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Confusion about Rice Lake on Minnesota River

23 posts in this topic

First, I have never hunted down on Rice Lake and I was wondering if anyone could tell me how to get down there and where you park? Secondly, if this area is refuge how can it be hunted. I guess I have always assumed that if something was a refuge that meant it was off limits to hunting. Are there areas that are clearly marked that are off limits and you need to avoid to be legal or is all of Rice lake open to public hunting? Any help in understanding this situation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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It is refuge, but Rice lake is open to waterfowl hunting... Rice Lake ONLY.

How to get to it.. The easiest way is to take 169 south across the Bloomington Ferry Bridge(over MN river), take the 1st exit(101 south?) that goes towards valley fair and shakopee. When you take that exit, take the 1st right(old 18?) at the intersection. The road will immediately go into a parking lot, and you can drive through the gate and continue on the road on the back side of the lot. Follow the road to the end and the access to Rice lake is on the right in the creek(about 100 yards to lake), and you can park on the opposite side of the road under the Bloomington ferry bridge.

Next year it is proposed that it will be a lottery area with only 4 hunting parties allowed daily. It has not been accepted yet, and I hope its not the way its set up. The way they are planning on the lottery is to apply in advance through the mail for 3 different dates and thats it for the season. The hunters names in the party would have to be put on the application and couldnt be changed... I'm sorry, I'm not sure who's work schedule is going to be open, or what the weather is going to be in october when I have to apply in July.

I will agree, there is need for change down there in the early season because of the pass shooters(sky busters) because of so many lost birds... but I think that is better dealt with by eliminating the pass shooters and only allow the hunters who are on the water responsably(sp?) shooting, and retreiving their birds.

I cant recall the guys name I talked to at the US fish and wildlife place, but he is the one directly behind turning this into a lottery area. He was very willing to listen to my thoughts on the issue and he was open to suggestions. He also suggested that they want to make any applicant come in and do a waterfowl identification test before being allowed to hunt the area. I guess its not a bad idea, but it really sounds like a hassle to be able to hunt a maximum of 3 days on a body of water... that is if your drawn for the 3 days you applied for.

Sorry for turning this into a rant, I'm just not keen on the way they are intending on turning that into a lottery area. I get upset when there are irresponsable hunters around too that ruin the day for everyone and take bad shots and lose a few birds. I think the restrictions should be applied to those who are hunting in a poor mannor and crippling lots of birds they cant/wont try to retreive... In this case its shoreline pass shooters that stand along the tree line and shoot at birds 70-200 yards in the air. When they do hit a bird, they land at least 1/4 mile away 95% of the time.

I guess it only shows how a small group of irresposable hunters could, and eventually will ruin a great metro hunting opportunity for everyone.

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I talked to same guy, I think, the other day. The only way to improve Rice lake hunting is to greatly reduce the number of hunters. Personally, the 4 hunters is a terrific idea in my opinion. During the 80's I hunting Rice a few times a year but the crowding, skybusting and doofus factor drove me out. I would love to relive some old time memories next year with only 3 other parities. If they have a lottery system next year it will be early enought where you can plan ahead. If you draw out you know you will have a quality hunt.

Would you rather have 1 quality hunt or 4 terrible hunts where guys are 100 yards either side of you, skybusting, over calling, and being involved in a border-line dangeous situation? To me the answer is clear!

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Abrams.. its not that simple.

Yes, there are way too many people abusing the resource down there early in the season. Its rare that you see more than 8 boats on the lake now in the busiest times... that is the same as what would be allowed with the lottery, 2 boats per party.

He claims the pass shooters wouldnt be allowed, but do we really have the CO manpower to enforce it? I am sure the CO's will still be around at the access when you get off the water to check shells and guns, etc.. but theres a whole lot of cover surrounding that lake and it would take a heck of alot of manpower to track offenders down without a helicopter hovering above the lake we are trying to hunt.

Then a few weeks into the season the pheasant opener happens, and the pressure drops to nil a week before rifle opener.. so theres hardly 4 boats on the water anyways. Rifle opener and the 2nd weekend, somewhere in there the lake is usually rock solid. Either way the pressure isnt excessive anywhere near the firearms season.

No, I dont want to screw around with a lottery when there wasnt anyone hunting already.

Lets say fo example the weekend after opening duck season the pressure is the worst.. call it 10 boats on the lake with 3 hunters per boat(30 hunters). Most boats average 1-2 birds per hunter includng lost cripples.. so 60 birds harvested. Lets throw in another 10 pass shooters(skybusters) who cripple about 2 ducks each, sometimes retrieve 1.. so 20 birds. We have an accumilated 80 birds shot.

