Strong production season could bring busy waterfowl seasonI recently had an opportunity to venture out west to South Dakota for a few days.
By: Mike Reiter, New Richmond News
I recently had an opportunity to venture out west to South Dakota for a few days.
We have a good friend who lives in central South Dakota and he was celebrating his 60th birthday. He also raises bison and I was to pick up some meat to restock our freezer.
I have a hard time differentiating the taste and texture of bison meat from some of the best beef. It is even supposed to be good for you because it has a lower fat content than beef. I just go for the taste and texture and let my wife worry about the healthy aspects of our diet.
As we came across Minnesota and entered South Dakota, it became evident that they have not suffered from the shortage of rainfall as we have in our area. All the ponds and some of the fields and ditches were full of water. Waterfowl were everywhere and we took time to identify duck types as we drove. It was great to see so many different species of waterfowl. We also saw numerous rooster pheasants out and about looking for girlfriends.
Arriving at our friend’s ranch we were treated to nonstop pheasant crowing indicating that the winter in this area was not harsh enough to knock back the pheasant population. Barring poor nesting success, both the fall pheasant and waterfowl prospects look excellent.
I wish I could report the same for North Dakota. We have been in contact with the folks where we hunt in central North Dakota and they had experienced a very harsh winter with winds and snow that at times stacked the drifts a dozen feet high.
Pheasants are down in that area and, with few birds making it to nest this spring, prospects are not the best. During the past four or five years the pheasant density had increased dramatically but it takes only one hard winter to bring it back to earth.
Standing water is at a premium and, with a good hatch, the fall waterfowl season could prove lucrative. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
Back in 2008 when the Nelson/Knowles Stewardship Program was up for review, intense negotiations were held to ensure that hunters, fishers, trappers and outdoor recreational users would have access to land purchased through the program. Language was penned into the legislation to allow land purchased with Stewardship Funds be open to hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor recreation. Where there was a reason to close the land to public use, such as safety or environmental concerns, it could be closed.
We all know that it’s much easier to close something than to get something open after it has been closed. The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Wisconsin Waterfowlers Association, Hunters Rights Coalition and many other outdoor groups fought hard to get this into the renewal language and succeeded. Without their support, the Stewardship Program would probably not have been extended as written.
Now, through late night backroom negotiations, the Joint Finance Committee added some verbiage to the budget bill that would eliminate this requirement. This is a direct slap in the face to all outdoor advocates. This adds to the stream of broken promises that have occurred during the last few years including intended raids on segregated stamp funds and the promise to have the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources appointed by the Natural Resource Board.
Keep all this in mind when the next series of elections comes around. Elected officials should represent the people who voted for them and not the special interest groups that line their campaign chests.
The fifth Friends of the Willow River Annual Canoe Race will be held on Saturday, July 11, starting at 11:30 a.m. There are five racing groups: youth (age 18 and younger), parent/child (14 and younger), single person kayak, adult (age 19 and older) and master’s long race.
The races will start and end at the boat landing in Mary Park. Prizes will be awarded and a great time will be had by participants and viewers alike.
For more information, contact Mike Kelly at 246-4109.
Tom’s WPA of the Week
Bierbrauer WPA and Drought
Bierbrauer Waterfowl Production Area is a 275-acre WPA managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the St. Croix Wetland Management District.
The WPA is located one mile east of Star Prairie on 235th Street and was purchased with federal duck stamp dollars, which duck hunters are required to buy and people interested in conservation are encouraged to buy to support habitat protection. The WPA surrounds a 50-acre state wildlife area resulting in a 325-acre block of prairie wetland habitat. Many species of wildlife, including mallards, blue winged teal, trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, northern harriers, boblinks and meadowlarks, can be seen on the WPA.
If you have driven past the Bierbrauer WPA recently, you probably noticed the effects of drought on local wetlands. The small seasonal wetland along 235th Street is almost dry, except for a small pool of water in the middle of the basin.
This seasonal wetland has a very small watershed that provides overland runoff to the basin, mainly from snowmelt and rain. These seasonal basins, which are typically less than two feet deep, are extremely productive and very important for many species of wildlife. Although the lack of water may cause many species of wildlife, especially waterfowl, to move elsewhere to nest, feed and raise their young, drought is part of the natural cycle for a wetland and the many species that depend on them.
Many species of plants found in wetlands are dependent on varying water levels and even mudflats to germinate and grow. These species, such as arrowhead, soft stem bulrush, beggar’s ticks, smartweed, various species of sedges and many others produce seeds, roots and cover which are valuable for wildlife.
As you look at the drying wetlands, you can often see concentric rings of different species of vegetation. As the water level in the wetland decreases during the spring and early summer, changing moisture levels, temperature and other factors may favor certain species of plants which begin to grow around the current edge of the water.
Others such as soft stem bulrush may even grow in very shallow water. Many of these seeds lay dormant in the mud for years until the right conditions cause them to germinate.
As moisture conditions change and hopefully the drought we have been experiencing for the last few years comes to an end, water will return to these basins. The scattered vegetation in these re-flooded basins will create a “hemi-marsh,” which is approximately 50 percent open water and 50 percent vegetation. This is one of the most productive times for a wetland.
As the cycle of wet and dry years continues, the only thing that will remain constant in these wetland basins is that they will always be changing.
For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District and a map of the WPAs, check out our Web site at ww.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/.
Warden Paul’s Corner
With rough fish entering the shallows, many people are starting to bow fish.
Equipment requirements for legal bow fishing include arrows equipped with a metal barbed tip that is attached to the bow with a tethered line that allows for retrieval of the arrow and the fish. Rough fish taken by bow cannot be released or returned to the water.
Rough fish cannot be left on the shores or banks of the waterway where the rough fish were harvested. Crossbows are illegal for bow fishing.
Bow fishing is legal in all of St. Croix County lakes except within Willow River State Park. Bow fishing is allowed during the day and/or night with the aid of lights. Remember to be courteous to homeowners when using lights at night on the lakes.
For any questions or to report a violation, call Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.