Details of Minnesota's duck season will be announced this week, and another 60-day season with a six-bird daily bag limit is a given.
Other regulations are expected to be similar to last year's, and the opener is likely to be Sept. 22 -- like last year, a week earlier than normal.
One change: The bag limit for scaup, now two, might be increased to four, as proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That wouldn't be a huge factor in Minnesota, where hunters shot just 7,000 scaup (bluebills) last season. The continental population of scaup increased to 5.25 million, the first time since 1991 the species has been above 5 million.
Bag limits for other ducks would be unchanged.
Still undecided, however, is whether the state will utilize a third duck zone it created across the southern third of the state below Hwy. 212. The idea is to extend the season in that zone to give hunters opportunities at late-season ducks. Because the Fish and Wildlife Service allows only a 60-day season here, the DNR would be likely to split that zone, opening it with the rest of the state on Sept. 22, but then closing it for five or 12 days, then reopening it. Or it could simply open the season later in that zone.
Sixty-one percent of more than 2,000 hunters who responded to the online DNR survey last winter favored a third duck zone.
Goose harvest up
Minnesota hunters again killed more Canada geese last fall -- 239,000 -- than any species of duck and a 27 percent increase from 2010. And officials expect excellent goose hunting again this fall. The state's Canada goose population is estimated at 434,000, up from 370,000 last year.
As I reported last week, flyway officials discussed increasing the duck possession limits in Minnesota and across the nation to three times the daily bag limit.
That won't happen this season, but it could well happen next year.
Currently, the duck possession limit is twice the daily bag limit. With a daily bag limit of six ducks, the change would mean a hunter could have 18 ducks in possession after three days of hunting.
It's also possible the possession limit for doves, another migratory bird, would be increased, to three times the daily limit.
Three of the four flyways recommended the duck possession limit be expanded. The Mississippi Flyway, of which Minnesota is a member, didn't make a recommendation because the issue won't be dealt with until next winter.
"I don't think a change from two to three times the daily bag would have much impact [on duck populations],'' said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. "The average guy [in Minnesota] shoots eight to 10 ducks a year.''
Some hunters are likely to keep more than their possession limit in their freezers, so the change would legalize what has been occurring illegally, he said.
The duck possession limit in Canada now is triple the daily bag limit, and there is talk about eliminating possession limits there, though not this year.
Dove harvest down
This won't be a surprise to Minnesota's mourning dove hunters: Harvest last fall fell by almost half from the previous year. Cold weather drove many doves out of the state by the time the season opened Sept. 1. Hunters bagged just 57,000 doves, compared with 99,000 in 2010.
Youth waterfowl hunt
Youths who want to participate in this year's mentored youth waterfowl hunt have until Aug. 13 to apply. There are 80 openings. The mentored hunt is set for Sept. 8 -- Youth Waterfowl Day. Hunts, which are open to youth ages 12-15 who have earned a firearms safety certificate, will be conducted near Detroit Lakes, Morris, Prior Lake, Windom, Buffalo and Little Falls. See www.mndnr.gov/discover.
Fall turkey season
Starting this year, Minnesota turkey hunters may buy a license over the counter to hunt the fall season. No lottery application is necessary. Hunters still must declare a turkey permit area when purchasing a license, and they are restricted to hunting that area. Last year, hunters bought 5,382 fall turkey permits and registered 953 birds. This year's 30-day season is Sept. 29-Oct. 28.
Did you know?
• Hunters have until Aug. 17 to apply for one of 186 permits for the 2012 Minnesota prairie chicken season.
• Women, men and youth who want to learn the basics of deer hunting can attend the DNR's deer day Aug. 12 near Mora. The free program, geared for those who want to learn more about deer hunting, will be hosted by the DNR's Becoming An Outdoors Family Program from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the Wilkens Farm near Mora in Kanabec County. Registration is limited. Contact Linda Bylander at 218-833-8628 or at Linda.firstname.lastname@example.org.
• In Renville County, a juvenile bald eagle knocked the hard hat off the head of a construction worker and then wouldn't leave.