Poplar church's Deer Hunter’s Expo hits 24th year

Every autumn since 1996 the folks at Mission Covenant Church in Poplar have been getting together with friends and neighbors to preach the gospel of deer hunting.

The event has drawn upwards of 1,000 in past years and, in addition to hands-on seminars and archery events, there’s a ton of food.

And it’s all free.

It’s called the Hunter’s Expo, and this year it’s set for Saturday, Oct. 19, at the church, 5161 South County Road P., from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event includes a 10-target 3-D archery shoot, so bring your bow and compete in adult and youth classes. There’s also a huge traveling collection of whitetail deer mounts, an antler’s galore display called Trophies of Grace, from noon to 1 p.m.; a seminar on how to film your hunts by Alex Comstock, from 1 to 2 p.m.; another seminar on designing a hunting property by Nathan Nelson (who happens to be the church’s youth pastor) from 2 to 3 p.m.; and a seminar on how to process your own deer by expert butcher Bill Hesselgrave, also from 2 to 3 p.m.

If you are into the outdoors, and especially deer hunting, you don’t want to miss this fun afternoon.

For more information call 715-364-2738.

Fewest small game hunters on record

The decline in hunter numbers continues unabated. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported last week that small game hunters in the state declined to the lowest number the DNR began tracking these figures in 1969.

The DNR got the results from its annual hunter survey that is mailed to a sample of small game hunters each year to help the DNR estimate hunter numbers and harvest. Wildlife managers use the survey data to estimate wildlife populations, prioritize habitat projects and establish new hunting regulations.

Small game includes grouse, squirrels, rabbits, etc.

The survey showed the 2018 ruffed grouse harvest of 195,515 birds was down 30% from the 2017 estimate and was the lowest harvest in the last 11 years. The estimated number of grouse hunters was 67,765, the lowest number in the past 40 years.

The decline in hunter numbers mirrors a national trend and is a big problem for conservation. Hunters generate the largest portion of the funding that pays for managing wildlife habitat. A continued decline in small game hunting license sales could negatively impact these management efforts.

The DNR has created programs to retain hunters and recruit new and lapsed hunters, but they haven’t kept pace with the number of hunters leaving the field. The decline in hunting participation translates into an annual reduction of nearly $1 million in small game license sales compared to the 1990s. This estimated loss doesn’t account for other hunting-related expenditures including gun and ammunition sales, visits to gas stations and restaurants, and stays at lodging facilities — all things that benefit local economies.

One positive finding was an increased pheasant harvest. Hunters harvested 205,395 roosters in 2018, up 19% from the previous year. This was likely due to an increase in the number of hunters following an optimistic pheasant forecast. While the numbers reflect an uptick in recent years, 2018’s pheasant hunter numbers still fell well below the 10-year average.

Fewer people hunted waterfowl last year than in 2017, resulting in less state duck stamp revenue and a lower harvest. Despite fewer hunters, though, duck and goose success rates were slightly better than the 10-year averages.

United Northern deer rifle site-in dates

The United Northern Sportsmen’s Club annual sight-in days are October 19-20, Oct. 26-27 and November 2-8. Shooting hours are between 8 a.m. and one-half hour before sunset. Cost is $5 per riffle and open to the public during the sight-in. The United Northern Sportsman facility is located on Island Lake, about a quarter mile past the bridge on Highway 4, officially 7229 Rice Lake Road.

Comment on Grand Marais area lake and stream plans

If you’re interested in lake and stream management in the Grand Marais area, including parts of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Department of Natural Resources encourages you to read the current plans up for review this winter, attend an open house, and submit comments and suggestions.

An open house will be held on Nov. 2, from 6-8 p.m. at the Grand Marais area fisheries office at 1356 E. Highway 61, to share current plans for several area lakes and streams and take comments and suggestions on potential revisions. Comments will be accepted through Dec. 20.

A management plan identifies specific management activities planned for a lake or stream over the next five to 20 years, including any proposed stocking or special regulations.

For West Bearskin, Kemo, and Rose lakes, the status and preservation of lake trout populations and fisheries is the primary concern in plans being reviewed .

Stream trout stocking and management strategies will be reviewed for Carrot and Chester lakes. Trout stocking will continue in both lakes, but species, sizes and numbers stocked will be reviewed.

Plans for Agnes, Deer Yard, Holly, Pit, Quiver, Rog, Shoko, Swamper and Tait lakes will be reviewed. For most of those lakes, the status and habitat needs of walleye, northern pike, panfish, or smallmouth bass fisheries will be of most concern.

Plans for the Devil Track River, the Little Devil Track River, Junco Creek, Kimball Creek, and the Temperance River will be reviewed. All are important brook trout streams, with the Devil Track River and Kimball Creek among the best streams for steelhead. Plans will address habitat needs and means of improving the resilience of streams and their watersheds in the face of climate change.

A new management plan will be created for the North Brule River using data on that stream recently collected by DNR fisheries and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Portions of the North Brule River may be considered for trout stream designation.

For more information or to request copies of current plans, call or email Steve Persons at 218-387-6022 or steve.persons@state.mn.us. Written comments can be submitted at the public meeting or sent by mail.