OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: Helicopters survey elk; walleye plan renewed

DNR to conduct winter elk surveys The Department of Natural Resources again this winter is planning to use low-flying helicopters to conduct aerial elk surveys in Kittson County and the Grygla area of northwest Minnesota. According to Doug Franke...

DNR to conduct winter elk surveys

The Department of Natural Resources again this winter is planning to use low-flying helicopters to conduct aerial elk surveys in Kittson County and the Grygla area of northwest Minnesota.

According to Doug Franke, area wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Thief River Falls, the surveys will be held sometime between now and the end of March. That's a big window, but the surveys can't begin until the DNR completes its aerial count of moose in northeast Minnesota, Franke said.

The helicopters and pilots are tied up until then.

While the two elk survey blocks in Kittson County -- near Lancaster, Minn., and in Caribou Township along the Minnesota-Manitoba border -- have shown stable populations, the Grygla herd has been below management goals in recent years.


Last winter, the survey tallied 20 elk in the Grygla survey block, down from 28 in 2013. The DNR for the second consecutive year didn't offer a season this past fall because the population was too low.

The DNR's management goal for the Grygla herd calls for a pre-calving population of 30 to 38 elk. The Grygla herd has been on a steady decline since 2008, when the winter survey counted 55 elk. Numbers dipped slightly in 2009 to 53, before declining to 40 in 2010.

The DNR this winter also is planning aerial deer surveys in permit areas 214, 215, 218, 219, 221, 223, 224, 229, 241, and 248 in Becker, Benton, Cass, Hubbard, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wilkin and Wright counties, along with several permit areas in the southeast part of the state.

Partners renew Red Lake walleye plan

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources , Red Lake Nation and Bureau of Indian Affairs on Thursday signed a new five-year memorandum of understanding to continue the cooperative management of the walleye population in the Upper and Lower Red lakes.

The signing took place during a brief ceremony in Red Lake, Minn.

"Red Lake Band members are pleased that our walleye have come back and our fishing community is revitalized," Darrell Seki, chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, said in a statement. "We are committed to ensuring that Red Lake walleye are managed sustainably in the future."

Renewing this agreement will enable the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee to continue its work to help protect this valuable resource, Seki added.


The participating entities signed off on the first walleye recovery agreement in April 1999. Buoyed by aggressive stocking, a moratorium on walleye harvest and stepped-up enforcement, the walleye population rebounded faster than anyone could have envisioned, and walleye fishing in state and tribal waters of Minnesota's largest inland lake resumed in 2006.

The new MOU closely parallels previous 1999-2014 agreements and states that each entity will support the Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee, a joint panel of experts that recommends policies and practices to maintain a healthy fishery.

"We've come a long way in the past 15 years," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in a news release, noting that the combined state and tribal harvest approached 1 million pounds in 2014. "By renewing this agreement, we are reaffirming our commitment to a successful process that has delivered excellent results."

Walleye populations in Upper and Lower Red lakes collapsed in the mid-1990s after years of overharvest, and the technical committee formed in 1997 to address options for reversing the decline.

Did you know?

Hayes Lake, Lake Bronson and Old Mill state parks in northwest Minnesota again this summer will offer a limited number of seasonal campsites. For more information about seasonal camping in either of the three parks, call (218) 754-2200.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has launched a winter creel survey in the south-central part of the state to learn who is fishing and what they're catching. The survey will focus on a series of small lakes in Logan, McIntosh and northern Kidder counties and could last several weeks. Scott Gangl, fisheries management section leader for Game and Fish, said the department hopes to learn more about how far people have traveled to reach a lake and whether that influences the size of fish they keep. Creel clerks will work mostly on weekends.

Ducks Unlimited announced this week that it has reached the 5-million-acre mark in its efforts to conserve waterfowl habitat, a conservation milestone 30 years in the making.


President Barack Obama recently signed the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 and a bill making the stamp permanently available for purchase online. With the hike, the price of the Duck Stamp will rise from $15 to $25, the first increase since 1991.

As of Friday, 10 bills dealing with hunting, fishing, trapping or other outdoors-related issues had been introduced in the North Dakota Legislature. Among them is SB2177, which would shorten the amount of time nonresidents could trap muskrats in the state. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will post weekly legislative updates on outdoors legislation every Friday throughout the session at .

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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