Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 11


Fewer hunters, anglers means less money for outdoor programs

by Associated Press

DULUTH, Minn. — Last month, Bob Walker walked into a stretch of woods southeast of Rochester, Minnesota, with his son, hoping this year would be his final deer hunt.

He’s 80, and he was ready to retire from hunting – but not until he shot one last deer.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to stick with it until I get one and go out on a positive note,'” Walker said.

Walker’s healthy – he walks several miles each day. But he said it’s getting harder for him to walk in the woods. He tripped and fell when he set up his hunting blind this year.

The past two years he didn’t see any deer he wanted to shoot. But this fall, one walked past his blind. He shot, and the deer fell.

“We kind of hooted and hollered a little bit and hugged each other,” Walker recalled. “And that was a really good day for me.”

Walker has hunted for more than 60 years, first with his dad and uncle, then his brother, then his son.

He shot his first deer when he was 14 – in the same patch of woods along the Root River where he killed his final deer.

Now that he’s ready to put away his hunting rifle, Walker said he’d like to pass on his equipment to his four grandsons and teach them to hunt.

“But the two older ones, they have no interest in hunting anything at all,” he said, adding that the two younger boys could still change their minds.

What’s happening within the Walker family exemplifies an issue the DNR faces across Minnesota: As more and more anglers and hunters stop fishing and hunting, there are fewer people replacing them, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

That’s a big issue because for decades the state has relied on license and registration fees and taxes on equipment to fund a significant portion of its natural resource conservation and management.

So the DNR is asking for help. It wants Minnesotans to weigh in on how best to fund outdoor recreation and conservation.

“The time is really right. We haven’t seen . foundational investments in Minnesota’s conservation and outdoor recreation systems in a generation or more,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.

Much of the state’s outdoors infrastructure, from state park facilities to fish hatcheries, was built in the 1950s and ’60s, Strommen said. Some of it dates back to the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

“So it’s really time, I think, for us to think about how we revitalize that system, how we can invest in that system,” said Strommen, “so that it serves not only the users today, but users in the future.”

Strommen said that work is especially important now because people have turned to the outdoors in unprecedented numbers during the pandemic for outdoor recreation and mental health.

One option, said Craig Engwall, executive director with the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, is to generate revenue from some of the newer ways people are engaging in the outdoors, like mountain-biking, climbing or bird-watching.

“There’s an excise tax on your fishing rod. There’s an excise tax on a shotgun, on all those things that hunters and anglers do as part of their passion,” said Engwall. “It’s funding the management of the resource. And there are a lot of activities that are growing, and are great, that don’t have that same element of a tax on them.”

Texas voters elected to do something similar. They approved a measure two years ago that allocates proceeds from the state sales tax on sporting goods to fund state parks and wildlife.

The challenge is to make sure that raising fees doesn’t discourage people from using the outdoors.

“If you charge too much, or you charge in the wrong place, you may create a financial barrier to some folks,” Strommen said.

Another option, which would require legislative approval, is to increase the amount of funding the DNR receives from the state’s general fund.

While the agency’s overall budget has increased substantially in recent years, that’s largely been driven by funds that don’t cover the DNR’s core budget.

The DNR’s current general fund budget allocation of about $104 million is significantly less than what the agency received in 2000, when general fund appropriations peaked at nearly $126 million.

Meanwhile, the agency is facing several critical natural resource issues from invasive species to climate change to chronic wasting disease.

Dave Zentner, former national president of the conservation group the Izaak Walton League, said he supports more funding for the DNR.

Zentner said the process to determine that new funding model also needs to address critical questions.

“What are the outcomes going to be for the citizens and the resources of Minnesota? What are we going to get for investing more in the agency?” he asked.

Zentner is part of a small group advising the DNR on its effort. Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, who recently served on the state’s outdoor recreation task force, is also advising the agency. She said a new funding model needs to serve all Minnesotans.

“The population in our state, of growing communities, is coming from Black, Indigenous, other communities of color,” she said.

“So if we think that we’re going to have a system that will be successful, we have to make sure that what we’re doing is inclusive of these populations and their needs,” said Atlas-Ingebretson.

