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Heartland Outdoors

New park reservations for Iowa

Wed, February 16, 2011

DES MOINES – The new system for Iowa state park campsite, cabin and lodge reservations will debut Thursday at 7 a.m. central time at

The system will require users to create a new account, unless the user had an account on the national website, Reserve America.

The previous system was shut down on Feb. 3 in order to make the switch.  All reservations made for 2011 under the old system have been transferred to the new system. 

“Our customers will notice a few differences.  We worked pretty aggressively to get this new system ready to take Memorial Day weekend reservations so there will be some added features coming later,” said Sherry Arntzen, with the DNR’s state parks bureau.  “If a customer needs to change a reservation this year, or if they need to cancel a reservation on the day they were scheduled to arrive, they will need to go through the call center.  For this year, making changes through the call center will be assessed the lower $5 online change fee rather than the higher phone center fee.”

The call center has the same number, 1-877-427-2757, and will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. central time, from Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  The call center will be closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  Once the online system is running, it will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make reservations.

The three month window for the Memorial Day weekend for a Friday arrival is February 27. 

“I would recommend that users who want to make a reservation for Memorial Day weekend get familiar with the new system and set up their account before the time comes to book a campsite,” Arntzen said.  “One change with the new system is that if one person makes reservations for multiple people, they will need to have addresses for the individuals on the site.”

Customers who have bookmarked the previous reservation system website will be redirected to the new site.


Indiana has record deer harvest

Wed, February 16, 2011

Another deer hunting season, another record

Indiana hunters established a record for the third straight year by reporting an overall harvest of 134,004 deer taken during the 2010 seasons.

Reports submitted from 461 check stations across Indiana topped the 2009 total by 1,252 deer, a 1 percent increase, and bettered the 2008 total by more than 4,200 deer.

“We’re seeing a healthy number of deer throughout much of the state, and that is translating into success by our hunters during the hunting season” DNR deer biologist Chad Stewart said.

The 2010 total was bolstered by a record 80,997 antlerless deer and 53,007 antlered deer, the second-highest antlered total in the 60-year history of regulated deer hunting in Indiana.

The results came despite a slight dip in deer hunting license sales. Hunters purchased 268,485 licenses in 2010 compared to 271,951 in 2009. Resident firearms tags again topped the list (102,626), making up 38 percent of the license sales.

The deer hunting season began in urban deer zones on Sept. 15, followed by a two-day youth only weekend (Sept. 25-26) and the early archery (Oct. 1-Nov. 28), firearms (Nov. 13-28), muzzleloader (Dec. 4-19) and late archery (Dec. 4 to Jan. 2) segments.

Hunters harvested 86,241 deer in the firearms segment; 26,342 in early archery (including urban zones); 17,400 in muzzleloader; and 1,684 in late archery. There were 2,337 deer taken during the two-day youth season.

Modern-era records were set in 29 counties, and another 20 counties showed harvest increases from the 2009 season. Thirteen counties set records for the second straight year.

“Hunters are continuing to put up high harvest numbers and see a lot of success in many northern counties” Stewart said.

The biggest year-over-year harvest increases were reported in Montgomery (up 356 over 2009), Fountain (up 289), LaGrange (up 253), Pulaski (up 184) and Putnam (up 180). The biggest year-over-year harvest declines were reported in Harrison (down 311), Brown (down 279), Perry (down 202), Steuben (down 154), and Jackson (down 141).

Harvest totals in the northeast Indiana corridor of Steuben, Noble and Kosciusko counties ranked first, fourth and second, respectively, for the second straight year despite Steuben and Kosciusko both reporting declines from their 2009 totals.

Hunters bagged 3,948 deer in Steuben, down from 4,102 the year before but still enough to make Steuben the top harvest county in Indiana for the sixth straight year. Hunters reported 3,578 deer in Kosciusko, followed by Switzerland (3,400), Noble (3,323), and Franklin (3,054).

The male to female ratio of the overall harvest was 50:50 for the third straight year. Male deer (antlered deer and button bucks) made up 50 percent of the total harvest.

The complete report of the 2010 season is online at along with reports from 2000 through 2009.

Compiling deer harvest records is a thorough process that begins in October when check stations are supplied with report forms, metal tags and envelopes for submitting carbon copies of hunter-reported deer.

“The deer check process takes a while to unfold, but it has been done the same way for years, allowing us to look back and compare this year’s data with previous years, which is extremely valuable,” Stewart said. “It may be frustrating not to receive updates throughout the year, but that is the trade-off we make by using the current system.”

Some check stations submit reports on a weekly basis as requested; a few wait until the end of the season to return the information at one time. Sometimes, DNR personnel visit individual check stations to retrieve harvest records that have not been turned in.

The DNR makes every attempt to collect harvest records from each check station in order to accurately compile and analyze data before announcing a total deer harvest figure.

As check station reports are received at the DNR Bloomington field office, staff begins to enter data. The volume increases dramatically once the firearms season begins. Additional staff from other locations is called upon to assist in entering everything from tag numbers assigned to reported deer to the sex of the deer, equipment used by the hunter, and the county where the deer was taken.

