Our Outdoors: Mighty Preparations

By Nick Simonson

With the opening day of pheasant season just a week or two away, there is plenty to be done to get ready for the big event.  From stepping up physical and shotgun preparations, to packing the things that all hunters and their four-legged friends will need in the field and after the hunt, getting everything in order not only ensures a successful start to the season, but it also helps pass the last few days leading up to the first flush, thundering wingbeats and boisterous cackle of autumn.

Walk It Off

 

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The smile of success.  Being ready for opener is multi-faceted; having the gear, the physical readiness and the confidence in your shot can come with a little preparation, even in the last few days before the season starts.

Few other outdoor pursuits require as much walking as upland game hunting, and as a result many hunters enter the field a tad out of shape, even for those who normally walk their local sidewalks or have a consistent exercise regimen during the off-season. Even the flattest stretches of grassland can present all sorts of challenges, with uneven ground and various varmint holes being just a couple; add in some cattail sloughs, inclines and other obstacles and stiff legs and sore hips are all but guaranteed.  Hunters can prepare for the terrain by taking their dogs off-trail in the days leading up to the opener by hiking state park trails or areas specially designed for trail running.  Don hunting boots for these off-road adventures to get feet set for the challenges to come, and make sure to break in a new pair before opening day. A few quick stretches before and after each walk will help ease the after-effects.

 
Under the Gun


Most hunters also make it a point in the off-season to keep their aim sharp, but if you haven’t been to the trap range since the company fun night in May, there’s still time to warm up the barrel before the season starts.  A few rounds of trap, skeet or sporting clays – or all three – will prepare shooters for a variety of near-future scenarios in the field.  Before, during and after these events check to ensure proper shotgun condition along with fit and comfort, and in the final round or two, don a field vest to simulate hunting conditions.  Once tuned up, inspect shotguns for wear and clean them prior to opening day to ensure everything is in order.

Geared Up


When arriving at a hunting site, or unpacking after traveling to a destination for pheasant opener, there’s nothing worse than realizing that a vital piece of equipment, clothing or gear was forgotten.  Make a list not only for those things you need, but also the food, medicine and equipment your dog might need, along with those just-in-case items to deal with emergencies.  Blaze orange clothes to match the weather, a shotgun (and a backup if traveling away from home) cleaning tools and equipment and electronics and their respective chargers are all must-haves for opener.  It’s a good idea to buy ammo and any out-of-state licenses you might need now, to avoid the last-second rush and supplies that get skinnier as the season approaches.

 

Make sure to pack plenty of food and water for dogs and all medicines that might be necessary.  It’s a good idea to find a nearby veterinarian’s office if you’re traveling away from home for opener and enter the number in your phone prior to your arrival.  First aid kits for both people and animals should also be packed and at the ready.  In the coming days, make a list of these items and everything else you might need to be set for the season.

 

Map It Out


Finally, reach out to landowners of the areas you will be hunting, or those farmers who reside near public lands to find out habitat conditions and what they’ve been seeing throughout the summer and how recent weather may have affected the lay of the land – particularly with recent rains across much of the region raising lowland water levels.  Check out topographic and satellite maps and draft a game plan for any wind or weather conditions which might change the way you walk a certain parcel.

 

Luck is the residue of preparation, and getting ready can be part of the fun and ensure a safe and successful first day in the field.  Take the time that remains between today and your respective pheasant opener to get ready for whatever might come in those initial exciting moments of the season…in our outdoors.

Simonson is a syndicated outdoors journalist from Marshall, MN who also serves as President of Lyon County Pheasants Forever.  He shares a copy of his column, Our Outdoors with the chapter on a regular basis.  You can read all of his works at www.nicksimonson.com 

LCPF Kicks Off 2017 Guns & Cash Raffle

LCPF Release

The 2017 Lyon County Pheasants Forever (LCPF) Guns & Cash Raffle Tickets are available for purchase from chapter members or at Borch’s or Running’s in Marshall for just $20.00; proceeds of the raffle go to support the chapter’s youth and habitat efforts in Lyon County and the surrounding area.

This year’s Guns & Cash Raffle showcases a wide variety of firearms along with five cash sums, with the retail and cash value of all twenty prizes estimated at over $15,000.  From the high-end Benelli Super Black Eagle II, Remington Versa Max and Browning A5 to the venerable Henry Golden Boy .22 and the unique Kimber 1911, there’s a gun up for grabs that will draw everyone’s interest.  Cash Prizes of $200, $300, $400, $500 and $1,000 will also be awarded to five lucky raffle entrants.

