Feds propose liberal waterfowl frameworks

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this afternoon said it again is proposing the “liberal” package of regulations for this fall’s late waterfowl seasons.

States then will select their individual seasons from within the federal frameworks that establish the earliest beginning and latest ending dates and maximum season lengths and bag limits.

Despite the ongoing loss of grassland and wetland habitat, duck populations remain substantially higher than long-term averages. According to the Service’s 2014 Waterfowl Population Status Report, the estimated spring continental duck population was 49.2 million, up 8 percent from last year’s 45.6 million and 43 percent higher than the long-term average from 1955 to 2013.

Here’s a look at the recommended frameworks for the Central Flyway, which includes North Dakota, and the Mississippi Flyway, of which Minnesota is a member.

Central Flyway
(Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming):

Ducks: Duck season frameworks are between Sept. 27, 2014 and Jan. 25, 2015. The daily bag limit is 6 ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: 5 mallards, no more than 2 of which may be females; 3 wood ducks, 3 scaup, 2 pintails, 2 redheads, 1 canvasback, and 1 mottled duck. Mottled ducks may not be harvested during the first 5 days of the regular season in Texas. In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit (roughly west of the 100th Meridian), a 97-day season is proposed, and the last 23 days can start no earlier than Dec. 13, 2014. A 74-day season is proposed for the remainder of the Central Flyway.

Geese: States may select seasons between Sept. 27, 2014 and Feb. 15, 2015, for dark geese and between Sept. 27, 2014, and March 10, 2015, for light geese. East-tier states are able to select a 107-day season for Canada geese with a daily bag limit of 8. For white-fronted geese, east-tier states will be able to select either a 74-day season with a daily bag limit of 2 birds or an 88 day season with a daily bag limit of 1 bird. In the west-tier, states may select a 107-day dark goose season with a daily bag limit of 5 birds. In the Western Goose Zone of Texas, the state could select a 95-day season with a daily bag limit of 5 dark geese (including no more than 1 white-fronted goose). For light geese, all states would be able to select a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 50.

Mississippi Flyway
(Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin):

Ducks: A hunting season is proposed of not more than 60 days between Sept. 27, 2014, and Jan. 25, 2015. The proposed daily bag limit is 6 and may include no more than 4 mallards (2 hens), 3 wood ducks, 1 mottled duck, 2 redheads, 3 scaup, 2 pintails, 1 black duck, and 1 canvasback. The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is 5, only 2 of which may be hooded mergansers. In states that include mergansers in the duck bag limit, the daily limit is the same as the duck bag limit, only 2 which may be hooded mergansers.

Geese: Generally, seasons for Canada goose would be held between Sept. 27, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015, and vary in length among states and areas. States would be able to select seasons for light geese not to exceed 107 days with 20 geese daily between Sept. 27, 2014, and March 10, 2015; for white-fronted goose the proposed season would not exceed 74 days with a 2-bird daily bag limit or 88 days with a 1-bird daily bag limit between Sept. 27, 2014, and Feb. 15, 2015; and for brant it would not exceed 70 days with a 1-bird daily bag limit or 107 days with a 1 bird daily bag limit between Sept. 27, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015.

Hunting seasons on the horizon

It’s hard to believe we’re already talking about hunting, but early Canada goose seasons begin Aug. 9 in parts of Minnesota and Aug. 15 across North Dakota.

Early Canada goose seasons begin Aug. 9 in Minnesota (west-central only) and Aug. 15 across North Dakota. Minnesota’s statewide early Canada goose season is Sept. 6-22. (N.D.Game and Fish Department photo)

Minnesota’s August season, which is limited to the west-central part of the state, continues through Aug. 24 and allows hunters to shoot as many as 10 Canada geese per day with no possession limit.

North Dakota’s early season continues through Sept. 15 everywhere but the Missouri River Zone, which closes Sept. 7 to accommodate a late goose hunt in that area. North Dakota’s early season allows hunters to shoot 15 Canada geese daily with a possession limit of 45. Nonresidents looking to hunt the early North Dakota season only need a $50 Canada goose license, which is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license.

In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources describes the west-central hunt as a “management action.” This will be the second year the DNR has offered the early August hunt. Last year, hunters shot about 25,000 Canada geese during the early August management season.

