Doug Smith: Minnesota duck opener will be earliest since World War II

  • Updated: July 20, 2013 - 9:28 PM

It's part of one of the earliest waterfowl seasons since hunting became regulated.

hide

Sept. 24, 2011, near St. Peter, MN. Tracy Glass of St. Peter rows out to retrieve a duck he dropped during Minnesota's duck opener.

Photo: Doug Smith, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Though Minnesota’s breeding duck population is up from last year, it’s uncertain whether that will mean more ducks for hunters this fall. But one thing is for sure: The regular season opener Sept. 21 will be the earliest since the end of World War II 68 years ago.

And Youth Waterfowl Day — Sept. 7 — will be the earliest duck hunt in the state since the end of World War I — 95 years ago.

Add a first-ever August Canada goose hunt Aug. 10-25, and you have one of the earliest waterfowl seasons since hunting became regulated in the early 1900s.

Federal and state officials are meeting this week to formalize the waterfowl hunting season framework, but Minnesota officials expect another liberal 60-day duck season, which, by law, can open the Saturday nearest Sept. 24.

“This year, that would be Sept. 21 — the earliest calendar date it can ever be,’’ said Steve Cordts, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources waterfowl specialist. Next year, because of the quirk of the calendar, the opener will fall on Sept. 27 and Youth Waterfowl Day will be Sept. 13.

Though the duck seasons have been early the past two years, state officials don’t believe they are too early.

“The last two years, with early openers, we’ve had very good duck seasons,’’ Cordts said. “Essentially we’ve shifted harvest earlier, offered more opportunity, and increased harvest on early migrant species — teal and wood ducks. And that’s exactly what we tried to do.’’

Some are concerned about the potential overharvest of resident ducks.

“At present, we just don’t have any information to show that’s happened,’’ Cordts said. “Overall harvest, compared to the 1970s, is still down. Hunter numbers are way down.’’ And harvest of ducks banded in Minnesota is down, too.

“We have increased harvest of blue-winged teal and wood ducks,’’ Cordts said. “Everything else is similar to levels we had before we made these changes. It’s something we’ll have to keep looking at, but to date there’s nothing real negative evident.’’

The early opener could make it more difficult to identify birds not fully plumed, Cordts acknowledged. And some young ducks likely won’t be able to fly by Youth Waterfowl Day or even the regular opener.

“A non-flighted duck is the safest duck in the state on the opener,’’ Cordts said.

Minnesota hunters are becoming accustomed to hunting ducks in September.

In 1944 and 1945, the duck opener was Sept. 20. Except for a brief three-day experiment with a September teal season in 1965, the regular waterfowl openers moved to October until 1979, when federal officials moved it to the Saturday nearest Oct. 1. Minnesota’s season opened Sept. 29 that year.

Then in 2002, federal officials added a week to the beginning and end of the season, and in the following 12 years, Minnesota’s duck season has begun in September eight times.

Duck survey results

The state’s annual waterfowl survey, released last week, showed Minnesota’s estimated breeding duck population was up 46 percent from last year, to 683,000. And the mallard breeding population was 293,000, up 30 percent from last year and well above the long-term average.

But Cordts, who conducts the aerial survey, said the results serve as a population index best viewed over time, not from year to year. For example, the 30 percent mallard increase actually is statistically insignificant because of the large margin of error. Also, the surveys were conducted during extremes: a record early spring in 2012, followed by a record late spring this year.

And the survey counts breeding ducks, and is done before ducks nest and produce ducklings. The wet spring likely didn’t hurt duck production, Cordts said, but good reproduction is critical to good hunting. About 50 percent of the birds killed by hunters are locally grown ducks.

August goose hunt

Meanwhile, the first-ever August Canada goose season runs Aug. 10-25 in a large swath of west-central Minnesota, with a daily bag limit of 10 and no possession limit. The goal is to reduce the state’s goose population. The question is whether hunters will go afield in the heat of August, and if so, how successful they will be.

Hunters will be allowed to hunt over water.

“Some people like it, some don’t,’’ Cordts said. “Our intent is to harvest a lot of geese in that zone.’’ He doesn’t believe the disturbance a month before the duck opener will push ducks from the state.

Shooting hours will be from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. A small game hunting license, $4 early goose permit and state waterfowl stamp are required (a federal waterfowl stamp isn’t needed). For details, see startribune.com/a2367.

 

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Ruffed grouse population still falling

    Saturday July 20, 2013

    grouse population still fallingMinnesota’s 100,000 ruffed grouse hunters got predicable news last week: Grouse spring drumming counts were down across...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 3 1st Qtr 0:30
Rice 3
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close