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More changes to MN Waterfowl Hunting?

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January 14, 2013

As Minnesota waterfowl experts begin planning for the 2013 hunting season they are pleased with a memorable 2012.

An earlier season opener, regulation changes that created more opportunity and some timely help from Mother Nature all combined to make 2012 a noteworthy season.

“We expected it to be a good season and, by all accounts, it was,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We’ve heard a lot of positive reports from hunters. Most seemed very satisfied.”

The DNR added a third duck zone in southern Minnesota and used different splits, or closed periods, to provide some later hunting in that part of the state.

“The season structure we used this year allowed for almost a second opener effect in our south duck zone as well as some late season hunting, which both seemed to work well based on the reports we heard,” Cordts said.

This year, Cordts said, the agency is considering even more changes, including allowing Canada geese hunting in August, changing the early goose season bag limit and allowing open water duck hunting on a small number of lakes.

“No decisions have been made – and some would require federal approval – but we are floating these concepts out for discussion and feedback,” said Cordts. He said formal public input will be taken later this year.

Although 2012 duck harvest numbers will not be available until summer, an increase in harvest is expected. Duck harvest in recent years has been around 650,000 ducks. Mallards typically rank first followed by wood ducks, blue-winged teal, ring-necked ducks and green-winged teal.

“By most accounts, ring-necked duck numbers and hunting success were lower this fall than recent years but that was about the only negative during the entire season,” Cordts said.

Almost half of the state’s annual duck harvest occurs during the first two weekends of the season. The early opening date provided good hunting across the state for blue-winged teal and wood ducks. Reports of good mallard hunting came throughout the season, and timely weather systems in late October and early November provided some excellent waterfowl hunting days.

Waterfowl habitat conditions were extremely dry statewide the entire season, which made access more difficult in many areas but also made for hunting success.

“In some of the drier regions, if you could find water, it held ducks,” Cordts said. “In other regions, the dry conditions improved waterfowl foraging opportunities, especially for dabbling ducks.”

An early crop harvest provided numerous field hunting opportunities for Canada geese, and the lack of snow into December resulted in good numbers of geese scattered across the state throughout fall.

“We didn’t see the large concentrations of migrant Canada geese at some of the traditional staging areas like Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area but still had good Canada goose hunting across the state,” Cordts said.

Cordts noted that even though the 2012 duck season ended on a positive note the major prairie breeding regions of Minnesota and the Dakotas are exceptionally dry. Moreover, high commodity prices and rising global demand for food and energy are having a significant negative impact on wildlife habitat because more land is going into farm production.

“Nearly 3 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program ground in Minnesota and the Dakotas have been converted from wildlife habitat to mainly row crops since 2008,” said Cordts. “To put that in perspective, that’s nearly 5,000 square miles, which translates into a 20-mile wide corridor along Interstate 94 from St. Paul to Fargo, N.D.

“Taken together, dry conditions and habitat loss will have significant negative consequences for ducks in future years.”

Final waterfowl stamp sales in 2012 were 89,950. Stamp sales have held stable the past four years at just under 90,000.

“We’d like to see our hunter numbers increase but at least they’ve stabilized,” said Cordts. “We will continue to explore opportunities for additional hunter recruitment and retention.”

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I think we will see all spinner restrictions removed.

It will be interesting to see what lakes will be open to "open water" shooting.

Hopefully Winnie will be, as I think more bluebills die munching on faucet snails with parasitic tremetodes in them in the open water than are shot in the entire northern third of the state each year. The Mississippi and Lake Pepin would be sweet to hunt in "open water" as well.

I have to say, Landwher is making the regs a lot more hunter friendly in the land of 10,000 regulations.

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I agree; I think we will see the spinner regs come down although it wasn't a talking point in the above news release. Would be interesting to hear from the waterfowl representatives from the roundtable or the other waterfowl focus group.

Amazing what having a former waterfowl biologist as a commissioner will do.

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I like an earlier season option as there are deer to hunt in November and December. Also if early goose was not the same as bear opening weekend I might give it a try again. When it comes right down to it I want hunting seasons spaced out so I can do them all.

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Would also be nice to see split season in northern zone or a later start. Best hunting is always the last couple weeks and even after the season is closed.

I think it's legitimate to run the Middle Zone up further north in it's western portion particularly around Ottertail as I remember doing well during late season around that power plant up there years ago.

I will say most other places up north are froze up solid and hunting is pretty pointless in late Nov. unless you like goldeneyes on big lakes. I think its only a handful of people who do the goldys, as cover to hunt out of is perty limited on points of big lakes and there are so many of those dang cabins I mean "Lake homes" that you almost end up shooting off someone's front yard.

