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DNR's response to starting opener at a later date.

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The DNR continues to work to improve waterfowl populations, hunting conditions and hunter satisfaction through hunting regulations and improved habitat management, with an emphasis on fall migration conditions. Setting the waterfowl season for Minnesota hunters includes factors that make it impossible to satisfy everyone. These factors include a season framework established by the federal government, multiple species of waterfowl migrating at different times, highly variable weather conditions, approximately 400 miles difference in latitude across the state, and differing hunter preferences for particular species or hunting conditions.

Of the four most harvested species of ducks in Minnesota (67.6% of the total 2002 duck harvest), two (bluewing teal and wood duck) are early season migrants, one (ringneck) a midseason migrant and one, the mallard, a late season migrant. The majority of the duck harvest occurs during the first ten days of the season, even in the case of the mallard. This is more likely the result of increased hunting pressure early in the season rather than availability of mallards migrating through the state.

Following the 2002 waterfowl season DNR asked hunters in a statewide survey what time periods they preferred to hunt. Duck hunters statewide most preferred early October 1-15 (36.1%), followed by late October 16-31 (27.2%), opening weekend September 28-30 (21.6%), early November 1-15 (9.8%), and late November 16-26 (5.3%). In the southern regions of the state, the preferences were: Southwest and South Central: early October 1-15 (34.6%), late October 16-21 (22.2%); opening weekend Sept. 28-30 (20.4%); early November 1-15 (13.5%) and late November 16-26 (9.3%) Southeast: early October 1-15 (27%), late October 16-21 (23.7%), early November 1-15 (18.2%), late November 16-26 (16.6%), and opening weekend Sept. 28-30 (14.5%). As you can see, a majority of waterfowl hunters in all parts of the state favored earlier time periods.

None of this, of course, detracts from the importance or thrill of late season waterfowl hunting to a significant segment of avid waterfowl hunters. Commonly proposed solutions to satisfy both early and late season hunters have included zoning the state for different seasons, splitting the season into early and late segments, and both. While the length of our state and corresponding differences in weather and waterfowl migration patterns seem to support these concepts, the difficulty is where and when to draw lines or close seasons. Wherever a line is drawn on a map there will be those hunters, often the closest to the line, who will strongly oppose it. There have also been concerns about creating two openers and concentrating pressure if the Minnesota is zoned and the season opens on different dates in different parts of the state. The closest Minnesota has come to zoning (geographically drawing lines across the state) was a delay in the opening day for the northern two-thirds of the state in 1976 due to fire danger.

There has also been controversy on the timing of splits. The hunting doldrums for one part of the state often correspond with good hunting in another. Weather adds to these difficulties. A single cold snap can make or break the best-laid plans. DNR has supported the concept of split seasons (closed days) when the federal framework has restricted the season to less than 45 days. Split seasons have occurred six times since 1915 with three of those occasions in ’91, ’92, and ‘93.

Following the 2000 waterfowl season DNR asked hunters in a statewide survey to rank their support for zoning and season splits as management options. In response to the idea of north and south zones within the state, 39.0% were opposed, 29.4% supported, and 31.6% were undecided. Concerning a split season, the opposition was stronger with over half (52.3%) opposed, 22.2% supportive and 25.5% undecided.

While Minnesota has had a series of mild falls, recent late season hunting weather may not be indicative of future seasons. Four of the ten warmest winters on record (Twin cities data) have occurred since 1991 and we’re currently in one of the warmest falls on record. Widespread good late November and early December waterfowl hunting in Minnesota is a relatively recent phenomenon, and may not continue in future years.

Minnesota must select waterfowl seasons within frameworks authorized by the federal government. In addition to specifying the number of days, bag limits, and timing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also requires states every five years to select what combination of zoning and splitting options they want to use for the upcoming five years. Once selected, a state is not able to take a different option for five years. States will soon have to select their options for the next five years, so that makes this a timely issue and we appreciate comments.

As can be seen from the survey results, there is not a clear preference among waterfowl hunters and each option has advantages and disadvantages. Despite these complexities, DNR will continue to work with waterfowl hunters and organizations to try to improve both waterfowl numbers and Minnesota waterfowlers' satisfaction with hunting seasons.

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The DNR talks about these surveys but I don't know anyone that has ever taken a survey? I wonder how many out there really have been asked about their duck hunting experience in Minnesota by the DNR. I'm also curious if the survey asked how much time that particular person puts in the field and that if that weighed into the equation? I know that there are a lot of fair weather duck hunters out there that hunt the first few weeks but then once pheasant season kicks in or deer season rolls around they quit all together. I'm not saying that hunting early in the season and then switching gears makes you less of a duck hunter. I think some times the DNR looks at the dollars generated by getting as many people out as they can without really looking at the quality of the situation.

The only survey I know of is the HIP servey. But honestly when they ask at the counter I'm usually standing in line with about 20 other people behind you waiting to get their licence and on the spot I'm suppose to remember numbers. I know what I hunted but most everytime I have to guess at the numbers which are really vague to begin with and I don't see how they are useful. Also, if the DNR really wants to do a survey, they have every duck hunters address since they quite selling the state stamp over the counter and mail them out. Why not ask everyone?

Just curious and frustrated as I look out my window today and see wad after wad of ducks and geese fly over with a big smile on their bill.

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I was surveyed about a year ago as was my hunting partner about the same time. The survey was sent via mail and was in-depth.

I have also let the DNR know my stand via e-mail when certain issues are "in the news".

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The HIP surve3y is not what they use to get the final numbers. They take a certain % of names out of each catagory and send out detailed questioners to obtain these numbers.

It is actually a highly accurate overview on what happened and what hunters want.

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What gets me is that for the past three years we've had unseasonably warm falls, and yet this year's opener was the earlest in resent memory. When will the DNR take a chance and open the season later in the year...after three years of unseasonably cold temp????? confused.gif


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