Minnesota’s 2013 hunting season officially kicks off next week as Canada goose, black bear and mourning dove seasons begin. Hunting prospects appear decent for all three species, with some caveats. Here’s a snapshot:
September Canada goose
Sept. 1-Sept. 20: The Department of Natural Resources’ spring goose survey was a shocker: Officials estimated a breeding population of 268,000 — down a dramatic 40 percent from the all-time high of 434,000 in 2012. But Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist who conducts the annual survey, said the late spring may have skewed the survey results, meaning they likely were undercounted. Though production likely wasn’t good, he believes hunters will encounter geese, especially later in September when younger migrating geese return.
Number of hunters: 65,000.
Sept. 1-Oct. 13: This fall’s bear harvest is expected to decline dramatically from last year, not because of a bear shortage, but because the DNR is issuing just 3,750 permits — the fewest is 30 years. After numerous liberal seasons in the late 1990s and early 2000s, officials now are concerned the bear population has fallen too low. The bear population, once around 25,000 in the early 2000s, now is estimated at about 15,000. Last year, hunters shot 2,600 bears, about half the number killed in 2001. Officials expect the harvest to fall again. A bumper blueberry crop likely won’t help hunters.
Number of hunters: 6,500 to 7,000
Sept. 1-Nov. 9: Mourning dove hunting in Minnesota is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get. That’s because we are a northern state, and mourning doves head south at the first hint of cold weather. “Doves are extremely abundant, but lots fly through here before the season even starts,’’ said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager. Plus there’s not much small grain, which they favor, “and Minnesota is the world’s best place to hunt Canada geese,’’ Merchant said, meaning hunters have other options. So dove hunting hasn’t taken off since the Legislature reinstated it in 2004 after a nearly 60-year absence. Nationwide, there were 349 million doves last year; their numbers have declined recently in the central U.S. Nationally, 830,000 hunters killed about 14.5 million doves in 2012.
Number of hunters: 10,000