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home : columns : columns June 28, 2016

3/12/2014 2:15:00 PM
Hunting forum is March 27 and a backyard death

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

It's been some 30 years since Kurt Fornan regularly walked the marshes, grasslands and bushy cover of Cottonwood and Jackson counties putting ducks and pheasants in his game bag. He loved the outdoor life like few other Windom area graduates (Class of '85) and somewhere along the way he must have decided, I want to make this my life's work.
Nowadays Kurt lives with his young family in Brookings, SD, doing just what he wanted to do, trying to save that hunting heritage he grew up enjoying. His e-mail information says he's the state of South Dakota Coordinator for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife, a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He'll come back home to spend an evening with us on Thursday, March 27, 7:30 p.m. talking about the recent changes in farm land usages in that state and the impact it is having on pheasants and waterfowl there.
I've seen it said that South Dakota has lost nearly ¾ of their pheasant population in just the last six years. Well, we will find out if that is true and if so what is happening out there that is so significant that the governor recently called for a one day pheasant summit.
Sure, we can simply say it's a tough streak of bad winters, cold, wet springs and hot dry summers all bundled nicely under the broad heading of climate change. But I suspect it's a lot more than that and Kurt will be here to give us his thoughts on the whole picture.
Kurt gave a keynote address at the Minnesota DNR's annual roundtable event in St. Paul this past January so he should be able to handle a group of locals like us for an evening. Please join us, it's free, compliments of the Cottonwood County Game and Fish League, and is a rare opportunity to hear from a Windom boy who has gained a lot of respect from his peers. We'll be at PJ's this year.
Deer population talks
The annual hunting forum, now in its 19th year, usually brings another speaker or two in for the two hour evening. This year, our area wildlife manager for the Windom DNR office, Randy Markl, will present an overview of the fall 2013 deer hunt for our local hunting zones.
Achieving a deer herd size that will suit deer hunters yet not antagonize land and homeowners (gardeners too!) is no simple task. It's mainly controlled by setting appropriate seasons and numbers of antlerless permits. That's the job of the area DNR wildlife group and I'm guessing it might not always be their favorite job.
Also, this year, talking about white-tail-deer, will be Denis Quarberg of Windom. It is a rare occurrence that we should have a state president of a major Minnesota outdoor group such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MNDHA) living here. But that's what Denis is and we sure didn't want to pass up this golden opportunity. He will give us an update on statewide issues of the MNDHA. Coming off last Saturday night's fun and very successful Des Moines Valley chapters fund-raising banquet, he should be pumped.
Bye, bye bunny
There was death in the deep snow last week, 25 feet from our back window. When I looked out at the backyard bird feeders one morning I saw a pool of fresh blood and the remnants of a cottontail rabbit. Sure, it could have been the end result of someone tiring of seeing bunnies chew up their expensive bushes and they got out the airgun.
But then again, my mind wandered, maybe it was something else that ravaged the rabbit.
So the backyard detective went out and examined the death scene. Such occurrences are common to him in the outdoors but usually not this, just a few feet from momma's kitchen window. He's watched hawks chase little brown birds back there in the old maple grove, and get a few over the years, but not something that put the bite on the bunny.
There wasn't much left of the rabbit. Some skin, fur, one partially eaten front leg and the digestive tract were all that remained. Pretty good sized stomach on whatever ate it, he surmised.
The work of a stray cat gone wild, grown big and very hungry certainly entered the detectives mind but then an owl, bobcat or fox seemed more exciting. Whatever finished off the bunny was light footed so wiley coyote, known more and more as a city dweller, was ruled out, likewise the neighbor's dog. They would have left deep footprints in the snow which weren't present.
A sizeable calling card, a fecal dropping, was left behind, right next to the departed. Normally a pretty good scatologist, this time the backyard detective couldn't solve the case based mainly on a pool of poop. All he could conclude from that exam was that it wasn't an avian that feasted that night, one of many cold winter nights this year.
Well, the detective was stumped. He'll need help from the public. Was it a hungry bobcat, a light footed fox or a big, feral tomcat that slept well the next day. The evidence was gone the next morning, buried under yet another four-inch blanket of snow.
New warming studies
Most of us tired long ago of this global warming turned climate change controversy. The Wall Street Journal recently claimed it is not conclusive science that our planet is warming beyond what expectations might be. It depends more on computer modeling and a model isn't always perfect science. One new study recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience shows warming greatly decreased. Duh! From 1970 to 1998 average temps increased .31° F per decade. From 1998 to 2012 the temp increased .072 per decade. And 2013-14 data isn't even in there.

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