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Proceeds from the LCPF Guns & Cash Raffle will go toward protecting wildlife habitat, creating more public hunting opportunities and getting youth involved in the outdoors.

The drawing of raffle winners will occur at LCPF’s Annual Spring Banquet on Saturday, March  11, 2017 at The SMSU Banquet Hall in Marshall, Minn. at.  The prizes will be drawn in the specific order as listed on the ticket and entrants need not be present to win.  Only 1,000 tickets for this raffle are being sold and tickets are already going fast.

“This year’s ticket is by far the best we’ve put together in recent memory, a lot of great guns fell into place for the raffle,” said Dane Tammeus, LCPF Firearms Procurement Officer, “last year, we were sold out nearly two weeks before the banquet, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have very few tickets left in February,” he concluded.

This year, tickets can be purchased in person from members of LCPF selling them in throughout the community, or at the gun counter in Borch’s Sporting Goods in Marshall, Running’s in Marshall.  A ticket receipt stub will be provided to all entrants along with their entry number. Winners will be contacted

The firearms in this year’s raffle cover all pursuits – deer and varmint rifles, upland guns and  waterfowl  guns –with a number of them over $600 in retail value, the big ticket guns are certain to attract some attention.  Top names like Benelli, Browning, Remington and Mossberg are sure draws that year-in-and-year-out drive sales and generate much needed funds for the chapter’s habitat and youth programs which are carried out in the local area.

“We’ve got some very unique guns like the Mossberg Blaze-47 and the Colt AR-15 for the shooting sports enthusiast, and the Browning A-Bolt Slug for those deer hunters in the area seeking a more accurate option – so there’s something that should catch everyone’s eye this year,” said Tammeus.

  A Raffle Within A Raffle

By a unanimous vote, the executive committee of LCPF passed a motion at its September chapter meeting that for every 10 tickets a person sells, that person’s name will be put into a special raffle following the 2017 Banquet for a brand new Stoeger Condor over-under 12-gauge shotgun.

“This special drawing will be a great way to get member participation in our raffle sales efforts” said LCPF Treasurer, Ron Prorok, “it’s important to sell these tickets out before the annual spring banquet, so we can focus on other fund raising efforts at that event, and this bonus drawing will help our members get out there and do that,” he concluded.

If you would like a book of ten tickets (or more) to sell to your friends, hunting buddies and family members so you can get entered into the bonus gun raffle, please contact LCPF Treasurer Ron Prorok at 507-401-6227.

“Great places to make sales include your opening weekend get-togethers, the office, holiday parties, out on the ice this winter or at your favorite watering hole, – just make sure to clear it with the proprietors,” said Prorok.

Updates to the total sales will be posted on the LCPF website after each chapter meeting to keep members current with how many tickets have been sold.

(The 2017 LCPF Guns & Cash Raffle is approved by the state of Minnesota and conducted under Gambling License #X-03716-17-009.)

2016 Pheasant Counts Up 26% in SWMN

From Minn. DNR Roadside Survey

An increase in grassland habitat acres combined with another relatively mild winter and favorable breeding season conditions led to increases in Minnesota’s 2016 population indices for ring-necked pheasants and gray partridge.

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You’ll Be Seeing This More Often! 2016 Pheasant Counts are up 26% in Southwest Minnesota on increased habitat and a moderate winter in 2015-16. 

Winning on Habitat Front

For the first time since 2011, total acres of undisturbed grassland habitat increased across Minnesota’s farmland region. Overall, 54,495 acres were gained statewide since 2015, including 24,307 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) habitat. Acres either held nearly steady or increased in all other private land conservation programs. Publically-owned grassland habitat also increased in 2016. Net habitat gains occurred in the pheasant range (61,525 acres) whereas the prairie chicken range (mostly represented by the Northwest region) lost 957 acres.

The winter of 2015-16 was the second consecutive mild winter, and most regions had minimal snow during March. Spring and early summer temperatures varied widely but, on average, temperatures were at or above normal from April-June. Several regions were drier than normal but many areas in the southern regions had above-normal rainfall in May and June. Overall, weather conditions led to good overwinter survival and good nesting and brood-rearing conditions.

