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From the reports that I have been hearing from duck hunters in our area of the state, hunting has been very good. Judging by the number of vehicles at the access on Pickerel Lake this past Saturday morning there were a lot of hunters on the lake. My grandson Trevor and his party did quite well on Saturday and both he and his brother Taylor hunted on Sunday with good success.

We are fortunate to live in an area that has many lakes and wetlands that provide plenty of habitat for waterfowl. There are also many Wildlife Management Areas in the county that give sportsmen access to hunting land not only for waterfowl, but for deer, pheasant and small game hunters alike.

In our quest to hunt ducks and pheasants we shouldn’t overlook the value of small game such as squirrels and rabbits, especially when it comes to our youth. Looking back to my youth I can remember many times when I’d head out into the slough north of town armed only with my trusty Red Ryder BB gun and a vivid imagination. I knew that I wasn’t about to take down any critters larger than a sparrow, but it sure was fun to pretend.

As I grew older I was asked if I’d like to tag along with my two uncles, Harvey and Orville, along with cousins Tom and Bob to do a little pheasant hunting. Uncle Orv said he had an old .410 double barrel shotgun that he could let me use. This one particular instance was in November and we walked the corn field that stood next to where the disc golf course in Bancroft Bay Park is today. I believe my cousin Tom and his dad, Harvey, got a couple of pheasants that day and although I didn’t get a shot off I can still remember how much fun I’d had and how proud I was that they had asked me along. There were other times when we hunted for squirrel and rabbit in that same woods where the disc golf course is now.

These were fun times that not only had a great influence on a young aspiring outdoorsman, but  left many lasting memories that still bring a smile to my face whenever I think about it.

With the continuing loss of CPR land due to land owners choosing not to renew contracts and/or choosing to tile wetlands and plow under grasslands, the following news release from the DNR is a welcome breath of fresh air.

DNR acquires new forest lands for wildlife habitat and public use

Hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and wildlife populations now have 304 more acres of state forest land available in the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest, in three southeastern Minnesota counties. 

Acquiring these lands is a part of a plan by the DNR’s Forestry Division to consolidate the fragmented hardwood forest in southeastern Minnesota. The long-term goal is to acquire 4,700 acres in the area to protect rare forests. A newly acquired 64-acre addition to the Richard J. Dorer Hardwood State Forest near Winona is a great example.

George and Margaret Sainsbury homesteaded the property in 1876 and raised 14 children on the site. Their descendants sold the family homestead along with a public access to the DNR this June.  “This property has many outstanding natural features,” said DNR Forester Jim Edgar. “It includes mature hardwood forest, old field tree plantings, and a grand view of the Mississippi River from its hilltop bluff.  Also located here are an old stone retaining wall and a long-unused bluff top quarry. The quarry was used many years ago to provide materials for the construction of nearby roads and river improvements.”

The purchase of the 304 acres over the past two years was made possible with funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment, which was approved by voters in 2008.  The total cost was $1.2 million.

State forests: All state forests are open to public hunting and trapping, as well as other uses such as hiking, wildlife watching, and cross country skiing. State forests not only provide wood resources for Minnesota, they are also critical to providing food, shelter, and habitat for wildlife species. Of the 3.1 million acres of state forest land in the state, only 49,000 acres are in southeastern Minnesota.

State forest locations: Those looking to find existing public hunting, fishing, and trail access can use the DNR Recreation Compass feature online.

Recreation Compass maps of the newly purchased state forest lands will be available after managers complete posting and developing the lands over the next several months.

The leaves in the northern part of the state are at full peak or past but you can still take a drive down a local country road and enjoy the view as the colors are definitely beautiful in our area of the state.

Please take a little time to remember those who served, those who are serving now and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today. 

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