Starting July 1, hunters can enter a lottery for one of 126 permits available for the 2014 Minnesota prairie chicken season.
Applications are available wherever Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hunting and fishing licenses are sold. The deadline is Friday, Aug. 15.
“Having a prairie chicken hunt raises awareness of this unique species and how heavily these birds rely on healthy prairies and grasslands,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife populations and regulations manager. “Having hunters take an interest in prairie chickens is beneficial because prairie conservation and prairie chickens go hand in hand.”
The nine-day prairie chicken season, which will begin on Saturday, Sept. 27, is open to Minnesota residents only. Hunters will be charged a $4 application fee and may apply individually or in groups up to four. Prairie chicken licenses cost $23. Apply at any DNR license agent; the DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul; online or by telephone at 888-665-4236. An additional fee is charged for Internet and phone orders.
The hunt will be conducted in 11 prairie chicken quota areas in west-central Minnesota between St. Hilaire in the north and Breckenridge in the south. Up to 20 percent of the permits in each area will be issued to landowners or tenants of 40 acres or more of prairie or grassland property within the permit area for which they applied.
The season bag limit is two prairie chickens per hunter. Licensed prairie chicken hunters will be allowed to take sharp-tailed grouse while legally hunting prairie chickens.
Sharptails and prairie chickens are similar looking species. The general closure on taking sharp-tailed grouse by small game hunters in this area is to protect prairie chickens. Licensed prairie chicken hunters who want to take sharptails must meet all regulations and licensing requirements for taking sharp-tailed grouse.
In 2013, an estimated 96 prairie chickens were harvested, with 60 percent of hunters taking at least one bird. Hunter success varies considerably from year-to-year, especially when poor weather prevents hunters from going out in the field.
“Prairie chickens need large tracts of native prairie and grasslands, but unfortunately prairie conservation is challenging,” said Merchant. “That’s why the DNR has been a partner along with the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, The Nature Conservancy and numerous others in developing and implementing the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan. This plan aims to protect Minnesota’s remaining native prairie, and restore and manage grasslands, and the prairie chicken should benefit as a result.”