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home : columns : columns May 25, 2016

6/11/2014 2:24:00 PM
Wood ducks and hen mallards need more protection

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

I think the time is ripe to start lobbying for wood ducks and mallards. Nope, they're not endangered species but if my observations are accurate it's time to roll back the liberalized hunting regulations on them.
During current Minnesota DNR Commissioner Landwehr's tenure we've seen the hen mallard fall hunt bag limit increase from one to two per day and the wood duck bag limit increase from two to three per day. Hunters liked it and the commissioners popularity among opening day duck hunters soared.
Well, not so for this old duck hunter. Two woodies and one mistakenly shot hen mallard per day, double that after the opener in possession, are all we should need to be happy hunters.
Both species of ducks are well known for their nesting tradition, that is, they return to nearly the same place to nest each year. At least that is true for the first place they try. Heavy hunting pressure and too liberalized bag limits and our local population suffers. Combine that with habitat loss or weather induced pressure and we gradually lose the breeding population of our two most popular local ducks, the woody and the greenhead.
It won't be long now, just a matter of a month or so, and the flyway councils will be meeting in far off cities to draw up a framework for this fall's hunt. After that each state will make some final decisions within those federal guidelines and voila, we've got our rules and reg's for 2014.
We've seen some really good changes to our local fall hunts for wildlife. An earlier season duck hunt to allow the taking of blue wing teal before they leave the state was a great choice, albeit long overdue. That also reduced the opening day pressure on woodies and mallards. But soon, the blue wings are gone and the pressure on woodies and mallards steps up.
Fortunately, a mallard hen can quite easily be differentiated from a feathered out drake by experienced hunters (but not youthful hunters early in September). Let's use that to protect our local mallards.
Duck hunters, you can step up and be the conscience of the flyway once again. Let's "lobby" the DNR to limit the local take of woodies and hen mallards to two per day woodies, one per day hen mallard. If they hear from enough of you I'm guessing they'll change. Only a desk-bound, computer-staring, wildlife manager can not see what is going on. Let's tell them now before the seasons are set.
The Belgian Malinois
I first heard about the wonderful Belgian Malinois (Mal-in-wah) when our son Dan (career Army, Ft. Bragg, NC), his wife Lisa and son Remington took over foster care of one of them. Being prepped for military duty, trainers found he couldn't quite meet the rigid military standards so he needed a permanent home. They fostered him for nearly a year.
They continually praised their temporary adoptee for its gentleness with five-year-old Remy. Then they passed it along to its life home, not an easy task.
Then came the June 2014 issue of National Geographic with a lead article on Hero Dogs and the Malinois. I was in love with them, albeit from a distance. It made me understand why I chose veterinary medicine as my career and made me wonder, why did I retire?
If you are a dog lover, as I, and you get a chance, pick up a copy of National Geographic or try to find it online. If I didn't have a big, loveable chocolate lab I'd be searching for a Malinois. A military drop out would be fine with me.
More outdoor sightings
As we sat on our point at Lake Amelia near Glenwood recently, the three of us, Dianne, brown dog and I, he suddenly turned his head to focus on a loon. Only 50 yards or so away, the big male had quietly surfaced and was sitting there, lowering its head into the water occasionally. I soon realized he was putting his well-adapted eyes below the surface, looking for small fish to feed on. No unproductive dives for this guy until he spotted something below the surface.
It was the first time a loon was close enough to me that I could see what he was doing. Always thought before they were simply cleaning themselves with their head movements, foolish me.
Another revelation came to me last week as the big pileated woodpecker returned to some trees alongside our cabin. Woody, as I now call him because of the cartoon character named after the species, was looking for insects. Then I realized, the longitudinal series of finger sized holes in the tree weren't put there without reason. He followed them up the tree, examining each hole for bugs that might be hiding in them. The big woodpecker had essentially set up a trap line of holes in that tree and was checking them out for lunch.
Steve and Deb Freking, our neighbors on the north hill of Windom stopped by the other evening. Steve told me of the big bald eagle that flew so low over their backyard he could see the top of the wings. He suspected it was checking out a life-like lawn ornament for dinner.
Nesting swan
Do you want a good outdoor viewing? Out at Wolf Lake, about a mile and a half east of McDonald's, sets a huge trumpeter swan on a muskrat house, head laid back over her body. I presume she is incubating some large eggs.
Get a look at her now, from the parking lot above, before she hatches and moves on to new outdoor viewing opportunities.

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