November 2005





Since a lot of private land is rented out, it can be confusing as to whom I should ask for permission to hunt that land. Who has the final say on giving permission?

This is a great question, and one that can be confusing and can get people into trouble if they do not know the answer. Minnesota law [M.S. 97B.001 subd. 2] gives equal status, and equal authority, to the owner, occupant or leasee (renter) of the lands to grant or deny access to private lands. Therefore, it is important to know to whom hunters and other recreationalists may be speaking with and what link that person may have to that piece of property. This underscores the importance of seeking permission early. Waiting too long may not allow for enough time to track down the person or persons who have the authority to grant permission in time for the season opener. As deer hunting season opens, it is important for all deer hunters to know where they are at all times, and ask permission of the landowner, occupant and/or renter before venturing onto private property.

Wayne Edgerton, DNR Agriculture Policy Director


The past few winters have been relatively quiet across much of central and southern Minnesota. Is there anything in Minnesota's historical weather records that indicates what type of winter we will have this year?

Unfortunately, there is no statistical correlation between warm autumns and the temperature regime of the winter that follows. Additionally, water surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean at the equator are near their historical averages. Warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in this area of the Pacific create the weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which usually foreshadows mild winters in Minnesota. With the absence of any strong predictive indicators, the safest bet is to expect for near average temperatures. In any Minnesota winter there will be spells of bitterly cold weather, bouts of snowfall - sometimes heavy - and at least one January thaw. Most communities in southern Minnesota average around 30 days during the winter where the minimum temperature drops below zero. Northern Minnesota typically has 50 to 65 days of below-zero weather, on average.

Peter Boulay, DNR climatologist


Cross country skiers are required to purchase and possess a pass before skiing on state and Grant-in-Aid ski trails. What is the purpose of these passes?

When cross country skiers purchase a ski trail pass they are doing more than guaranteeing their enjoyment of the sport in Minnesota. They are helping to maintain the 1,600-plus mile designated cross country ski trail system at a level that skiers have come to expect. More than half of all trail work is done before the snow flies, such as clearing brush and preparing trail surfaces. The sale of the passes also enables the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to work with local units of government and clubs to expand skiing opportunities throughout the state. Even during winters of little snow, skiers that buy either the daily, annual or three-year pass help assure that the trails will always be there. Additional information on cross country ski passes and skiing opportunities in Minnesota is available on the DNR's Web site:

Paul Nordell, DNR cross country Ski Pass coordinator


When do snowmobile trails open in Minnesota?

Generally speaking, the opening date for snowmobile trails in Minnesota is Dec. 1. However, there are many factors and a lot of preseason work that dictate whether a specific trail is open and available on that date. Before a trail can be opened for use, the trail needs to be cleared of deadfalls and other potential hazards. Frozen ground is also a necessity since many snowmobile trails run over and through wet areas. Grooming does not start until there is adequate snow cover and many trails are gated until the preseason work is complete. Many of the state?'s 20,000 miles of snowmobile trails exist on private lands with permission from landowners; local units of government in cooperation with snowmobile clubs operate these Grant-In-Aid trails. Because conditions can vary from place to place, trail riders should check ahead before leaving home. Information for state trails is available on the DNR's Web site: Grant-In-Aid and local trail conditions can be obtained by contacting the local chambers of commerce and local snowmobile clubs. Also, anyone planning to ride on any state or Grant-In-Aid snowmobile trail is required to purchase a Snowmobile State Trail sticker for their machine.

Forrest Boe, Trails & Waterways operations manager


Is there a specific date by which Minnesota lakes are typically froze over to allow for safe recreation?

It is not a good idea for anglers or anyone to rely on the calendar to determine whether or not a frozen lake is safe. In years past, ice may have been passable by Dec. 1, but a warm start to another Minnesota winter makes it difficult to determine just when a lake or pond will freeze thick enough to allow recreation. Even once this finally happens, it is important realize that ice is never 100 percent safe. The DNR recommends the following ice thickness for these intended uses: a minimum of 4 inches of new, clear ice for foot traffic; 5 inches for ATVs and snowmobiles; and a minimum of 8 to 12 inches for cars or small trucks. Local resorts and bait shops can often provide information about ice thickness and point out dangerous areas. Also, anglers and others who venture out on the ice should take ice picks with them and wear a life jacket as a precaution.

Tim Smalley, DNR Boat & Water Safety specialist


DNR Question of the Week Archive