The information is merged into one data base in early to mid-February. The pink carbon copies are sorted by county and stored in Bloomington for three years. The data base is then checked for accurate spelling and to ensure there are no duplicate tag entries.


Late-season ice fishing tips

Tue, February 15, 2011


We are entering what many ice-anglers declare to be their favorite time of the year for ice-fishing. The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and the fish are really starting to eat. During mid-winter there can be a time when getting bites can be kind of a tough deal. From now until the end of ice-fishing season, bites will be more frequent and your nose is going to stay a lot warmer when you’re on the ice. Here’s how you can get in on the action.

First thing, and this is very important: Don’t push your luck on the ice. Know when enough’s enough. Falling through the ice is no fun! If you’re not sure of ice conditions, get sure. Just like you don’t need to be the first person on the ice early in the season, you don’t need to be the last person out there late in the season. Use common sense. If no one else is out there, there’s probably a reason for that. Be safe!

Also, know the rules. The regulations change from state to state. In some areas walleye, bass, and northern pike season is open year ‘round, in other places those seasons close at some point. Most areas allow you to catch and keep panfish all the time, but nonetheless, make sure you know what you can fish for.

Now for catching the fish. Just as in open water fishing, it’s important to figure out what the fish are doing and where they’re doing it. The “where” part is really important. I’ve caught late season perch through the ice in South Dakota in five feet of water, and a couple days later in North Dakota in twenty five feet of water. Different lakes have different habitats and the fish behave differently. Pop a bunch of holes until you find where the fish are.

Once you find them, you’ve got to put a bait down there. When you can see the fish on your depth-finder, it’s a good idea to keep the bait a little bit above them. Fish can see up better than they can see down, so they’re more likely to move up for a bait than to move down. As you drop your bait to the fish, keep an eye on how they’re reacting to it. If they aggressively move up to meet it, that’s good. It’s a sign that they’re willing biters.

If they don’t move up to it, lower it slowly to them. Don’t let it fall right down to them, lower it slowly, stop it, shake it a bit, then lower it more. Eventually you’ll have to lower the bait right into their face. If they still won’t eat it, try a different bait. If that doesn’t work, move to other holes to find more active fish. Don’t spend too much time fishing for fish that don’t want to eat. There will be others nearby that are willing to eat.

I fish mostly from my Frabill Commando shelter this time of year. I like to put the cover up just enough to block the wind. I like the feel of fishing in the open this time of year.

In most places perch and other panfish will be the most sought after species this time of year. All you’ll need for bait are a few of Bro’s Gill-Getters, Slug-Bugs, and Blood Worms, some small Buck-Shot Rattle spoons, and some Gulp! Minnow Heads, Gulp! Maggots, and Gulp! Earthworms to tip the spoons and jigs with. Keep moving until you find the fish, give them what they want to eat, and enjoy your time on the ice during the late ice-fishing season.

See all Jensen’s newest episodes of Fishing the Midwest television at


DU opposes federal spending cuts

Tue, February 15, 2011

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Feb. 14, 2010-Ducks Unlimited, along with other conservation organizations, is opposing proposed spending cuts in conservation programs released this week by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The cuts would affect wetlands conservation to the tune of nearly $2 billion, including the loss of $47 million in funding for North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants. The proposed cuts would eliminate all NAWCA funding and also eliminate the match for a total loss of $200 million in habitat work.

“The cuts being proposed could imperil waterfowl populations and the future of the waterfowl hunting tradition in America,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “What’s being proposed by the House Appropriations Committee will cripple conservation efforts as we know them,” Hall said. “Elimination of NAWCA, an 81% reduction of acquisition for refuges and seriously reducing many other programs so vital to our mission are things DU strongly opposes.”

Hall said DU is especially concerned about specific areas of the cuts, all of which will adversely affect waterfowl hunters and other conservationists:

NAWCA grants-NAWCA is the primary source of funding for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and has generated more than $3 billion in habitat across North America during the past 20 years. NAWCA grants, along with significant matching funds from the private sector, have helped conserve more than 20 million acres of habitat in North America. These are acres critical to waterfowl, water, conservation and people.

The budget actions would also prohibit much needed efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to important shallow wetlands, including those in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota, also known as America’s “Duck Factory” because of its importance to breeding waterfowl.

Funds for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land acquisitions in the Prairie Pothole Region for waterfowl conservation.

State Wildlife Grants that provide more than $90 million to conserve wildlife habitat.

The NAWCA grants are especially valuable, Hall said, as evidenced by the president’s budget recommendations that were released today in which the administration has requested increasing NAWCA funds.

“If these cuts and actions take place,” Hall said, “waterfowl, waterfowl hunters and wetlands conservation would lose in a big way. In short, these actions would adversely affect all of us who care about, and have funded, wetlands and waterfowl conservation. We should remember, conservation in America pays for itself through the economic return from hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.”


Hunter safety class in Toluca

Mon, February 14, 2011

The Toluca Sportsman’s Club will be offering a hunter safety course on Thursday, March 17, Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19. 

