For many of Minnesota’s waterfowl hunters, the opener was hot. And not just the weather.
“Despite the shirtsleeve weather, I’d say it was a good to really good opener,’’ said Steve Cordts, Department of Natural Resources waterfowl specialist.
DNR bag checks of hunters at a handful of waterfowl lakes provide a snapshot of Saturday’s action:
At Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area in western Minnesota, hunters averaged 3.6 ducks on the opener, the second-best tally in the past 26 years and well above the 2.3-duck average. Hunters averaged three ducks apiece at White Oak Lake near Deer River, the highest in 15 years and well above the 1.9-ducks-per-hunter average.
At huge Swan Lake in Nicollet County, hunters averaged 2.1 ducks; the average is 1.8 ducks, and last year hunters averaged just 0.8 ducks on the opener. At Thief Lake WMA in the northwest, hunters averaged 2.5 ducks, the same as last year and just a tad over the 2.2 long-term average.
Hunters averaged 2.6 ducks at Big Rice Lake near Remer, slightly below the 2.8 birds they averaged last year but still above the two-bird average. At Mud Goose WMA in Cass County, hunters averaged 1.8 ducks, down from 3.0 ducks last year; the average is 2.0. At Roseau River, hunters averaged 2.1 ducks, down from 2.4 ducks last year; the average is 2.0.
And at popular Carlos Avery WMA near Forest Lake, hunters averaged one duck apiece, near average.
Meanwhile, positive reports from DNR conservation officers who checked hunters over the weekend also far exceeded negative ones.
“Waterfowl opener proved to be a busy one, with lots of happy hunters, most making away with their limits of red heads,’’ reported officer Eric Benjamin of Warroad.
“The duck opener saw lots of hunters and surprisingly lots of ducks,’’ reported officer Chris Vinton of Perham. “All hunters contacted had ducks.”
Hunters near Pelican Rapids averaged three birds apiece on Saturday, and fewer on Sunday.
The Mississippi River in the southeast was good, with lots of hunters. They averaged two to three ducks each near Winona. Numerous limits were reported near Red Wing, and hunters averaged three ducks apiece near La Crescent. Closer to the Twin Cities, officers said west-metro hunters had good success with wood ducks and teal.
It wasn’t hunter heaven everywhere.
Officer Shane Osborne of Evansville said he saw the fewest number of ducks in the bag on opening weekend in the past 10 years. And few ducks were flying in the International Falls area, despite the best wild rice crop in years.
Duck stamp sales
The DNR sold 70,672 state duck stamps through the weekend, about 2,400 fewer than last year but more than the three previous years.