Waterfowl managers from the 14 states in the Mississippi Flyway met last week in Mobile, Ala. As expected, they recommended to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that a 60-day "liberal'' duck hunting season be approved for the flyway, with a six-bird daily limit.
The biggest change to affect Minnesota waterfowlers this season will be the advent of a 85-day regular Canada goose season, with a three-bird limit. This is a change from the two-bird limit last year, with a special December season in which five birds daily were allowed.
A new goose hunting zone likely will be developed around the city of Rochester, said Minnesota DNR waterfowl specialist Steve Cordts, and hunting there likely will be split into two seasons, with shooting probably allowed until the first Sunday in January.
The state's early goose season, meanwhile, will be held again, opening Sept. 4 and running through Sept. 22, with a five-bird daily limit (over-water goose hunting will be restricted in a few areas of the state). This season largely focuses on the state's resident population of giant Canada geese, while the later seasons target the migratory Eastern Prairie Population, which, Cordts said, is in excellent shape.
The hunting plans aren't finalized yet. The feds are meeting this week in Washington, and after that Cordts and other wildlife officials will meet with DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten to finalize Minnesota seasons.
Up in the air yet is whether the state will allow duck hunters two or three wood ducks daily this season. Biologically, Cordts said, three birds could be allowed, and the DNR's waterfowl committee generally supports the higher limit.
Some concerns have been voiced, however, about perceived declining use of wood duck boxes in recent years, and anecdotal reports of fewer woodies returning to the state in spring.
Still, Minnesota has been the only state in the flyway that has declined the three-woodie option, and the rate of harvest, Cordts said, and the overall harvest itself, have not increased.
In the end, Holsten will make the decision.
Meanwhile, one canvasback will be allowed daily all season, two pintails daily and two scaup (bluebills). Mallards will continue at four daily, with one hen.
Shooting will start opening day, Oct. 2, at 9 a.m., by state law.