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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Start a new tradition: Late-season pheasant hunting

An abundance of birds, lack of snow and higher late season bag limits are all good reasons why Minnesotans may want to try some late season pheasant hunting.

"Hunters are still flushing a lot of birds," said Nicole Davros, a wildlife research scientist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "The season doesn't end until Jan. 4 so there's plenty of time to get outdoors and get into some good hunting."

Even though December tends to be a busy time of year for many, perspective on the rush of life can be gained by getting away from it all, even briefly, Davros said.

"There are few better ways to take a break from eating cookies at holiday gatherings or buying presents than getting out into the fields to flush some birds," Davros said. "Do it once and it may well become a welcome tradition around the holidays."

The birds are out there, especially in the southwest, south-central and west-central regions of Minnesota. This year's DNR roadside survey count of pheasants taken in August showed a six percent increase in the state's pheasant population compared to last year, though long-term the trend in pheasant numbers is down.

"Even though pheasant numbers are down on a long-term scale, it's important that people get out and experience pheasants in their habitat, and for most people that means hunting them," Davros said. "Once you see these birds out in the wild, it's hard not to care about their plight, which represents the plight of all grassland wildlife and the health of their habitat in general." 

A small game license for Minnesota residents age 18 and older is $22, and the required pheasant stamp is $7.50. Pheasant hunters age 16 to 17 must buy a $5 small game license but need not buy a pheasant stamp, and hunters under age 16 can hunt pheasants without a license. 

Minnesota's 2014 pheasant season started Oct. 11 and runs through Sunday, Jan. 4. Through the end of the season, the daily bag limit is three roosters and the possession limit is nine roosters. Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Additional details are available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dakota County Parks will host ninth annual New Year's Eve Party

Dakota County Parks will ring in 2015 with a variety of winter activities during its ninth annual New Year's Eve Party from 5–8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31, at the Visitor Center in Lebanon Hills Regional Park, 860 Cliff Road, Eagan.
 
The event, which includes a ball drop at 7:59 p.m. so youngsters can celebrate early, is a candlelit affair with hiking trails, snowshoeing trails, Schulze Lake and a sledding hill aglow with luminaries. Snowshoes will be available to rent, but party-goers should plan on bringing their own sleds or ice skates to enjoy those activities.
 
The party will also feature a storyteller, magician Star Michaelina, live animals, indoor children's activities, seven bonfires, a free make-your-own-s'mores buffet and hot concessions available to purchase.
 
Admission is $8 per person if pre-registered by Dec. 30 or $10 at the door. Children ages 5 and younger are free.
 
For more information or to pre-register, visit www.dakotacounty.us/parks and search New Year's Eve or call 952-891-7000.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Think twice before going out on the ice

With the recent weather fluctuation and inconsistent ice conditions, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging everyone to think twice before going out on the ice.

"Ice is never 100 percent safe," said Maj. Greg Salo, DNR enforcement operations manager. "Don't put yourself in needless danger. Check ice conditions before venturing out. No fish is worth unnecessary risks."

Anglers and snowmobilers need to be cautious. Several ATV's, trucks and fish houses have gone through the ice in recent days. Ice that is 6 inches thick in one area may only be an inch thick in another location.

So far this year, one person has died after going through the ice. Last winter, three people died after falling through thin ice.

Salo recommends anyone heading out on the ice should: carry a set of ice picks, check with a local bait shop or resort— ask about ice conditions— and measure the ice. 

If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Don't go on the ice during thaws. Avoid honeycombed ice, dark snow, and dark ice.

Ice is generally thinner where there is moving water, such as inlets and outlets, bridge abutments, islands, and objects that protrude through the ice.

The DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:

  • Four inches for walking.
  • Five inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
  • Eight-12 inches for a car. 
  • 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.