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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: Winter severity continues to climb

Winter severity continues to climb

The Department of Natural Resources’ reluctant decision to feed deer in parts of northern Minnesota doesn’t include the northwest part of the state, but the Winter Severity Index is continuing to rise in the region.

The WSI is a measure of days with temperatures of 0 degrees F or colder and snow 15 inches or deeper and can increase by two points a day if both conditions are met. An index of 100 by mid-February is considered the benchmark for a severe winter.

John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, said the most recent WSI reading Feb. 10 was 112 at Red Lake Wildlife Management Area (Norris Camp) south of Roosevelt, Minn., 99 at Roseau River WMA near the Canadian Border and 79 at Thief Lake WMA east of Middle River, Minn.

Williams said the snow measurements are taken in wooded areas to eliminate “wind bias,” or drifting that potentially could skew the numbers.

In an effort to get a handle on the impact of the severe winter on deer, Williams said area DNR wildlife staffers in northwest Minnesota have been conducting necropsy tests on road-killed deer to sample their body condition. So far, he said, the deer that have been sampled haven’t shown depleted body fat reserves.

While the DNR discourages feeding deer, Williams said landowners can take other steps to help the animals.

“Just hop on a snowmobile and run through the woods,” he said. “Cut an aspen tree to provide browse. Those things can do some good for deer without actually concentrating them by putting out a pile of feed.”

— Brad Dokken

Shooting scholarship to honor Tom Knapp

Federal Premium and the makers of Champion Traps and Targets have teamed up to create a scholarship in memory of exhibition shooter Tom Knapp, who died last year.

For more than a decade, Knapp represented the two brands around the world at live exhibitions, on television and at countless consumer and trade shows. With the support of his wife, Colleen, Champion extended Knapp’s licensed products program to fund a scholarship that will award $5,000 to one male and one female college-bound student. The two scholarship winners will be chosen from applicants in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League and will receive their awards at the league championships in June.

One of the fastest growing extracurricular programs in the state, the High School Clay Target League includes several schools in northwest Minnesota, among them East Grand Forks, which will be fielding a team this spring for the first time.

For more information on the scholarship, Federal Premium and Champion Traps and Targets, go to and

— Herald staff report

Birders wield economic clout

Results from a new federal survey confirm the economic clout of birding across the U.S.

According to “Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis,” bird-watching resulted in expenditures of more than $40 billion in 2011, the year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  conducted the survey. The report is part of the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, which the Service has conducted about every five years since 1955.

Carrol Henderson, nongame wildlife coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, shared a few other highlights from the survey in an email he sent to several state employees and media outlets:

  •  About 20 percent of the U.S. population — 47 million people — participates in some level of birdwatching.
  •  The majority of birders, 53 percent, are older than 45, and the average birder is 53. The highest level of participation is among Caucasians.
  •  Birding is typically is associated with higher levels of education and income. Nearly 50 percent have received a college degree or attended college, and about 50 percent earn $50,000 or more annually. Women represent 56 percent of the birding population.
  •  Vermont led the country in birding among people 16 and older, with 39 percent saying they watch birds.
  •  The $40 billion economic impact of birding included $14 billion in trip expenditures and $26 billion in equipment, resulting in $6 billion in state tax revenues, $7 billion in federal tax revenues and 666,000 jobs nationwide.

— Herald staff report

Deadline for women’s turkey hunt nears

Midnight on Tuesday is the deadline for women to apply for a mentored wild turkey hunt offered through the Minnesota Department and Natural Resources and National Wild Turkey Federation.

“This program is aimed at those who have no or very limited turkey hunting experience,” said Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring program coordinator. “By working through skilled turkey federation volunteers and private landowners, our goal is to provide quality skill-building at known locations.”

Most hunts will occur Saturday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18, at locations near Hugo, McGrath, Detroit Lakes, Morton and Plainview, Minn. Participants must attend a turkey hunting clinic before the hunt and will do most of their hunting on private land, thanks to private landowners and the NWTF volunteers who obtained permission.

Participants must be at least 18 years old by May 17 and will be selected through a random lottery if the number of applications exceeds the number of available opportunities.

Women are encouraged to sign up with a friend or adult daughter. The application and general information is available at

— Minnesota DNR

Minnesota state park permit sales increase

Despite a late spring, sales of Minnesota state park permits increased last year, an indication that more people are connecting with the outdoors, the Department of Natural Resources said.

Sales of year-round permits totaled 136,300 in 2013, up 2 percent from 2012 and 21 percent from 2008, when Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue, which may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

“We got off to a slow start last year due to the cold, wet spring, so it was gratifying to finish 2013 ahead of 2012,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “We’re obviously pleased to see evidence of increasing interest in Minnesota’s 76 state parks and recreation areas. This news comes at a time when national parks and many other states are reporting significant declines in their visits and overnight stays.”

Nelson attributes the increase in the popularity of Minnesota state parks to a general trend of more families “stay-cationing” to save money, programs and special events designed to attract visitors to parks during the “off-peak” seasons and continued high satisfaction ratings on customer service from visitors. Trip satisfaction is as high as it has been since measurements began 25 years ago; 83 percent of visitors surveyed in 2012 rated their experience in the “excellent” range.

Year-round Minnesota state parks permits are available by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free (888) 646-6367. They can also be purchased at Minnesota state park and recreation areas with staffed offices.

One-day permits cost $5 and can be purchased at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

— Minnesota DNR

More than 200 fish Ice Buster Daze derby

Rusty Miller of Crookston landed a 5-pound, 8-ounce catfish to win the 2014 Ice Buster Daze fishing derby Feb. 8 on the Red Lake River in Crookston. A total of 216 anglers fished in the derby and weighed in 68 fish.

Rounding out the top 15 anglers who won prizes for their finishes were as follows:

  •  Second: Jarrod Ecklund, 2-pound, 14-ounce sucker.
  •  Third:  Gretchen Burke, 2-pound, 8-ounce sucker.
  •  Fourth: Miles Rodacker, 2-pound, 6-ounce sucker.
  •  Fifth: Michael Coxe, 2- pound, 3-ounce walleye.
  •  Sixth: Amy Burke, 2-pound, 2-ounce sucker.
  •  Seventh: Rich Ferguson, 2-pound, 2-ounce sucker.
  •  Eighth: Amy Lessard, 2-pound walleye.
  •  Ninth: Cole Perry, 2-pound sauger.
  •  10th: Chris Erdmann, 1-pound, 14-ounce, sucker.
  •  11th: Brad Epema, 1-pound, 14-ounce northern pike.
  •  12th: Brandon Carlson, 1-pound, 14-ounce sucker.
  •  13th: Don Krabbenhoft, 1-pound, 10-ounce sauger.
  •  14th: Jesse Lessard, 1-pound, 9-ounce sauger.
  •  15th: Audrey Slager, 1-pound, 8-ounce walleye.

Did you know?

  •  Women who want to learn how to hunt, fish or develop other outdoor skills can find a wide range of hands-on learning opportunities in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ 2014 Becoming An Outdoors Woman (BOW) catalog. Program offerings this year include a sturgeon fishing trip, grouse and pheasant hunts, kayaking and canoeing. Classes are designed for women age 14 and older. The catalog is available online at or by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or (888) 646-6367.
  •  The North Dakota Game Wardens Association is offering a $300 scholarship to a graduating high school senior entering college next fall who enrolls in fisheries or wildlife management with an emphasis on law enforcement. Applicants must be North Dakota residents and have maintained a 3.25 grade point average. Info: North Dakota Game and Fish Department, (701) 328-6604 or email Applications must be postmarked by May 9.
Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

(701) 780-1148