With habitat conditions in decent shape throughout most of Minnesota and with wildlife biologists estimating bountiful duck populations across North America, Minnesota hunters are prepping for Saturday’s waterfowl opener with a measure of optimism.
Steve Cordts, waterfowl staff specialist for the Department of Natural Resources, said he’s hopeful that a shift to cooler weather by the weekend will contribute to a set of conditions that’s already favorable in many areas of the state.
Water levels have been good with the exception of a dry northwestern region, he said. Meanwhile, natural production of wild rice around Bemidji and Grand Rapids should provide a meaningful draw.
“We’ll see ducks moving around,’’ Cordts said. “If you are mobile you can find them.’’
Cordts also said geese numbers should rebound from a poor early goose season, one that was undermined by late spring nesting and corresponding delays in fall migration. He said the strength of continental waterfowl populations should allow for a good influx of birds.
Those flocks will complement homegrown ducks, including wood ducks and teal. Cordts said the roundup of data this year also included good news on the abundance of duck broods.
“Local production appears to be good,’’ said Jon Schneider, manager of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited of Minnesota. “It should be shaping up for another good season.’’
Schneider said central and southern Minnesota had a good combination of rains to bolster wetlands. But he noted that certain areas of the south received damaging amounts of rainfall. Wild rice isn’t a bumper crop this year, he said, but other years have been a total bust.
“I’m hoping birds will move into the state and stick around,’’ Schneider said.
Minnesota duck hunting occurs in three zones:
In the north zone, ducks are legal Sept. 22-Nov. 20.
In the central zone, duck hunting is open Sept. 22-Sept. 30 and Oct. 6-Nov. 25.
In the south zone, ducks are open Sept. 22-Sept. 30 and Oct. 13-Dec. 2.
The daily duck limit is six. The mallard bag limit remains four per day, with no more than two hens. The daily bag limits are three for wood ducks and scaup and two for redheads, canvasbacks, pintails and black ducks.
Goose hunting will reopen in conjunction with duck season Saturday, with a bag limit of three dark geese (Canada geese, white-fronted geese and brant) per day. The daily limit for light geese (snow, blue and Ross’s geese) is 20. Goose season is closed in the central and south duck zones when duck season is closed.
The possession limit for ducks and geese is three times the daily limit.