DNR wildlife supervisor answers questions about Madelia area

For 25 years, Randy Markl has managed Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife activities in the Madelia area. A native of Pipestone, Markl oversees wildlife operations in Watonwan, Cottonwood, Jackson and Martin counties.

Q: What does the Madelia area offer hunters?
A: There’s a lot of good hunting in southern Minnesota. Those who come here can find 8,600 acres of public land within 20 miles of Madelia. You’re not far away from large Swan Lake, Mulligan Slough and Wood Lake, which are large wildlife management areas. All three are solid destinations for a hunting a variety of species, including pheasants. We also have many smaller wildlife management areas and lands open to public hunting through conservation easements that have been funded, all or in part, by the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program. Turkey hunters can find very good hunting in spring and fall along both forks of the Watonwan River. Hunters should check out Walk-In Access opportunities as well.

Q:  Do you need a big group to hunt the parcels in your area?
A:  No. A lot of the wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas in this part of the state are small to mid-sized. That means they are well-suited to an individual hunter or two to three people and a few dogs.

Q:  What’s your take on pheasant hunting prospects?
A:  If a hunter is willing to put in the time, he or she will find birds. The DNR’s August roadside counts indicated a statewide 29 percent decrease from 2012. This decline – a reflection of habitat abundance and unfavorable winter weather – puts us at 64 percent below the 10-year average and 72 percent below the long-term average. Still, I have seen a lot of late hatches this year. These birds were likely hatched in late July or early August. That means they may not have been counted during the August survey and pheasant numbers may be slightly higher than expected. It also means that the roosters won’t be fully colored until later in the pheasant season, thereby providing additional opportunity for late season hunters.

Q:  If a person can’t hunt the opener is there another good time to hunt?
A:  Any time during the season is a good time to hunt. Actually, opening weekend can be tough if the weather is too warm for the dogs or there is still an abundance of standing corn for roosters to escape in. Personally, I think late October and early November are good times.  It’s usually a little cooler for the dogs but still comfortable for the hunter.

Q:  Are there any special permits or laws we need to be aware of to hunt the area?
A:  There is nothing specific to the Madelia area. But hunters, if they are required to have them, must have a small game license and pheasant stamp. Nontoxic shot is required when hunting on federal land such as waterfowl production areas.  We have a little more than 1,100 acres of federal land within 20 miles of Madelia. Otherwise, there’s nothing else special required in the area.

Q:  Where can we get more information on hunting in the area?
A:  The Recreational Compass on the DNR website provides maps and information about wildlife management areas (WMA). The Madelia Chamber does a good job of providing information.  Area wildlife offices can also answer questions about WMAs. The Windom Area Wildlife office can be reached at 507-831-2900 during regular business hours.

Q:  What do you plan to do the weekend of pheasant opener?
A:  I’ll be at the Governor’s Pheasant Opener part of the weekend, but plan to get out and do some pheasant hunting. I have family and friends coming down to the house to hunt. We’ll probably also do a little duck hunting. It’s a family hunting weekend.