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A new Minnesota deer management plan, long-awaited by many deer hunters, is due out early this week from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The plan, if ultimately adopted, will guide deer management strategies and communication between the agency and its deer-hunting public. The draft plan is a culmination of 12 public input sessions held around the state and a dozen meetings between DNR wildlife officials and a 20-member citizens' Deer Management Plan Advisory Committee over the past year.
Applications for Minnesota bear hunting licenses are being accepted now through May 4 wherever Minnesota hunting and fishing licenses are sold. A total of 3,350 licenses — the same as last year — are available in 13 permit areas. Bear licenses cost $44 for residents and $230 for nonresidents, and a $5 application fee is added. The season is open from Sept. 1 to Oct. 14.
Jon Libbey has always hunted grouse and ducks and deer. But last year the Grand Rapids resident he added another hunting season — in the spring. He'd been seeing wild turkeys not far from Grand Rapids on his game cameras for a few years. "I thought I'd give it a whirl," said Libbey, 29. "I bought an over-the-counter tag." Hunting near Grand Rapids, he shot a 21-pound tom that had a 10-inch beard.
• Now through May 4 — Wisconsin early inland catch-and-release trout season. • Saturday — Minnesota stream trout in streams opener. • May 5 — Wisconsin general fishing opener; Wisconsin largemouth bass season opener, north zone; Wisconsin inland trout opener. • May 5 to June 15 — Wisconsin smallmouth bass catch-and-release season opener (northern zone).
Hunters in Duluth's city bowhunt for deer will see two rule changes in the hunt next fall. In one change, the hunt will no longer carry a "metro" designation, which, under Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rules, allowed a hunter to shoot an unlimited number of antlerless deer. Beginning with this fall's hunt, city hunters will be permitted to take up to three antlerless deer, the same limit as in the state's deer permit area 182, which borders the city hunt.
Well, this is getting a little old, isn't it? This November in April, I mean. A buddy called the other day. "It was four below in International Falls this morning!" he complained. Yeah. I was out shoveling a fresh skiff of snow the same morning. I hadn't bothered to check the thermometer. I was out there scooping away, thinking, "Pretty nice morning. Crisp. Clear. Must be about 20." Back inside, I checked: Six degrees. You know you've become too acclimated to northern Minnesota winters when six degrees feels like a balmy day.
The previous day's moderate thaw is history. I stride along a refrozen trail at dawn. My ice cleats, stretched over a pair of running shoes, make a satisfying crunch with each footfall. It sounds like I'm stomping potato chips. The trail is alternately old snow and new ice, the ice irregular and rutted by those who passed on foot or fat bikes when the trail was mush.
Mid-April to mid-May is prime time for watching the dramatic mating displays of sharp-tailed grouse on their dancing grounds, called leks. Here are some numbers you can call to reserve a blind at a lek. • Cloquet wildlife office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources — (218) 878-5662 • Aitkin DNR Wildlife Area — (218) 429-3012 • Baudette DNR Wildlife Area — (218) 634-1705, ext. 222 Sign up now for firearms safety classes
GUNFLINT TRAIL, NORTH OF GRAND MARAIS — On a bright March afternoon, a procession of winter travelers moved across the crusted snow atop Bearskin Lake like some human-powered freight train. Three dads, four daughters — and Gimli, the aging Labrador, out front. The girls, 16 to 18 years old, chatted and laughed as they marched along, leaning into the traces of sleds they pulled that were loaded with winter camping gear. Their dads — Bob Feyen, Jesse Schomberg and Kevin Skwira-Brown — were part of the procession, each towing his share of the gear.
ON WISCONSIN'S BRULE RIVER — Butch Koepke slipped his hand under the young brown trout and quickly removed his pink yarn fly from its lip. It was nearly midday on Saturday, opening day of the early trout season on Wisconsin's Brule River. Koepke returned the fish to the water. The Brule opener is a hallowed tradition for many steelhead anglers, and Koepke, of Duluth, usually rises early and heads for the river. But the snowstorm that had swept through parts of the Northland overnight made him reconsider.