Shoot the DNR an email about it or for sure put it out there during the comment period.

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I agree; I think we will see the spinner regs come down although it wasn't a talking point in the above news release. Would be interesting to hear from the waterfowl representatives from the roundtable or the other waterfowl focus group.

Amazing what having a former waterfowl biologist as a commissioner will do.

Yep, He is a solid leader. I remember visiting down there at the DNR HQ in St. Paul back in 1995 and meeting Tom. In my brief encounter he helped me find the info I needed and talk ed a little about duck hunting. Hopefully he can stay in his position as commisioner, as so far so good. IMO

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Would love to see the limit brought up so you can shoot more. I do lots of hunting on pasture and it's on green for so long. Once it turns brown it's no good anymore. It's crazy when you drive by some cities and see all the birds in ponds in peoples back yards i'm sure they wouldn't mind if some hunting in cities was done to control them.

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An easy change to me seems like 5 geese during the regular season. If they had a much higher limit during the early season and then 3 as the regular season limit it wouldn't make sense to me.

And city hunting would be nice but that isn't up to the DNR. Ramsey county if off limits to hunt, the county has the authority.

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I would also love to see an earlier start to the early goose season. My sons and I are avid goose hunters and never get enough of it. Hopefully everyone will agree on this one and it will change for next season. This might be a dumb question but what does "open water" hunting mean?

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I know a head on letter to the editor would be a better rebuttal, but did anyone read the letters to the editor in the Outdoor News? I caught something that was warning about all the liberalizing of waterfowl regulations and that the old crowd (Art Hawkins, Harvey Nelson, etc.) would be upset if they knew Minnesota was again going down this road. I guess I don't get it, we already protect the hens and the birds with low continental flights in the bag...why is Minnesota handicapping its hunters when you look at the regulations of surrounding states or more appropriately states in the MS flyway? I don't see a biological justification. I like where MN DNR is going with big water hunts, early goose, and hopefully they will address motorized decoys too.

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Open-water duck hunting among topics at public input meetings


Feb 14, 2013

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking citizen input on creating limited opportunities for open-water hunting for waterfowl as well as a number of other topics at annual public input meetings.

The first in the series of statewide meetings will be from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Rolf Olsen Community Center, 806 W. Kathio St., in Onamia.

Aside from open-water duck hunting, the DNR is seeking input on the following proposals:

Allowing Canada goose hunting in August to alleviate depredation of agricultural fields in west central Minnesota.

Opening the second portion of the state’s 124-day crow season later in the year.

Opening prairie chicken hunting season earlier in October than the current season.

Allowing youth age 17 and younger to hunt during all spring turkey seasons with a limit of one. Youth would not be required to select a permit area.

A separate public input process will be conducted to address deer antler point restrictions in southeastern Minnesota.

People who cannot attend a meeting are urged to complete a questionnaire online at www.mndnr.gov/wildlife/input starting on Monday, Feb. 25.

Comments are also welcome via email at [email protected]. Written comments may be addressed to: Season Comments, DNR Section of Wildlife, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4007.

Other meetings, which also will be conducted from 7-9 p.m., are:

Thursday, Feb. 28, Frontenac Sportsman’s Community Center, 30301 Territorial Road, Lake City.

Monday, March 4, Windom Area DNR office, 175 County Road 26.

Thursday, March 14, DNR Headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul.

Additional meetings in northern and western areas of the state will be scheduled soon.


I get the feeling motorized decoys are not going to be discussed.

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Sounds like the Feds gave the okay for states to have possession limits be thrice the daily limits. Also sounds like the August goose opener in west central Minnesota is on...I wish it was statewide. No word for or against water restrictions for said August hunt.

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I sure would like to hear more about this open water duck hunting on some lakes. I have watched some shows with layout boats and such and that looks like a blast. Quite a investment tho. I guess I could always start another boat build and build a layout boat...if it becomes legal that is.

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From the Star-Trib

Triple bag limit for August goose hunt on tap for Minnesota hunters

More big changes are coming for waterfowl hunters.

Federal officials have approved boosting the migratory bird possession limits — now twice the daily bag limit — to three times the daily bag limit. That means instead of 12 ducks, Minnesota hunters could possess up to 18 ducks this fall.

The change applies to all migratory birds, including ducks, geese, mourning doves, woodcock, snipe, rails and sandhill cranes. In Minnesota, that would raise the possession limits of Canada geese to nine during the regular season and 15 during the September season. Hunters also could possess 45 mourning doves, nine woodcock and 24 snipe.

