Mower County residents hit the hills for hunting

Published 8:25 am Thursday, September 30, 2010

With fall officially here, deer hunting is now underway — and several other hunting seasons are just around the corner.

The archery season for deer opened Sept. 18 and runs through Dec. 31. During that time, the firearm season also opens Nov. 6 and runs through Nov. 14. It encompasses two weekends again this year. Muzzleloader season runs from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12.

Although it is much too early for the DNR to start looking at deer harvest statistics for this year, it is well documented that the whitetail population is close to where it needs to be in Mower County, according to Jeanine Vorland, DNR area wildlife manager. She said the numbers were slightly down in Mower County last year, but the overall population in Minnesota is still high, and nearby counties, such as Houston, still have large deer populations.

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The DNR estimates wildlife populations through detailed computer modeling combined with professional judgment. Factors involved in the estimates include last year’s harvest, general sightings, farmer reports of crop grazing, vehicle collisions and predation, according to Vorland. She said the DNR has been experimenting with spotlighting during the winter nights to get more accurate numbers. However, Mower County has not yet employed this method.

Aside from deer, waterfowl season opens Oct. 2. According to Vorland, several species of migratory ducks are moving through now.

Ducks Unlimited offers hunters a high-tech feature to optimize the hunting season. On its website,, visitors can look at migratory maps that are frequently updated. The organization also offers hunting tips, gun-dog training resources and other helpful things for hunters.

Pheasants, arguably the most popular upland bird in the Midwest, are open for hunting beginning Oct. 16 in Minnesota. For the past several years, the Mower County chapter of Pheasants Forever has been very involved in habitat restoration. It has restored two large areas near Austin that are open for public hunting. It plans to purchase a third piece of acreage that is already restored.

However, throughout many years the pheasant population has declined. A major factor in the decline has been the conversion of land that was in the Conservation Reserve Program back into farm land, according to Vorland.

“You don’t see too many 20-acre grasslands anymore,” Vorland said. “And it’s easy for predators to kill pheasants in narrow grass-strips and small areas.”

Vorland said captive raised pheasants do not help the wild population and that restoration projects are the best solution to the decline. Yet this year’s population should be small because pheasant chicks struggle with wet conditions.

Perhaps the most overlooked season is small game (rabbits and squirrels), Vorland said. It’s also a good way to teach kids about hunting and firearms because very little equipment and preparation is involved. Small game are currently open for hunting through Feb. 28.

For more information on hunting dates and laws, visit or pick up the latest hunting and trapping regulations booklet, which can be found at most hunting outfitters.