The class will be held at the Toluca American Legion.  Registration will start at 5:30 on Thursday.  The class will run from 6PM to 9PM on Thursday, 6PM to 9:30PM on Friday, and 8AM to 2 PM on Saturday. 

This class is required to obtain a hunting license in Illinois.  Class size is limited to 25 participants on a first come-first serve basis. People interested in attending the class should contact Jim Clanin at 815-228-9695 to reserve a spot.


Missouri elk pass first tests

Fri, February 11, 2011


PINEVILLE, Ky.–Elk earmarked to form the nucleus of a restored herd in southeastern Missouri have passed one of several health tests necessary before coming to their new home.

A veterinary health workup of elk Jan. 25 marked the start of a 90-day quarantine period to ensure the animals’ health. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) worked with the Missouri State Veterinarian and the Missouri Department of Agriculture to develop the elk health protocols, which are more stringent than any that apply to livestock brought into Missouri.

MDC worked with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFW) to trap the elk. The two agencies are conducting veterinary tests at a holding pen on the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky.

In order to draw blood and administer bovine tuberculosis (TB) tests, the elk are run though a squeeze chute like those used when working cattle. All the elk passed the first round of TB testing.

“That is a good first step,” said MDC Resource Scientist Jason Sumners. “We will retest in late April to be double sure they are TB-free. In the meantime, we have several other tests to perform to be sure the elk we bring to Missouri are healthy.”

Sumners said the next test veterinarians will perform on Missouri’s elk is for chronic wasting disease (CWD). He expects that work, which uses tiny tissue samples from lymph nodes on the animals’ hindquarters, to be done in March.

“This test is not yet certified by veterinary health officials,” said Sumners. “In fact, there is no approved live test for CWD. However, this is the best tool we have to detect CWD in live animals, and we feel it is a prudent measure to protect Missouri’s wild and captive deer.”

Testing for other diseases currently is underway on blood samples. These tests will check for anaplasmosis, brucellosis, bovine viral diarrhea, vesicular stomatitis, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, and blue tongue.

Sumners said the handling necessary for these tests is extremely stressful for the elk.

“These are truly wild animals,” said Sumners. “They do their best to avoid people, and they can injure themselves or others as they try to avoid being herded into confined spaces. We try to minimize this danger, but a few injuries are inevitable.”

Sumners said MDC has had to euthanize several elk because of injuries and from capture myopathy, a condition that affects elk and white-tailed deer when they are trapped and handled. Forty-one elk remain in the holding pen in Kentucky.

All elk that die at the holding pen are examined to determine the cause of death. They also are tested for CWD.

Sumners said that approximately 10 percent of wild elk cows in Kentucky die each year from natural causes. Most of this annual mortality occurs during the winter. While losses among the captured elk have been higher than natural winter mortality, Sumners said this was expected.

“Any time you trap elk or deer you lose some,” he said. “I expect the losses to decrease as the remaining animals settle down.”

Sumners said wild elk’s sensitivity to human disturbance is one of the reasons MDC restricts access to the holding pen in Kentucky and will continue to do so while the animals are in a holding pen at Peck Ranch Conservation Area this spring. Elk viewing will be unrestricted once the elk are released into the elk-restoration zone.

“We would like to allow public viewing,” said Sumners, “However, other states’ experience has shown the importance of limiting as much as possible. Even a few people around a holding pen make elk skittish. We have to keep that kind of disturbance to a minimum for the animals’ safety.”

Missouri’s elk have been fitted with ear tags and with tiny, implanted identification tags like those on pets. Each elk brought to Missouri also will receive a radio collar before being released into the 346-square mile elk-restoration zone covering parts of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties. This will enable MDC to track their movements.


Illinois Audubon buys salamander habitat

Fri, February 11, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, IL, February 2011—The Illinois Audubon Society announces its purchase of 40 acres in Pulaski County to protect spotted dusky salamanders.  These salamanders are quite rare in Illinois and classified as an Endangered Species by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board.

Known as Hartman Spring Natural Area Inventory Site, the parcel is one of the two known highest populated spotted dusky salamander habitats in Illinois. The second site is Chestnut Hills Nature Preserve, also located in Pulaski County. According to Illinois Department of Natural Resources herpetologist Scott Ballard, “These sites provide perfect habitat for this small and rare amphibian that prefers inhabiting the spring seep area between the clay and gravel interface in these wooded areas.”

“Private non-profit land conservation organizations like Illinois Audubon can provide timely and effective conservation of our precious natural resources,” explained Tom Clay, Executive Director of the Society, “we were pleased to partner with the Department of Natural Resources and preserve another important piece of Illinois.”  Designation as a Nature Preserve and eventual state ownership are included in future plans for the property.

The mission of the Illinois Audubon Society is to promote the perpetuation and appreciation of native plants and animals and the habitats that support them.  Founded in 1897, the Society is Illinois’ oldest non-profit conservation organization with over 2200 members and 20 statewide chapters.  Since the mid-1970’s, Illinois Audubon has invested over $5 million to protect more than 3,000 acres of Illinois land and water.