And another regulation change approved by federal officials means Minnesota’s Canada goose hunters can pack sunscreen, bug dope and shorts this year, because for the first time they will be able to hunt Canada geese in August.

The special hunt, intended to reduce the state’s burgeoning goose population, will occur in west-central Minnesota, where goose depredation to crops is most serious. A daily bag of 10 is possible. The Department of Natural Resources is expected to release details soon.

The changes continue a recent trend of liberalized waterfowl hunting regulations — major changes not seen in a generation — including opening the state’s duck season a week earlier than normal, allowing hunters to begin shooting a half-hour before sunrise on the opener instead of 9 a.m., boosting the hen mallard bag limit from one to two and splitting the state into three zones.

It’s not known how many hunters will want to hunt geese in early August. But the expanded possession limits potentially will impact Minnesota’s 90,000 or so waterfowl hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will offer the change to all states, which can accept or reject the measure.

“I would expect probably every state will take it,’’ said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. Minnesota is expected to accept the expanded limits.

“The general feeling is it just doesn’t have huge biological implications, because hunters already are restricted by the daily bag limit,’’ Cordts said. And Minnesota hunters average about eight ducks total for the season, “so this won’t even apply to the average person,’’ he said.

“If it doesn’t hurt, why not do it?’’

Cordts said the liberalized possession limits aren’t expected to reverse the decline of waterfowl hunter numbers. Brad Nylin, executive director of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, agrees.

“I don’t think it will make a difference,’’ said Nylin, who added his group was ambivalent about the change. “We certainly weren’t pushing for it.’’

Canadian waterfowl managers already have loosened duck possession limits, allowing hunters to keep three daily limits instead of two. And there’s talk there of ending duck possession limits altogether.

Officials from all four U.S. flyways recommended the change to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the agency’s Service Regulations Committee recently approved it.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will meet later this month with flyway representatives, and Cordts said he expects another liberal, six-duck daily bag limit to be approved for the 2013 season. The results from both the massive continental duck survey and Minnesota’s spring duck survey should be announced soon, which will give hunters and waterfowl managers an update on duck populations.

Meanwhile, the DNR sought federal permission to offer the August Canada goose hunt. Only two other states — North Dakota and South Dakota — offer such hunts.

“We’d like our [Canada goose] population to go down,’’ Cordts said. “It was 434,000 last year, the first time it has been over 400,000. Our goal is 250,000 geese.’’

“Last year was the final straw; not only was the population high, but we had lots of crop damage complaints, more than ever, and we issued more shooting permits than ever.’’

The DNR is expected to announce details of the special hunt soon, and Cordts declined to comment last week on whether August goose hunters will be allowed to hunt over water. Hunters can hunt over water during the September goose hunt, except in a few specific areas. Some hunters argue that early-season hunter disturbance can push ducks from the state before the duck season begins.

Goose reproduction likely was down this spring because of poor weather, but that won’t affect the DNR’s decision to offer the August hunt, Cordts said.

The question is whether hunters will want to hunt geese in August, and whether they’ll want to shoot lots of them. Hunter surveys indicate support for the season, Cordts said, “but when we ask if they will participate, they say if they can hunt in their immediate area. If they have to travel somewhere, they seem to indicate they won’t participate.’’

And the special hunt will only be offered in the west-central part of the state, he said.

Said Nylin: “I don’t think a lot of people will go out and hunt in August.’’

Will he?

“I’m a goose fanatic,’’ Nylin said. “I love goose hunting. If I had a spot to go, I’d certainly give it a try.’’

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DNR Announces first August Canada Goose Season


July 15, 2013

Minnesota will conduct its first August Canada goose season from Saturday, Aug. 10 to Sunday, Aug. 25, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

“The state’s Canada goose population is very high and exceeds our statewide goal,” said Steve Cordts, the DNR’s waterfowl specialist. “We have continued agricultural depredation concerns in the western portion of the state with large numbers of Canada geese. This is one more option for us to try and increase our harvest of Canada geese.”

Hunting will be restricted to an intensive harvest zone in west-central Minnesota. The daily bag limit will be 10 Canada geese with no possession limit. Shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. A small game hunting license, special goose permit and state waterfowl stamp are required.

“It’s hard to gauge what hunter participation will be since this is the first time we have had August goose hunting,” Cordts said. “But for those who are interested, there should be ample opportunity.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the hunt as a management option for states dealing with overabundant populations of resident Canada geese. Additional details are on the DNR HSOforum.

The DNR will announce details of fall waterfowl seasons, including the September Canada goose hunt, in early August.


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