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Minn. DNR Pheasant Hunting Prospects look good for SW Minn. where counts exceeded 96 birds per 100 mi. 

Grassland and wetland habitat conservation remains a priority concern for Minnesota. Private-land conservation programs, including CRP, continue to make up the largest portion of protected grassland habitat in the state but approximately 393,000 acres of CRP are set to expire by 2018. Recent low corn and soybean prices have increased landowner interest in farmland retirement programs; however, the current federal Farm Bill limits the number of acres that can be enrolled in CRP and the most recent CRP-sign up resulted in a low acceptance rate in Minnesota (i.e., only 9% of acres offered were accepted).

Funding from the Legacy Amendment has helped partially offset habitat losses but the pace has not kept up with the rate of CRP losses. Minnesota’s Prairie Conservation Plan and Pheasant Summit Action Plan both offer a blueprint for moving forward with grassland and wetland habitat conservation strategies in the farmland regions, thereby helping partners prioritize lands acquired with Legacy Amendment funding.

SWMN Pheasant Counts Up 26% over 2015

In 2016, the average number of pheasants observed (52.1 birds/100 mi) increased 29% from 2015 but was 14% below the 10-year average (Table 2, Fig. 3A) and 48% below the long-term average. Total pheasants observed per 100 mi ranged from 17.9 birds in the Southeast region to 96.0 birds in the Southwest region (Table 3). The pheasant index showed substantial increases in the Central (72%) and South Central (70%) regions. Regional indices also increased in the East Central (27%), Southwest (26%), and West Central (10%) regions. Good harvest opportunities should exist in all regions with the exception of the Southeast where the index declined 31% compared to 2015.

counttableThe 2016 range-wide pheasant brood index (8.7 broods/100 mi) increased 39% from last year (Table 2). The index was 7% below the 10-year average and 34% below the long-term average. Regional brood indices ranged from 3.6 broods/100 mi in the Southeast to 15.6 broods/100 mi in the Southwest. Brood indices increased in all regions (range: 14% to 103%) except the Southeast which remained similar to 2015’s index. The average brood size in 2016 (4.4 chicks/brood) was down slightly from the 2015 index and the 10-year average (both indices = 4.7 chicks/brood) and was 20% below the long-term average (5.5 chicks/brood). The median estimated hatch date for pheasant broods across their range was 11 June 2016 (n = 330 broods), which was similar to the 10-year average (12 June; Table 2). Notably, the median estimated hatch dates were later in the South Central (17 June) and Southwest (22 June) regions where rainfall may have disrupted early-season nest attempts.

For more information, read the entire report at the Minnesota DNR Website.

Support The Meger Memorial WMA

Introduction

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James Meger raised millions of dollars for conservation nationwide with his renowned artwrok

In an effort to remember the legacy of wildlife artist James Meger, the Lyon County Pheasants Forever, East Medicine Pheasants Forever and Yellow Medicine Pheasants Forever chapters are undertaking a substantial fundraising effort to create a WMA in his memory.  As you may be aware, James passed away in 2011 after a battle with cancer.  As a native of Lyon County, James’ death impacted many people not only within our chapters of Pheasants Forever and our local communities, but also across the country.  This loss was felt by the national conservation community due to the fact that James managed to improve habitat across our region – and the entire country – with a simple brushstroke.

 

James spent most of his life capturing the beauty of nature through hundreds of wildlife paintings.  He is one of only a handful of artists to be awarded the Minnesota DNR Waterfowl Stamp and Pheasant Habitat Stamp in his career.  To his credit, James’ works have served as the Pheasants Forever Print of the Year an unprecedented six times.  It is likely that conservation or sportsmen’s groups in your area have benefitted from James’ works by auctioning or raffling his many impressive prints.  Our chapters haveprominently awarded his artwork at our annual banquets. Through his paintings, James has helped raise millions of dollars for habitat projects, even after his death.

Please help us honor James’ life and all he did for conservation by contributing to the James Meger Memorial WMA Fund, which will establish a WMA in his memory.  You can support our project by completing this donation form and returning it via mail with your payment.

About James Meger

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Homesteaders – One of many Meger prints depicting classic rural areas and flushing pheasants.  Meger painted six PF “Prints of the Year” and had both a Minn. Duck Stamp and Pheasant Stamp awarded to him during his lifetime.

