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home : sports / outdoors : sports/outdoors Thursday, October 19, 2017

10/3/2017 2:33:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
It's Fall, And The Hunt Is On!

By Harland Hiemstra

Grouse Hunting Photo Courtesy MN DNR
With its brilliant displays of color, weather that's neither too hot nor too cold, crisp apples fresh off the tree and college football, fall already has a lot going for it. But for many Minnesotans, autumn also is the season for a tradition that's as old as humans themselves. Hunting.

Close to half a million Minnesotans take to the fields and woods and waters each fall. The state has about 30 species of animals that are commonly hunted, ranging from deer, elk and bears to rabbits and squirrels, as well as upland birds such as pheasants, and migratory birds like ducks and geese.

People hunt for a variety of reasons, says Mike Kurre, an avid hunter himself who also works to get others involved in the sport as the hunting and angling mentorship coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Many do it to spend time outdoors with friends or family. Others hunt to continue a tradition passed down from their parents and grandparents. Some go for the satisfaction of providing their own meat or the challenge of outwitting a wild animal

"Here's a healthy activity that's fun, it can provide quality time outdoors with friends and family, it offers good exercise, and it can even put food on the table," Kurre says. "What's there not to like about all that?"

And with nearly 1,500 wildlife management areas encompassing nearly 1.3 million acres of land open to public hunting across the state, you'd be hard pressed to find any place with better opportunities. If you're new to hunting, though, there are some basic rules you need to know about and follow.

First, to hunt in Minnesota, you need the appropriate type of license. And to get a license, anyone born on or after January 1, 1980, needs a MN DNR Firearms Safety/Hunter Education Certification, or a Hunter Safety Education Certificate issued by another state. Making sure hunters are informed about safe handling of firearms and safe practices in the field is a major reason why hunting has grown into such a safe sport, with some studies indicating a person is more likely to be injured riding bicycle or playing tennis than while pursuing wild game.

Adults can take an online course to satisfy the safety training requirement. Youth 11 to 17 can take an online course, or better yet, find a classroom course nearby; a field day is required of youth to show that they're competent in the safe handling of a firearm. Youth 12 and under can hunt without the certification as long as they are accompanied by a licensed parent or guardian. Adults without the training also can get an Apprentice Hunter Validation, which allows them to hunt in the presence of a licensed hunter for up to two seasons before getting their certificate. More information on requirements, including online and classroom instruction, can be found at www.mndnr.gov.

Kurre strongly endorses the idea of novice hunters "apprenticing" with someone more experienced. That way a person can learn about finding game and understanding wildlife habits, as well as enjoying the social camaraderie of hunting, which is part of the fun. Partnering with a seasoned hunter also might lighten the burden of determining what gear (including an appropriate firearm) is needed for a particular type of game. More information on mentored hunting opportunities can be found at www.mndnr.gov/discover.

It's also important to find a suitable place to hunt. In addition to Wildlife Management Areas, hunting is allowed in most state forests, and on some Scientific and Natural Areas. DNR's website provides great information, and a mobile version of the DNR Recreation Compass can even be used on a smartphone to help hunters in the field make sure they stay on public lands and avoid trespassing: www.mndnr.gov/compass/mobile.

Finally, anyone planning to hunt in Minnesota should spend some time getting familiar with the

"Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations" booklet published each year by the DNR. It provides details on seasons and limits, spells out rules regarding appropriate firearms, safety, trespass and a host of other things to know. The free booklet is available in hard copy, online and through a smartphone app.




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