OUTDOOR NOTES: Minnesota elk season won't include Grygla

Minnesota elk season won't include Grygla The Department of Natural Resources won't be offering an elk season this fall near Grygla, Minn., because of low populations in the area. The DNR has expanded elk hunting opportunities in Kittson County, ...

Minnesota elk season won't include Grygla

The Department of Natural Resources won't be offering an elk season this fall near Grygla, Minn., because of low populations in the area.

The DNR has expanded elk hunting opportunities in Kittson County, and hunters have until June 14 to apply for one of 23 elk licenses in the county's central and northeast zones.

"The number of hunting licenses available reflects the goals of the state's elk management plan," said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. "That plan aims to balance the interest of hunters, landowners and others."

McInenly said aerial surveys conducted during the winter in the Grygla area tallied 28 elk, slightly below the pre-calving goal range of 30 to 38 animals. She said this year's closure is likely to return the herd to goal range.


There will be two early seasons and two late seasons in Kittson County:

• Season A: Sept. 14-22, both zones.

• Season B: Sept. 28-Oct. 6, Kittson central zone.

• Season C: Dec. 7-15, Kittson central zone.

• Season D: Jan. 11-19, Kittson central zone.

Hunters interested in applying for a license can find maps of the two hunting zones and other pertinent information on the DNR website at

-- Herald staff report

DNR launches aerial sandhill crane survey


The DNR has launched an aerial survey of sandhill cranes in an area of northwest Minnesota from Crookston north through Thief River Falls to the Canadian border.

The survey will count both nesting pairs and nonbreeding cranes in the Minnesota hunting zone to better monitor breeding populations. It's timed to count the cranes while most are incubating eggs in their nests.

Because the gray cranes are difficult to see, researchers are using a helicopter, which allows them to fly the survey at a low level. Flights, which will consist of 4-kilometer-square plots, should be completed within one or two weeks.

The survey, funded jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the DNR, will continue for two years.


-- Minnesota DNR

House, Senate forward Farm Bill versions

The House version of the federal farm bill has less focus on conservation than the Senate plan, but conservation groups remain optimistic about the legislation's prospects.


The House Agriculture Committee on Thursday marked up and forwarded its Farm Bill to the full House with a 36-10 vote. The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee passed its bill out of committee to the full Senate on Tuesday with a bipartisan vote of 15-5.

The House bill includes a regional Sodsaver provision that applies only to the Prairie Pothole Region states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. The Senate Farm Bill's Sodsaver program would apply nationally.

Both programs would reduce federal subsidy on any new cropland acres put into production as a result of breaking grassland that had no previous cropping history.

Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, said DU advocated "more robust" conservation provisions than the House bill recommends, but he called the measure "a step in the right direction."

"We look forward to working with the full House on a final vote of passage to get a five-year Farm Bill into conference with the Senate," Hall said.

A joint proposal from agriculture and conservation groups to re-couple conservation compliance to crop insurance was not included in the House farm bill.

More than 70 percent of the nation's native grasslands and 50 percent of wetlands have already been lost. In a news release, DU said the rate of loss has been accelerated by unintended consequences of current agriculture policy and advanced technology.

-- Herald staff report


Nesting conditions favorable for ducks

Water and nesting conditions for ducks and other wetland birds are above average this spring in North Dakota and other parts of the Prairie Pothole Region, Ducks Unlimited says.

"Late snows have melted to refill wetlands, and we expect to see plenty of breeding ducks and water birds with the conditions we have," Johann Walker, director of conservation planning for DU's Great Plains Regional Office in Bismarck, said in a news release.

Widely known as North America's "Duck Factory," the Prairie Pothole Region extends from South Dakota to Saskatchewan and produces up to 70 percent of the continent's ducks.

Walker said grassland songbirds, shorebirds and raptors also have established territories and are beginning to lay eggs. He expects the first pintails and mallards to start nesting a couple of weeks later than usual because of the late spring.

Last year's wetland conditions were excellent across much of the PPR, resulting in a record breeding duck population of 48.6 million.

-- Ducks Unlimited

Tent caterpillars likely to increase


This could be a big year for forest tent caterpillars across northern and west-central Minnesota as the leaf-chewing insects build toward a peak in 2014 or 2015, the DNR warns.


Populations of the tent caterpillars, which chew up the leaves of a wide variety of hardwood trees and shrubs, has been building since 2007; the trend is expected to intensify this year.

Defoliation normally begins in mid May in central Minnesota and late May in northern areas and usually runs it course by mid- to late June. The heavy snowfall and late spring may delay the egg hatch but will have little impact on the survival of eggs laid last year, officials say.

Defoliation has little long-term impact on healthy trees but can result in temporarily slowed growth. The caterpillars can further weaken trees under stress from prolonged drought or root system damage, making them more susceptible to secondary infestations by other pests.

"While the caterpillars don't cause a health risk to humans, the presence of hundreds (or thousands) of them can be a real headache," Jana Albers, DNR forest health specialist in Grand Rapids, Minn., said. "The effects of defoliation on shade trees, ornamental plantings and gardens can also be of concern to homeowners."

For more information on managing forest tent caterpillars, check out the DNR website at

-- Herald staff report


Survey documents drop in hunter numbers

A recent survey funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation shows a significant percentage of students who complete hunter education training don't buy a hunting license after graduating.

According to the survey, conducted by national polling firm Southwick Associates, only 67.7 percent of hunter education graduates bought at least one hunting license within six years of completing the course. After six years, only 44 percent of graduates still bought licenses, with the greatest decline coming from urban areas.

Twelve state wildlife agencies supplied data for the survey. In most states, graduates age 16 to 24 were less likely to buy a license six years after graduating, which showed the transient nature of young people.

The trend held true for college students and those in the military.

-- Herald staff report

Did you know?

• The DNR recently honored conservation officer Keith Backer of Blackduck, Minn., with the Waterfowl Achievement Award and officer Tim Gray of the Bagley, Minn., field station with the Award of Honor for his actions in a lifesaving incident. The DNR presented the awards during a recent in-service training session at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minn.

• The DNR is seeking volunteers to help collect dead loon specimens for testing as part of an effort to learn more about loon mortality in Minnesota. Kevin Woizeschke, DNR nongame wildlife specialist, said Minnesota's loon population is about 12,000 and stable, but the agency still has questions about mortality. For more information on volunteering, contact Woizeschke at (218) 833-8729.

• North Dakota youths age 12 to 15 who want to operate a boat or personal watercraft this summer must take the state's boating basics course. Info: Nancy Boldt, boat and water safety coordinator for Game and Fish, or by phone at (701) 328-6300.

-- Compiled by Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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