James was a graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., earning a bachelor of fine arts degree and the University of Minnesota where he earned a master’s in art education. For nine years, he taught art before quitting to paint full time.

 

“I told him, ‘We don’t have any kids yet, so if you want to quit teaching, go ahead,'” his wife, Laurene, said, “just a few months later, in 1980, he won the Minnesota state duck stamp contest.”

Born in Lyon County, Minn., James relayed through many of his paintings a love of, and fascination with, rural Americana, especially the farmsteads and wildlife — pheasants in particular — that dotted the landscape. An excellent wingshot, James was an avid hunter whose time afield inspired his art. When he won the state duck stamp, wildlife art was big business, with established and even new painters often selling hundreds of limited-edition prints.  James was prolific in his artwork, and dozens of his prints are available to the public, capturing moments afield and preserving the memories of the area where he grew up.

“He painted six of our ‘Prints of the Year,’ more than any other artist,” said Bob St. Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s marketing vice president, “and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for habitat.”

James taught art from 1973-1979. During this time he consulted with his mentor, artist Les Kouba.  From the time of this tutelage under Kouba, James has been known as the artist who paints “More than Meets the Eye” by hiding a number of other species in his artwork.

About the Meger Memorial WMA

Through Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment, which provides funding for projects fostering clean water, lands and air, Lyon County Pheasants Forever and Minnesota Pheasants Forever have closed on two tracts of land approximately 10 miles from Minneota, Minn., James Meger’s hometown.

Your contribution will go toward restoring and enhancing the WMA which will benefit upland game, waterfowl, deer, small game and watchable wildlife and will protect a natural creek from runoff and siltation through the establishment of grasslands which will buffer the flow from sedimentation and improve water quality downstream.

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The Meger Memorial WMA will be nearly half a section of huntable habitat located northwest of Minneota, Minn. and will be open to the public in fall of 2017. 

Throughout 2016, a number of projects on the WMA will be carried out to benefit local wildlife. Conversion of marginal acres on the property to grasslands will provide not only nesting cover for upland game, but also a wide variety of native flower species to sustain local populations of pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies.  The existing tree cover will be improved to benefit local deer and turkey populations and to provide winter cover for a variety of songbirds and other wildlife species.

 

It is anticipated that the parcel will be open to public hunting and dedicated to James’ memory in the fall of 2017, when the habitat work has been completed and the expansive restored and improved areas on the WMA have become established.

Your donation will help make the James Meger Memorial WMA a place which will honor his legacy, be a home to the wildlife he celebrated, and create a public hunting area which will inspire generations to come with the same sights and experiences that fueled James’ passion for the outdoors and his artistic accomplishments.

Please contact us with questions or for more information on this great effort to remember James Meger and all he did for conservation.

 

DNR 2015 Small Game Survey Released, Pheasant Success Up 41% over 2014

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MN Pheasant hunters found, on average, greater success last fall than in 2014. 

DNR Press Release

About the same number of small game hunters took to the field in 2015 compared to the year before. By species, the number of pheasant hunters was up slightly, with duck hunters stable and grouse hunters down slightly, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources annual small game survey. 

In 2015, the number of pheasant hunters was 63,350, representing an increase of 10 percent from 2014.

An estimated 76,243 people hunted ducks, essentially the same as last year.

Ruffed grouse hunter numbers were estimated at 79,058 a decrease of 5 percent from 2014.

Statewide estimates show small game hunters harvested about 243,176 pheasants (up 59 percent), 663,811 ducks (down 5 percent), and 267,997 ruffed grouse (down 11 percent) in 2015 with margins of error in the results of between 9 and 14 percent.

With the exception of pheasant, individual hunter success rates were comparable to 2014. Pheasant hunters harvested an average of 3.8 pheasants in 2015, which was 41 percent higher than 2014 when 2.7 pheasants were taken per hunter. Duck hunters harvested an average of 8.7 ducks in 2015 compared to 9.3 in 2014. Woodcock hunters harvested 3 birds per hunter, compared to 2.7 in 2014. Ruffed grouse hunters harvested an average of 3.4 grouse in 2015, compared to 3.6 in 2014.

The DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends. For the 2015 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed of which 3,485 surveys were returned and usable.

The complete report is on the DNR website.