Ok, with the lottery we have 4 hunting parties with 4-6 people per party.. call it 16 hunters(max of 24). 16x4 birds each is 64 birds assuming most people will limit out with the quality of the body of water it is, and no pass shooters to skybust at birds to scare them away before they can get decoyed. The 64 birds/day average I betwill be very close, but does not account for the lost cripples that people dont seem to count towards their daily bag limit. So the allowed uncounted hunters within parties additional ducks, and lost accumilated cripples I am sure will put the harvest up to 80 birds/day easy, or about the same as it is now when birds are flying.

In the end it seems to me the same number of birds are going to be shot. All the lottery system is going to do is allow a quality hunt for a few lucky individuals, and cut everyone else off.

80 birds shot is 80 birds, it puts the same dent in the duck numbers wheather they are retrieved or not. The lack of enforcement down there is obvious when anyone hunting there at a busy time witnesses pass shooters hitting birds and making no effort to retrieve. I guarantee if they cracked down on many of those slobs and handed them a couple tickets(wanton waste, etc).. the pass shooting would be eliminated quickly and the DNR would get some extra funding.

I also hunted there in the 80's and that is irrelivant.. whats happening now is what has to be addressed.

This is just my opinion, and I think it should be heard because I do hunt the lake. I am not for the lottery in a big way also because its not layed out very well and there are lots of loose ends. Its excessively complicated and a burden, and its a lot of effort to hunt for just a couple days if your lucky.

I am not for a limited back-yard dream hunt, I just like to have something near home and accessable where I dont have to spend $35 in gas to go try to shoot a few birds. Some days are good, some days arent.. thats hunting.

If they wanted to have day-use type permits like the boundary waters that were 1st come 1st serve and you could hunt as long as you could get in on a permit, I might feel differently. Or better yet make 8 permits accessable a day.. 4 for morning, 4 for the afternoon with no limits of how many days. That sounds like a much better system to me earlier in the season when pressure is high. Mid season once the pressure drops(late october), there is no need for a lottery.

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So how about the Louisville Swamp unit? 15 minute drive down the road. Does anyone hunt down there? Is it as pressured as Rice Lake? Is the new lottery going to apply there too?

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I think it really is that simple! Place your name with the USFWS, write down some dates you want to hunt and hope you get drawn. I live 2 miles from there; nothing would be more convenient for me or my family. Yet, I will not hunt there under the current condition of things. I went there 2 or 3 times during the season to audit the number of cars and hunting conditions. On most times there were 15 or 20 trucks. One mid-October Saturday I went there and to my amazement there were 24 trucks at the access: how many were pass shooting (skybusting) or water hunting I have no idea.

What I do know is that lake is around 200 acres depending on the year. More that 5 or 6 groups and things start getting dangerous. Something needs to change; this lottery seems like a good idea. And I'm going to make my feeling know during the public comment period.

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Some of those vehicles are bowhunters, and sometimes some are hikers also. Sometimes its 1 boat with 3 people and eveyone drove separate... sometimes its a firing range of skybusters(weekend thing).

I still strongly think most of the issue will take care of itself if they eliminate pass shooting on the lake, and only allow hunters who are on the water.

Louisville Swamp... No, the lottery is not going to be applied there, there isnt any issues there right now and I dont think there ever will be. It can be a decent early season slough.. but once the local birds are gone there isnt much to shoot at.

I think what might be better for everyone who hunts Rice lake, is to discuss a plan that would work for the lake. The reason for the lottery in the 1st place is to protect the resource, not to cater to the hunters. I agree with that intellect.. the resource has to come 1st.

If I were to propose something off the top of my head now with the lottery system, I would propose sticking to the 4 parties hunting at a time splitting the day in half... so it would be 4 parties a.m. and p.m. (noon split) for the 1st 4 weekends and 3 weeks, after that period open the lake for the rest of the season because the pressure has gone down, or keep the lottery system on the weekends. Rather than having a 3 day hunt limit I would like to see 3 *shifts* open to a hunter per week. Cut the party max size down to 3 people, and 1 boat. Eliminate pass shooters(may hunt from waders if your on the waterline with decoys)... heck, even cut off the use of robotic decoys if they feel it would help(I think robotics just promote cleaner kills).

With that system, let there just be a party leader(permit holder) and decide who is going to be in the party(besides permit holder) in case substitutes happen. With that system also... it shouldnt be too difficult to be able to hunt the lake several times in the open water season.

