The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 2, 2012

Cross: Recent rain could hurt pheasants

By John Cross
Free Press Staff Writer

— Not too long ago, I fired off an email to an Iowa hunting partner about how encouraging spring nesting conditions were looking around here for pheasants.

I suggested that after several back-to-back tough winters and wash-out nesting seasons, ringnecks might be poised to hit a real home run in the reproduction department.

Foolish, optimistic me.

Two weeks and copious rainfall amounts later, the rivers and streams are running bank-to-bank, lowlands are flooded, uplands are soggy across many parts of Minnesota’s prime pheasant range and temperatures have been below normal.

Worse, this perfect storm of wet, cool conditions comes in late May and early June, frequently near the peak of the pheasant hatch.

So now, instead a home run, we might just have to settle for a base hit if this wet, cool pattern holds.

If there is one glimmer of hope, it might be that even before this extended wet weather pattern arrived, a few people had reported seeing some fairly large pheasant broods.

That and my friend tells me that in his neck of the woods in northern Iowa, conditions have been much more favorable.

Clarification needed

Last week, there was the story of the Mankato angler who caught a potential state record sturgeon that because of its protected status on the Minnesota River had to be released.

It had to be released because as a protected species, it couldn’t be taken to a certified scale to be weighed, a requirement for any fish being considered to be listed as a state record.

It now sounds like a possible case of mistaken identity.

Mike Parsley, whose credentials are pretty good — he’s a research fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Fisheries Research Center based in Cook, Wash. — saw the article and wrote:

“The accompanying photo shows a lake sturgeon, not a shovelnose sturgeon. Both species occur in the Mississippi River basin. Shovelnose typically don’t exceed 3 feet in length, whereas lake sturgeon can be much larger.”

“The shape of the head and the caudal peduncle (that portion of the body between the dorsal fin and the actual tail) differ markedly between the lake and shovelnose sturgeon. The shovelnose is aptly named — its head and nose are very flattened and elongated like a shovel. The lake sturgeon has a much more rounded and blunt nose,” he explained.

For the record, the current Minnesota record lake sturgeon listed in the 2012 Fishing regulations is a whopping 94 pound, 4-ouncer caught in the Kettle River, Pine County, indeed much larger than the existing shovelnose record listed at 5 pounds, 9 ounces.

Also yes, like shovelnose sturgeon, lake sturgeon — even potential state records — are protected in the Minnesota River and must be released.

A Shadow in the spotlight

Shadow, a five-year-old black Labrador retriever owned by Bob Sorenson of New Ulm, continues to rack up the trophies for his aerial abilities.

Sorenson and Shadow took the top spot in the Super V, a high jump for dogs, as part of the Super Retriever Series Crown Championship held over the Memorial Day weekend in Little Rock, Ark.

Going against 20 of the best jumping dogs in the country, Shadow managed a clean grab at a suspended dummy at 7.2 feet, garnering the championship.

In the Youth Division, Tiffini Kettner, the daughter of Sorenson’s girlfriend, coaxed Shadow into stretching for a 20.11-foot jump from a dock to capture the Junior Flyers Championship.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by email at