 11,000 acres, is the centerpiece of Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge.

Matt Sprenger, project leader of the service’s Devils Lake Wetland Management District, said Lake Alice will be open to ice fishing as soon as ice conditions permit. Access will mostly be through section line rights of way that terminate in the lake or via adjacent Lake Irvine, Sprenger said.

In addition, ice fishing only will be permitted from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sprenger said, which means permanent houses or other shelters that can be left overnight will not be allowed. That’s basically to minimize garbage and litter that sometimes results from overnight ice fishing activities, he said.

The Lake Region Anglers Association spent more than three years working with the Service on plans to open the federal refuge to ice fishing.

“Folks view it as an untapped fishery even though those fish move back and forth,” Sprenger said. “But obviously, there are several thousand acres that haven’t been fished.”

The Service’s announcement Tuesday also expanded fishing opportunities at three easement refuges in the Devils Lake Wetland Management District — Lake Ardoch, Rose Lake and Silver Lake. The new opportunities go into effect Wednesday when they are published in the Federal Register, Sprenger said. A closer look:

Lake Ardoch: Open to shore fishing and ice fishing.

Rose Lake: Will be open to shore fishing and ice fishing. Sprenger said parts of Rose Lake that are interconnected with Devils Lake also will be open to boats.

Silver Lake: Will be open to boat fishing until Oct. 1 each year and then will be closed through ice-up to serve as a migratory bird sanctuary.