Published August 03, 2011, 03:26 PM

Changes announced in Minnesota duck hunting season

“The changes are designed to maintain Minnesota’s waterfowl hunting tradition by increasing opportunity and better utilizing the federal regulatory framework set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under which we operate,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

By: Sam Cook, Northland Outdoors

Minnesota duck hunters will see lots of changes in their season this fall, including an earlier opening day, earlier opening-day shooting hours and an earlier youth waterfowl hunt.

Bag limits for wood ducks and hen mallards will be higher than last year, according to the Department of Natural Resources. And north and south hunting zones have been added to provide additional hunting opportunity.

“We needed a change,” Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner, said in a statement. “We heard from waterfowl hunters that they supported these changes, and with waterfowl hunter numbers at record lows, we don’t expect season changes to negatively affect breeding populations.”

The 60-day, six-duck-limit waterfowl season will open Sept. 24. Opening day shooting will start one-half hour before sunrise, as opposed to 9 a.m. in the past. And youth waterfowl day will be Sept. 10. Duck bag limits are consistent with most other states in the Mississippi Flyway.

“The changes are designed to maintain Minnesota’s waterfowl hunting tradition by increasing opportunity and better utilizing the federal regulatory framework set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under which we operate,” Landwehr said.

The changes reflect input from a recently formed citizen waterfowl hunting focus group, according to the DNR.

This year’s earlier-than-usual opener will allow hunting when greater numbers of migrating wood ducks and blue-winged teal are around, yet maintains late-season opportunities.

Hunting north of Minnesota Highway 210 – the North Duck Zone – will be allowed continuously through Nov. 22. Hunters in the South Duck Zone – anywhere south of Highway 210 – will have a split season. Hunting in the South Zone will be allowed Sept. 24-25 to take advantage of early migrations, then close for five days. The season in the south will resume on Oct. 1 and continue through Nov. 27, which is the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Shooting hours end at 4 p.m. daily statewide until Oct. 8, when hunting will be allowed until sunset.

Hunters will be able to keep up to four mallards, two of which may be hens, and three wood ducks. The hen mallard and wood duck limits increased by one compared with recent years. Daily limits for pintail, scaup and redhead remain at two. Hunters may still take one canvasback and black duck. The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

Minnesota’s 2011 mallard breeding population is estimated at 283,000, which is 17 percent higher than last year’s estimate of 242,000 breeding mallards, 3 percent above the recent 10-year average and 26 percent above the long-term average. The continental population is 9 percent above 2010 and 22 percent above the long-term average.

The special September Canada goose season will remain similar to last year. September Canada goose season opens Sept. 3 and runs until Sept. 22 statewide, with a bag limit of five Canada geese per day.

The opening of the 85-day regular Canada goose season coincides with the opening of duck season on Sept. 24 and retains a daily bag limit of three.

Hunters north of Minnesota Highway 210 may hunt continuously through Dec. 17. Hunters in the south zone may hunt Sept. 24-25 and resume on Oct. 1, then hunt continuously through Dec. 22.

Hunters should consult the waterfowl hunting regulations supplement for additional details. The booklet will be available at all license vendors and online by late August.

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