A state government shutdown could have significant ramifications for hunters, anglers, boaters, ATV riders and other outdoor enthusiasts.
If prolonged, a shutdown could even threaten the fall hunting seasons, especially the deer and duck seasons, upending plans of 500,000 deer hunters and 80,000 duck hunters.
The biggest potential roadblock: Department of Natural Resources officials say the sale of all fishing, hunting and trapping licenses, including online and telephone sales, will be suspended July 1. Ditto for boat, ATV or other licenses.
So if the DNR still is closed come November, that could kill a deer season because hunters couldn't buy deer hunting licenses. Deer licenses normally go on sale beginning Aug. 1. Small-game seasons for ruffed grouse and pheasants are likely to be held, because small-game licenses have been available for months and the DNR doesn't need to issue special rules for those hunts. However, small-game hunters who didn't buy their license before the shutdown probably would be out of luck.
But even if a shutdown lasted only a few weeks, it still could impact hunters.
"We have a whole series of hunting-related issues [that would be affected]," said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife chief.
The DNR is scheduled to meet with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and members of the Mississippi Flyway Council in mid-July to work out this year's waterfowl hunting regulations. The FWS establishes the duck hunting seasons, but it must approve state exceptions. For example, the federal framework has allowed a bag limit of three wood ducks, though Minnesota restricts the limit to two. And though federal officials allow for a two-day Youth Waterfowl Hunt, Minnesota allows only one day.
If the DNR is shut down when duck season arrives, "we would hunt under the federal framework by default because we wouldn't have approval for our more restrictive seasons," Simon said.
A lengthy shutdown also could threaten several special hunts, including an archery deer hunt at Camp Ripley, youth deer and pheasant hunts and a fall turkey hunt. Applications for most of those hunts are taken in August.
"Some hunts may be delayed, and we may have to cancel some," said Simon, depending on the length of the shutdown.
Meanwhile, the DNR says anglers wanting to fish over the Fourth of July weekend who haven't yet bought their licenses had better do so before Friday.
"If they haven't purchased one by July 1, they may be out of business," said Steve Michaels, DNR licensing supervisor. The DNR typically sells about 200,000 hunting, fishing and trapping licenses in July, he said.
But some early-season hunters also might want to get licenses before Friday if they think a shutdown could extend into the fall. The mourning dove and black bear seasons open Sept. 1. An early Canada goose season opens Sept. 3. The small-game season, which includes ruffed grouse, rabbit and squirrel, opens Sept. 17. Duck season is likely to open Oct. 1. And the pheasant season opens Oct. 15.
Here are some other impacts of a shutdown:
• The DNR needs time to go through a rule-making process for the regular deer season, including setting permit area quotas and antlerless deer restrictions.
• Bear hunters who were selected recently in a lottery for a 2011 license must buy the license by July 29.
• The August roadside pheasant count, done Aug. 1-15, could be cancelled for the first time. It has been conducted since 1955 to estimate populations of pheasants and other wildlife.
• The DNR usually publishes its hunting and trapping regulations booklet in July. "We need a budget to pay for it," Simon said. And if a Game and Fish bill is included in a special legislative session, the DNR would need time to incorporate new laws into the regulation booklet.
Doug Smith • email@example.com