To that end, the DNR wants the public’s help in identifying a vision for outdoor recreation and conservation in Minnesota. In the second half of 2022, the agency said it will propose a way to fund that vision going forward.


Hunt small game this winter

Hunting pheasants, ruffed grouse, squirrels or rabbits offers opportunities to enjoy the Minnesota outdoors as temperatures fall and snow blankets the landscape. Explore more about hunting a variety of species on the DNR learn to hunt page.

pheasant hunter in a field

Pheasants – hunting is open through Jan. 2. On Dec. 1, the daily bag limit increases to three roosters, with a possession limit of nine roosters. Tip: Pheasants that found cover in crops now congregate in tall grass or marshes. Be safe around thin ice. Pheasant regulations

grouse hunter on a trail

Grouse – hunting is open through Jan. 2. Tip: Wintertime grouse hunters may find success during the golden hour, that last hour before sunset when ruffed grouse move out of their snow roosts to feed. Grouse regulations

squirrel hunter holding a bunch of squirrels and a firearm

Squirrels and rabbits – hunting is open through Feb. 28. Tip: Squirrels can be particularly active in the winter because they are in their breeding season. For rabbits, be ready for action around thick cover, such as brush piles, thorn tangles and briars. Small game regulations


There’s no such thing as a do-it-all knife

by Mike Schoonveld

I’m a rough, tough outdoor guy who has been known to harvest some sort of game or fish one minute and have it over a fire, in a skillet, or on the grill a minute or two later.  I’m also a fan of TV cooking shows. My cooking style and that of the TV chefs have little in common except for one thing: knives.

I’ve frequently seen TV chefs show up on camera ready to teach, compete, or create, armed only with their own personal set of knives. They’ll use a strange stove, any ol’ pot or pan, often mystery or mysterious ingredients, but don’t ask them to grab yours, mine, or anyone else’s knife to slice, dice, or chop the foods they are preparing.

That’s where we are alike. I’ve assembled a set of favorite cutlery over the years and though I don’t expect to ever go up against or be compared to a celebrity chef, with these knives I’m equipped to butcher anything from a wicked tuna to a smelt, a sora rail to a turkey, or a squirrel to an elk. Try that Bobby Flay!

I know guys who brag up their ability to gut, skin, and fillet anything and everything using only their folding pocket knife. Indeed, I’ve cleaned just about everything with my pocket knife at one time or another – maybe not a wicked tuna or a moose, but certainly most commonly caught fish here in Michigan as well as deer, small game, ducks, geese, and game birds.

My pocket knife “butcheries” were performed due to unplanned or poorly executed adventures (mostly forgetfulness) when I didn’t have access to the right tools for the job.

So what are “my” right tools?


I shunned electric fillet knives for decades. I didn’t like the idea of using a 120V power tool in wet conditions and I considered electric knives to be tools for those who didn’t know how to keep a fillet knife sharp. Then several manufacturers started making cordless electrics.

Now, the knife (or knives) I use depends on the species of fish I’m cleaning. In general, I grab the 6-incher for panfish and use  the 9-inch blade on big fish like salmon and trout. I use the electric to cut the slabs off of walleye, lake trout, and others with tough rib bones, then switch to an appropriately-sized fixed blade to slick out the ribs and remove the skin from the fillet.


I often clean ducks, geese and pheasants by filleting off the breast meat with a 6-inch fillet knife. I then remove the legs and thighs with a four-inch, non-flexible bladed knife to make the cuts needed to remove the legs and thighs. When I plan to leave the bird “whole” for roasting or other preparations I use the 4-inch blade for most of the cuts then turn to game shears to trim off wings, legs, necks and tails.

Small game

I use the same 4-inch fixed-blade knife to clean squirrels and rabbits but again turn to game shears to cut off the feet, trim the ribs, and separate the carcass into individual pieces.

Big game

Most big game is field dressed before being transported. I’ve dressed dozens of deer using only a 5- or 6-inch “hunting” knife, but after the first time I used a “gut hook knife” to make the cut needed to open the belly from chest to pelvis, I added one to my field pack.

I use the 6-inch fixed blade hunting knife to skin and quarter the deer or other big game then I switch to a 5-inch boning knife to remove the individual cuts of meat from the carcass.