The key to all of this is it eliminates the pass shooters(sky busters). There is nothing anyone can do about it if someone who draws a permit starts skybusting.

All i know is whatever change happens(even if they would close it) is going to be a huge burdon on the DNR trying to enforce it.

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I too hunt rice lake quite a bit, never on weekends and never during the first month of the season. In fact That Guy I think you and I have hunted it together a few times.

I agree something needs to change there. What are some other options besides a lottery system? How about a shell limit? Every time I'm out there there is always one group of guys (on the shoreline most of the time) just blasting away. Three boxs of shells later they go home empty handed. It is impossible to really decoys ducks on that lake early in the year because of people shooting too much.

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As I understand it the USFWS will be running the lottery and running things at the gate. No draw tag no hunting, it's that simple.

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After seeing the signs posted regarding the 2007 season I went to the NWR web site to see if they had any info on what's going on. There was nothing posted there. So I sent an email asking for some information. I received an automated response that someone would contact me, but I have not received any emails.

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Call the number posted on the signs at the parking area(near access). They will transfer your call to the guy that is trying to switch it to a lottery area. Unless something has happened in the last couple weeks, its not approved yet.

This has been in the works for a while. A CO informed me of the lottery earlier this year while fishing on the river(in conversation).. She(CO) wasnt in favor of the lottery either.

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At the risk of stirring it up, I'm going to post my two cents regarding Rice Lake. It's been two weeks since the end of the duck season, and I've contemplated what to say since I watched the season end on the shore of Rice Lake. There was a big crowd down there on the last afternoon. There was a lot of skybusting going on again, including several volleys fired at flocks of SWANS that happened by. (None were hit due to them being 1/2 mile up.) After watching a couple of geese get crippled and end up unretrieved, the sun finally set on the day and the season. Then I observed at least a dozen more shots fired after shooting hours, including some 20 minutes after sunset.

So I don't know what to make of this idea of more rules regarding Rice Lake. How about we just enforce the rules that already exist??? I mean, I read all the reports of the DNR flying airplanes and helicopters and spending who knows how much to catch deer baiting all over the countryside. Yet here in the metro area you have a relatively small area that could be better enforced while spending much less. I hunted Rice Lake a little more than half a dozen times this year. Not once did I see a DNR CO or any NWR folks.

I called the phone number on the sign at the launch to get more information about the special rules for next year. The lady I talked to said that the proposed rules are still in the works, and once they are done they will hold a public hearing to discuss them. She took down my phone # and email address, and once they have a date for the public hearing, they'll notify interested folks. If you want to get on the list, call them at 952-854-5900.

Again, how about we enforce the rules already in the books before we make new ones?

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I asked that very question during my conversation with the guy in charge of setting up the new rules. He said it didn't matter. Paraphrasing, he said all the enforcement in the world will not change some folks. What's that saying, you can fix stupid. If you’re doofus enough to shoot at swans, unless you permanently take away hunting privileges, nothing is going to change.

Reading into the situation it’s either make some drastic changes or ban hunting all together. Remember this is federal property; they don’t have to allow hunting here.

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For the guys who cannot I.D. what you shouldn't shoot at, here you go.

swanscomingin2ur4.jpg

swanssynched2io5.jpg

or these...

baldeaglewideopen2fy1.jpg

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I've witnessed people firing at birds from between the bridge spans on the entrance road. LIke someone said, you can't fix stupid. There's no law against skybusting. You cna't convict someone of firing on swans unless you're there watching it and then you still have to have hard proof or its he said/she said. There's hot spots everywhere. You can't post CO's in these places all season long. It just isn't affordable.

I think the permitting is a good idea if its managed. It works out at Lac Que Parle and they are extremely restrictive. Maybe they can make some money by building some blinds on Rice Lake and lottery permits. You pay your dogh and get to hunt a great hunting spot in the South metro. They could easily ban waterfowl in that area just like they've banned it in most of the rest of the Refuge.

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Ok, so we can't post a CO everywhere all season long, but we can post someone at the entrance gate to check for permits all season long? Something doesn't add up here...

And I know skybusting isn't against the law, but shooting 20 minutes after sunset is. And some of these post-sunset shots were coming right under the 169 bridge, so a CO wouldn't have even have to get their feet wet!

