Minnesota’s 22nd annual Youth Waterfowl Day takes place Saturday, and an estimated 5,000 youths age 15 and younger are expected to be out in blinds. The youth must be accompanied by a nonhunting adult age 18 and older. They’ll be hunting from a half-hour before sunrise to 4 p.m.

Critics and supporters acknowledge the special day hasn’t helped stem the decline in duck hunters. In 1995, when the event was launched, the state counted about 119,000 duck hunters. Last fall, an estimated 67,000 people hunted ducks, a drop of 55,000 (or about 44 percent) since 1995.

But other hunter numbers have fallen during that time, too. The number of pheasant hunters has dropped from 96,000 to 60,000 last year, a 37 percent decline. And the number of ruffed grouse hunters has dropped from 116,000 back in 1995 to 82,000 last year. That is a 29 percent decline.

But supporters say duck hunter numbers could have fallen even more without Youth Waterfowl Day. Giving young people a special day afield can’t hurt, they say.

Doug Smith