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OUTDOOR NOTES: Kittson MDHA chapter seeks new elk process

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Kittson MDHA chapter

seeks new elk process

A rejuvenated chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has sent a resolution to the Department of Natural Resources asking DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr to convene a new working group to revisit elk management in Kittson County.

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The MDHA chapter supports increasing the elk herd in Kittson County and doesn’t believe a local Elk Working Group that helped the DNR develop a management plan in 2009 had balanced membership. The 15-member panel included local farmers and landowners, business people, a Kittson County commissioner, University of Minnesota Extension staff, area DNR staff and two members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The elk management plan that came out of those working sessions is in effect through 2015 and calls for maintaining a pre-calving population of 20 to 30 elk in Kittson County, not including a subgroup of about 40 elk that ranges between Minnesota and Manitoba near Caribou in the northeast part of the county.

DNR officials have acknowledged growing grassroots support for a larger elk herd in the county, but maintain the existing elk plan will guide their management through 2015.

The Kittson MDHA chapter is requesting a new working group be formed in time to provide input before the DNR announces its 2014 elk season. The DNR issued 23 elk tags in Kittson County in 2013, and hunters killed 12 elk — six bulls and six cows — 10 elk in the Kittson Central Zone and two in the Caribou zone.

The MDHA chapter passed its elk resolution Jan. 22.

“As you are aware, there is growing social acceptance here in Kittson County to have the elk herd managed for long term growth,” Kelly Turgeon, president of the Kittson County MDHA chapter, wrote in a letter to Landwehr that accompanied the resolution. “Having a balance representation of interests in the Elk Work Group will provide for updating of the Strategic Management Plan which will reflect all with concerns in elk management.”

The DNR hasn’t given a formal timetable for convening a new working group but said plans to start the process are in the works.

“When we do, we’ll pull together a diverse group of constituents or residents and use that group as a sounding board for what the elk herd of the community will look like as desired by the community,” Landwehr told the Herald in July.

The Kittson County MDHA chapter reorganized in December after being defunct for several years.

— Brad Dokken

Winter Severity

Index on the rise

The combination of deep snow and cold temperatures hasn’t reached a critical point for deer in northwest Minnesota, but it’s beginning to cause concern, wildlife managers say.

According to John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, the Winter Severity Index — a measure of days 0 degrees F or colder and snow 15 inches or deeper — was pushing 60 on Jan. 24 at Roseau River and Thief Lake wildlife management areas in northwest Minnesota.

Given the cold snap, the index now likely is closer to 70 at both WMAs. Williams said an index of 100 by Feb. 15 is a “trigger point,” of sorts, to indicate a severe winter. And if present trends continue, the WSI will hit that benchmark in mid-February.

The severity index already has exceeded the long-term average for late January at the WMAs, Williams said, but still falls well short of severe winters in 1988-89, 1995-96 and 1996-97.

What the numbers ultimately mean for deer will depend on what the rest of the winter holds in store.

“If we get an early spring, likely no problems,” Williams said in an email. “If (it’s) a late spring, we can anticipate some losses either directly or to fawn production.”

Deep snow is less of a problem in North Dakota, but as in Minnesota, wildlife officials say an extended winter could be problematic.

“If we get a break and some nice weather in February and winter starts breaking up in March, we might be alright,” said Randy Kreil, wildlife division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck. “But if it persists to the end of April, then we’ve got a bad situation brewing.”

Kreil said the department has received few complaints of deer depredation this winter, but that’s at least partially the result of the low number of deer on the landscape.

“We need an early spring, and we need a real moderate spring in terms of weather,” Kreil said. “That will go a long way in helping the deer population that’s out there not only survive but have good production.”

— Brad Dokken

Yukon moose sets new

Boone and Crockett record

MISSOULA, Mont. — A bull moose taken by a hunter in 2013 in Canada’s Yukon Territory has been verified by the Boone and Crockett Club as a new world’s record, Boone and Crockett reported. With a final score of 263 5/8 Boone and Crockett points, the bull has the largest antlers ever recorded for the Alaska-Yukon moose subspecies. The previous record, taken in Alaska in 1994, scored 261 5/8. These are the only two specimens on record to score more than 260. The third-largest bull scored 256 6/8, Boone and Crockett said.

The antlers of the new record moose measured 75 5/8 inches at the greatest spread. The left side had 17 points and a palm measuring 17 5/8 inches wide by 51 inches long. The right antler had 19 points and a palm measuring 23 6/8 inches wide by 50 7/8 inches long. The antler circumferences were 8 4/8 and 8 7/8 inches on the right and left sides, respectively.

— Boone and Crockett

NDGF completes midwinter

state waterfowl survey

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated 71,500 birds were in the state.

According to Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist for Game and Fish in Bismarck, an estimated 40,700 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 12,000 were scattered on Nelson Lake.

Lake Sakakawea, declared iced-over Dec. 14, had no geese on the lake itself. Szymanski said after summarizing the numbers, a total of 52,700 Canada geese and 18,700 mallards were tallied statewide.

“Conditions leading up to this year’s survey were colder than normal, resulting in fewer birds in the state compared to the past couple winters,” Szymanski said. “Most waterfowl were pushed from North Dakota just prior to Thanksgiving, with the exception of those using the Missouri River System.”

According to Szymanski, early December cold temperatures and strong winds pushed most Missouri River birds from the state. Conditions remained the same through most of January, essentially causing all waters in the state to freeze by the time of the survey, with the exception of a few places with fast moving, or warm water.

Overall, Szymanski said although the counts are lower than those observed during the past couple of years, numbers of birds remaining in the state are surprisingly large given the harsh weather conditions experienced thus far.

“Snow cover was probably borderline for allowing birds to feed without too much trouble,” he added. “If more snow had fallen in December, this year’s count would have been even lower.”

— N.D. Game and Fish Department

N.D. sets spring

turkey season

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is offering 5,880 wild turkey licenses for the spring hunting season, a decrease of 50 from last year. The decrease is a result of poor production and chick recruitment.

Two of the 22 hunting units have slightly more spring licenses than in 2013, while 16 remain the same. Unit 21 (most of Hettinger and Adams counties) is again closed in 2014 because of lack of turkeys in the unit.

Successful spring turkey applicants must purchase a 2014-15 hunting license, as last year’s 2013-14 licenses expire March 31. In addition to the spring turkey license, hunters must have a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate, and a general game and habitat license. Also, hunters ages 16 and older must possess a small game license, or combination license.

Hunters may notice an increase in license fees required to hunt spring turkey, which were established and set by the 2013 state Legislature. The spring turkey license increased from $8 to $15, and the general game and habitat license increased from $13 to $20. In addition, the small game license — required for hunters ages 16 and older — increased from $6 to $10. The combination license, which includes general game and habitat, small game, furbearer and fishing, increased from $32 to $50.

First-time spring turkey hunters ages 15 or younger are eligible to receive one spring license valid for the regular hunting season in a specific unit. To be eligible, the youth hunter must be 15 or younger on opening day of spring turkey season, and have never received a spring turkey license in North Dakota.

Spring turkey applicants can apply online or print an application at the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Applications can also be submitted by calling (800) 406-6409.

Application forms also are available at most license vendors, county auditors and Game and Fish offices. The deadline for applying is Feb. 12. Online or phone applications must be logged before midnight that day.

Spring turkey licenses are available only to North Dakota residents. The spring turkey season opens April 12 and continues through May 18.

— N.D. Game and Fish Department

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