Mandating that only 4 or whatever people can be out there at a time isn't going to change anything other than limit access to the resource. If they want to stop the breaking of the laws, then they have to enforce the ones that are written! If you're going to enforce the laws, seems like a good place to start would be where:

1. there is a large concentration of hunters

2. lots of rules are being broken

3. easy access for law enforcement in a small area

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Volare,

As I understand it, it would not be a CO at the gate it would be someone who works for the USFWS. You could have 5 CO's there and they could not cover/watch everyone. The lake is only a few hundred acres true yet the areas where the skybusters . . . ahem . . . . pass shooter are is a much larger area. They walk/slither in off 13 as well as the main enterence.

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However, if a CO was located here all of the time; yes, there would be an income from fines. I would venture to say the USFW would have a higher income from the fines then the salary of a CO. Plus, these CO's are confined to the Minnesota River Valley area, therefore, this being a hot spot, they should have ample number of CO's there -

We all know that if they come out and start to enforce the laws/rules many unethical/marginal hunters will find some place else to hunt.

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A person who is already hired and has territory to cover being staffed there today would lose money and thin the coverage even more. If there was income from lottery permits and fines and shared responsibility by the DNR and USFWS than a NEW staffed position could probably be created, like a seasonal attendant.

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The CO's need to do what they used to do out there.. get in a canoe and paddle blind to blind. It might be a hinderence, but that alone would make people make less foolish decisions knowing a CO could be present ON the water at any given time. At the same time, the other CO(or 2) can walk the shorline with binoculars and approach the pass shooters that are skybusting and wounding birds with no effort to retrieve them. I have little doubt the 1st few weekends they would be handing out thousands of dollars worth of tickets... and it wouldnt be as attractive to careless pass shooters when they are recieving fines for making poor shot decisions.

Somebody said it earlier, its not illegal to skybust... I'll add onto that.. it IS illegal to shoot game and not make a reasonable effort to retrieve it. If you are being irresponsable and making poor shot decisions and wounding game.. it will get a person a ticket(wanton waste or something similar).

If they get rid of pass shooting all together down there, it would take care of a lot of problems, and increase hunter success with a minimum of lost game. It would also make it easier for the CO's to enforce the laws with the hunters because they would all be accessable by the water. I am not saying someone cant walk in with waders.. but they would have to take some decoys along and be hunting on the water shooting at birds idealy over the decoys.. or in a place where they are retrievable.

What gets me is all this had to happen in the 1st place. There are an excess of hunters acting in such an irresponsable manor that new provisions are coming to be simply to reduce the amount of unethical hunters. Some of us will blame the forigners, or new hunters, or anyone you can... I agree some of them are making irresponsable, or poor decisions, but some of you are doing it too.. There is a pattern once skybusting starts to happen, some get frustrated, some feel the need to shoot every shell they brought along with, or without good shot opportunity.. once someone starts skybusting, MANY OTHER hunters start doing the same. Either its an act of despiration, or anger, boredom.. I dont know.. but I see it happen all the time! Then some of you get home and complain about the skybusters.

Sometimes people will get frustrated when the ducks are locked up on someone elses decoys(obvious they are going to get great opportunity) and instead of letting the birds go into the decoys, you take the long desperate shots at birds 80 yards in front of you.. the birds flare, nothing drops, and you ruined someone elses opportunity(often many times over).

I think the CO's should have the power to revoke peoples hunting privledges on the spot when they witness poor hunting practices.. but they cant, Its legal to be a (Contact Us Please)... even with a firearm!

I hope *you* isnt here debating this subject to read this, but if you are, its time to grow up and hunt with proper etiquette, and common sense. If you cant enjoy making it out without shooting 2 boxes of shells, go to the shooting range.. quit hunting all together as far as I am concerned. Your probably the same guy walking through the woods shooting at just about anything at random while deer hunting endangering other hunters.

CO's shouldnt have the be paid to be babysitters. That is exactly what they are doing when it comes down to a place like Rice Lake this year.

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Last year I saw the DNR canoe chained up in the woods on the south shore. But this year I never saw it. Perhaps it was out there earlier in the year.

Lets face it, they could close hunting in Rice Lake, and all the idiots there will just go elsewhere and skybust or otherwise break the law. I'd just as soon these individuals be culled from the herd and not have to worry about them ruining my hunting experience elsewhere in MN. Since there seems to be such a high concentration at Rice Lake, I think that would be a good place to start.

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Anyone hear anything about the proposed changes in hunting in the NWR? I haven't received any notifications of public hearings, so I'm guessing the idea died?

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I would guess the idea died. I've received nothing in the mail or a phone call. Too bad, IMO.

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