“The state’s Canada goose population remains high, and more goslings hatched this year than last,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR. “In the western portion of the state, large numbers of Canada geese continue to damage crops. The August management action is one way to control goose numbers.”

Minnesota’s traditional September Canada goose season is set for Sept. 6-22, and the regular Canada goose season tentatively opens Sept. 27. The DNR will announce details of its fall waterfowl seasons in August.

In related news, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has announced dates for its small game and furbearer seasons. Season dates and limits are as follows:

Crows (fall): Aug. 9-Oct. 26; no limit.

Early Canada goose: Aug. 15-Sept. 15 (Sept. 7 Missouri River Zone); 15 daily, 45 possession.

Mountain lion Zone 1 early: Aug. 29-Nov. 23 (or when zone quota of 14 is reached); season limit of one per hunter.

Mountain lion Zone 1 late: Nov. 24-March 31 (or when zone quota of seven is reached); season limit of 1 per hunter.

Mountain lion Zone 2: Aug. 29-March 31; season limit of one per hunter.

Doves: Sept. 1-Nov. 9; 15 daily, 45 possession.

Hungarian partridge: Sept. 13-Jan. 4; three daily, 12 possession.

Sharp-tailed grouse: Sept. 13-Jan. 4; three daily, 12 possession.

Ruffed grouse: Sept. 13-Jan. 4; three daily, 12 possession.

Tree squirrels: Sept. 13-Jan. 4: four daily, 12 possession.

Sandhill crane Unit 1: Sept. 20-Nov. 16; three daily, nine possession.

Sandhill crane Unit 2: Sept. 20-Nov. 16; two daily, six possession.

Snipe: Sept. 20-Dec. 7; eight daily, 24 possession.

Woodcock: Sept. 27-Nov. 10; three daily, nine possession.

Tundra swan: Oct. 4-Jan. 4; season limit of one per hunter.

Pheasants: Oct. 11-Jan. 4; three daily, 12 possession.

Weasel trapping: Oct. 25-March 15.

Mink, muskrat trapping: Oct. 25-April 30.

Fisher trapping: Nov. 24-Nov. 30; season limit of one per trapper.

Banner blueberry crop

I’d heard it was another great year for blueberries in Minnesota’s North Woods, and since I’ve never done a story on blueberry picking, I decided to find out for myself.

Late July and early August are prime time for wild blueberries, which, although smaller, are far superior in taste to the blueberries you’ll find in the grocery store.

Brad Dokken shows off some of the blueberries he picked during a recent excursion in Beltrami Island State Forest. Now is prime blueberry picking time.

So, Sunday morning, I ventured to Norris Camp, headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Roosevelt, Minn. Manager Gretchen Mehmel and her husband, Jeff Birchem, are avid pickers along with their son, Joshua, 15, and daughter, Johanna, 9, and they agreed to show me around the woods for a few hours of picking.

The rumors I’d heard were true: There’s an impressive blueberry crop this year.

A snowy winter, wet June weather and the absence of a late-spring frost are the three main reasons for this year’s impressive berry crop, the second strong crop in as many years.

Some years, Mehmel says, you’ll be lucky to find enough blueberries to fill a cup.

That’s not a problem this year.

Blueberry pickers can be a secretive bunch — for good reason — but areas with jack pine trees or cut-over jack pines are among the best locations for finding blueberries. Beltrami Island State Forest and Red Lake WMA have an abundance of jack pines, and as a result, an abundance of blueberries.

We easily gathered more than 3 gallons of blueberries during our time in the woods. In one spot, we literally were able to pick berries in the middle of the trail we drove to get into the woods, and the ground was awash in blue in the best places.

The abundance of berries likely will mean tough bear hunting when Minnesota’s bear season gets underway in about a month.

We also found an abundance of blueberries that hadn’t yet ripened, which means the prime berry picking should continue for the next two to three weeks. Juneberries, which grow on bushes, also were abundant in some areas and are just coming into their prime. If they’re not as sweet as blueberries, they’re very close.

Just be ready for mosquitoes, and lots of ‘em. I figure I picked about a gallon of berries and gave up about that much blood.

That’s an exaggeration, of course. But not by much.