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Anglers still cast lines and hunters head to deer camp each year, but the percentage of Minnesotans who hunt or fish is shrinking.

To help grow the number of hunters and anglers, organizations can apply for grants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Groups that will help move people through the process of becoming hunters and anglers, or of continuing to hunt or fish, are encouraged to apply for funding,” said Jeff Ledermann, DNR angler recruitment and retention supervisor. “We give priority to programs for underserved audiences, new immigrant populations and those with an ongoing impact rather than one-time events.”

Types of activities could include fishing and hunting educational programs, clinics, workshops, and camps, and funding for fishing and hunting equipment and transportation.

Groups must apply for this round of grants by Jan. 19, 2017. The grant program began this year and this is the third round of grants. In this round, awards will range from $5,000 to $50,000. The DNR anticipates a total of $100,000 will be available. Third-round projects must be completed in Minnesota and be finished by June 30, 2018.

New in this round, there is no longer a requirement of a funding match. Organizations are nonetheless encouraged to include a match in their project that can be funding, or donated labor, materials or services. Match amounts will be considered in the selection process.

“The grant program began this year and the first two rounds were competitive, with more than 50 applicants,” Ledermann said. “The groups we chose shared a commitment to ongoing support for helping people enjoy the outdoors through hunting or fishing.”

To learn more about the DNR’s work in recruitment, retention and reactivation, and to find grant application requirements, visit www.mndnr.gov. Details about the grant and a list of award winners can be found at the link under “Help others discover.”

I have stated many times in past columns the importance of getting our youth involved in the sports of hunting and fishing. These grants offer local sportsmen’s groups a chance to do something about this and introduce folks who may not otherwise be aware of what a great resource we have in this great state of ours. By taking the initiative to do this we may introduce not only our youth but a lot of adults to these sports. There are many adults who may not be aware of the pleasure you can have by just sitting on the bank of a nearby lake watching a bobber bouncing lazily in the ripples of a soft summer breeze.

Hunting can be a little more expensive than fishing but after the initial investment it can be enjoyed to one extent or another on one of the many Wildlife Management Areas that we have available to us right in our area. Whether it be small game hunting for squirrels and rabbits or seeking bigger game like deer; it can all be found right here in our own backyard. Waterfowl hunting is another great sport that has seemingly been abandoned by many die-hard hunters as they grow older. The pheasant numbers have slowly been on the rise the last few years; thanks mainly to the milder winters we have been experiencing.

There is still the loss of CRP land that is being plowed under and planted in the search for more and more crop land to contend with and I feel that this is one reason for the drop in hunting interest. It is a fact that the smaller farms are being bought off by bigger farmers. As these farmers reach retirement age and have nobody to pass the farm on to they sell. This is something that we cannot control unless the government makes set aside land monetarily appealing enough to get folks to buy into it.

Fishing, on the other hand, can be enjoyed by anyone who buys a license, a small amount of fishing equipment and finds a spot on the shore to relax and wet a line. We have a few fishing piers around not only Albert Lea but also on Beaver and St. Olaf Lakes in the New Richland/Ellendale areas as well.

Whatever the sport we embrace we must share it with our youth and show them why we enjoy the outdoors. Our Fountain Lake Sportsman’s Club sponsors the Take a Kid Fishing event each year and on this day even mom, dad and the grandparents can fish without a license. I have witnessed this many times and it seems as if the adults have as much fun as the kids on this day.  

Until next time; Pheasant season runs until the 1st of January and small game for squirrel and rabbit goes until February 28th while the archery season for deer ends on December 31st. We still have open water so the opportunity to do a little fishing is still there.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Take a little time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.

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