Sharpness counts

Whether you keep a separate kit for each kind of fish or game you harvest or adhere to the “do it all with the pocket knife” school of butchering, the most important thing is to learn how to sharpen your knives and then keep them sharp while they are being used.


No mercy for opossum during fisher encounter

By Rob Drieslein

One of my dad’s trail cameras in southeastern Minnesota caught some wildlife drama overnight.

As this blog has documented before, fishers slowly are repopulating southeast Minnesota, and my dad has seen a couple pop up on his trail cams on the Houston-Winona County border in past years. Most folks associated fishers with the great northwoods, but southeast Minnesota has proved legit habitat for these animals in recent years.

My dad, Robert L. Drieslein, hadn’t seen any fishers on his property in 2021, but Wednesday night certainly produced some action for one of these large members of the weasel family… and an unlucky opossum that got in its way.

The series of images show a fisher hot on the tail of North America’s only marsupial, then there are several shots of the predator holding fast to its prey. It’s hard to tell the size, but the so-called Virginia opossum is not a small animal, with Minnesota versions probably averaging small house cat size. But the fisher is clearly larger, and my dad says the color markings are different than on fishers his trail cameras have photographed before.

The trail camera that produced these images covers an apple tree in my parents’ yard just 40 yards from their home. A bobcat had tripped the same trail cam a couple weeks earlier.

I shared the images with John Erb, the DNR’s furbearer specialist from Grand Rapids, and he said they marked the third possum-fisher interaction video or photo series he’s received from southern Minnesota the past two years. One other came from the southeast and another one came from southwest Minnesota along the shores of Big Stone Lake.

My dad wondered if the opossum was trying to play dead, a tactic that probably wouldn’t get it very far with a lethal fisher. There was no sign of the tussle, or the opossum, this morning.

“I got a hunch he got eaten,” Dad said.

Given that opossums have been crawling their way farther into warmer north country in recent years,

these are two species that probably haven’t interacted much in recent North American history, Erb noted.

“With a fisher, playing dead probably gets the same result as being dead, but who knows?” Erb said via email. “200 years ago, maybe even 20 years ago, nobody would have bet that these two species would stumble in to each other.”

At least one opossum probably regrets his species’ immigrating to new country.


Plain or without tartar

by Mike Schnoonveld

It’s often said there are two kind of people – cat people and dog people. There seems to be a solid rift between classical music lovers and contemporary music fans. Mars vs. Venus. Leaders vs. followers. Cowboys vs. Indians. Meat eaters vs. vegetarians. It seems all humanity can be lumped into two demographics.

When it comes to eating fish, that’s certainly true. I know in my marriage the Mars/Venus comparison is true but my wife and I (along with the rest of humanity) have another major divide when it comes to eating fish: plain or with tartar sauce.

Of course, I’m on the right side of the issue – no tartar sauce for me. Though I’ll happily fry up the walleyes I caught last week for my wife and let her dab her tartar all over it, that’s only because she puts up with my “man from Mars” slovenliness when it comes to muddy boots and dirty socks.

If I invite a neighbor over to celebrate my latest fishing success and he slathers tartar all over my hard-won perch, the next time he gets a dinner invitation from me, he can expect hot dogs.

Though we all know someone purposely invented a special sauce to put on a Big Mac (and then McDonalds swore him or her to perpetual secrecy) and unlike Thousand Island Dressing, which was invented on purpose as a fish sauce by the wife of a fishing guide in Upper New York state, no one knows exactly who concocted tartar sauce but it was allegedly blended up as an accompaniment to steak tartar, which is a fancy name for uncooked meatloaf.

How it made the jump from being a flavor changer for raw chopped beef to a flavor disguiser to make fish palatable to those strange people who don’t like to eat fish, I don’t know. I don’t like to eat liver, so I don’t eat liver. I don’t slather it with a special condiment and then pretend to like it.

I try to be non-judgmental and accepting of alternative tastes and lifestyles. Put ketchup on your hot dog. I don’t care. Drizzle some Tabasco on your morning eggs. That’s not for me, but have at it. But if you reach for the tartar sauce to mask the exquisite flavor of the bluegills, catfish, or crappies I cook at my house, you better go pick up a few of my discarded socks to be welcome.

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 11