Refuge Friends and Volunteers, the crisp morning today reminded me that fall is right around the corner which means hunting season will soon begin. Several of our volunteers have helped us with waterfowl hunter bag checks and car counts in the past and we wanted to get on your calendars early. As of today, we are planning on conducting bag checks on the opening and re-opening days (Saturdays) in both MN and WI. Unfortunately, there is no coordination on these dates so we need to cover four Saturdays, Sept 25, Oct 2, 9, and 16. This is an early morning activity generally starting around 7:30 a.m. and ending by noon, you need to be comfortable talking to hunters, petting dogs, and identifying dead waterfowl. If you are up for that type of activity, please let me know which date(s) you are available.
We also need car counters for all of those dates. That job is exactly what it sounds like, you drive to each of the landings and count the vehicles parked there. This is an even earlier start, usually around 7:00 a.m. If we have enough interest, we will be able to split the routes so they take less time but generally plan on about 2 hours. Again, please let me know your available date(s) if this interests you.
For those who have no idea what a hunter bag check is, continue reading for a brief explanation, otherwise, thank you for considering the options and hope to see you soon!
Photo: volunteer Megan conducting a waterfowl hunter bag check
A bit of history: Waterfowl hunter bag checks have been conducted on parts of the refuge since the 1940’s (perhaps even earlier). Generally speaking, on the Winona District we focus on the most heavily used waterfowl access landings. In MN we conduct bag checks on the Prairie Island Dike, and Weaver and Wilcox Landings. In WI, we check the Nelson Dike (Hwy 25 between Wabasha and Nelson) and Buffalo City. The bag checker is assigned a landing and makes contact with hunters when they return at the end of their hunt. We answer questions, provide waterfowl identification books, and identify and count the birds they shot. We sometimes find an illegally harvested bird which gets turned over to a Law Enforcement Officer. Bag checks aren’t a scientific study but are a great way to talk to hunters on the refuge and get feedback about habitat conditions and the waterfowl migration.