Minnesota’s waterfowl season will open a half-hour before sunrise on Sept. 21 and continue for 60 days under a north, central and southern zone structure with different season dates for each zone, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
This is the same structure the DNR used for the first time last year. The opener is one day earlier than last year and the earliest since 1945.
“Hunters had a good waterfowl season last year,” said Paul Telander, DNR wildlife section chief. “We heard positive reports so we maintained the same season structure.”
The daily bag limit remains at six ducks per day. The mallard bag limit remains at four per day, including two hen mallards. The wood duck bag limit will remain at three per day. The only bag limit changes from last year are the daily limit for scaup which drops from four to three per day and the canvasback limit increases from one to two per day.
Telander said the other notable change is possession limits have increased from two times the daily bag limit to three times the daily bag limit for all migratory birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offered the increase to all states. Telander also noted this year’s opening date is based on a federal framework that enables Mississippi Flyway states to open their season on the Saturday nearest Sept. 24 each year. Next year’s season could open no earlier than Sept. 27.
Mallard abundance from a continental spring survey, including Minnesota, is used to determine overall duck season length. This year’s estimate was 10.4 million mallards, which was similar to last year’s estimate of 10.6 million mallards and 36 percent above the long-term average.
Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said breeding duck numbers were good for mallards and all other duck species this year and wetland conditions in the major waterfowl breeding areas were also favorable.
“In Minnesota, the population index of resident breeding mallards was also good, with an estimated 293,000 mallards in our survey area, Cordts said. “That’s 30 percent above the long-term average.”
Duck harvest in Minnesota last fall was up 19 percent from 2011, from 621,000 ducks in 2011 to 749,000 ducks in 2012. Most of the increase was due to increased harvest of blue-winged teal and wood ducks. “We’ve made some changes with duck hunting regulations the past few years to increase harvest opportunity, particularly early in the season,” Cordts said. “These changes seem to have worked as we have seen increased harvest of early migrating species like teal and wood ducks.”
In the North Duck Zone (north of Highway 210), duck season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Page 2 of 2 - In the Central Duck Zone, duck season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 24.
In the South Duck Zone (south of Highway 212), duck season will run from Saturday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 1.
YOUTH WATERFOWL DAY
Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Saturday, Sept. 7. Hunters age 15 and under may take regular season bag limits when accompanied by a nonhunting adult (age 18 and older, no license required). Canada geese, mergansers, coots and moorhens may be taken from a half-hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. Motorized decoy restrictions are in effect. Five geese may be taken statewide.
OPEN WATER HUNTING
A small number of lakes will be open to open water hunting this fall. These new opportunities are an outcome of a DNR-led waterfowl hunter focus group and citizen input process. Lake Superior, Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs Lake, and Lake Pepin will be open to open water hunting as long as boats remain at anchor. On the Mississippi River south of Hastings, with the exception of Lake Pepin, hunters must remain within 100 feet of shoreline, including islands.
This matches the Wisconsin regulations on this portion of the river. Hunters should consult the 2013 Waterfowl Regulations for additional information.
Maj. Phil Meier, DNR enforcement operations manager, said these new open water hunting opportunities will require extra safety precautions. “Hunters should wear their life jackets not just have them aboard,” Meier advised, noting this type of hunting involves small shallow boats and some of Minnesota’s largest and most windswept lakes. “They’ll also have to be on the lookout for recreational boaters, large waves from barges and other commercial traffic and unfavorable changes in the weather. It’s a different type of hunting; it takes a different safety mindset.”