2012 Minnesota duck season kicks off Sept. 22
St. Paul — Duck hunters will get their earliest start in 45 years when this fall’s season kicks off Sept. 22. And in the southern part of the state, they’ll be able to hunt later than usual – into December.
That’s thanks to a 60-day duck season and the DNR’s decision, which it announced Tuesday, to split the state into three zones: a North Zone north of Highway 210; a Central Zone between highways 210 and 212; and a South Zone south of Highway 212.
The season in the North Zone will run continuously from Sept. 22 through Nov. 20.
The Central Zone will run Sept. 22-30, close for five days, and then run Oct. 6-Nov. 25.
The South Zone will run Sept. 22-30, close for 12 days, and then run Oct. 13-Dec. 2.
Splitting the seasons gives hunters the chance to be afield when there are likely to be ducks around, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.
“By going with this three-zone break-up, it gives us a chance to have our early season teal and wood duck (hunting) statewide, but it still allows for that late-season mallard hunting that so many guys like,” he said.
Creation of a third zone furthers regulation changes that were put in place last year and designed to increase harvest and draw more hunters to the field.
“The bottom-line message is we want to make sure we are providing the highest-quality experience for hunters while ensuring the long-term health of our waterfowl populations,” Landwehr said. “I really think we are able to do that with this season proposal we are putting forward.”
Daily bag limits are largely unchanged from last year. The mallard limit will remain four, with no more than two hens. Hunters again will be able to shoot three wood ducks.
A notable exception is the bluebill (scaup) limit. It will increase from two to four birds per day. The Mississippi Flyway Council, based on an increase in the number of breeding scaup this year, recommended the four-bird bag. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service agreed, and Landwehr said there was no reason for the state to be more restrictive.
He noted hunters in the state last year killed more hooded mergansers than scaup.
“One of the concerns that many of us in the waterfowl field have is (diving duck hunting) is a pretty unique experience – getting a bunch of decoys out on the big water,” Landwehr said. “If you don’t allow people a reasonable bag, they’re not going to do it.”
Other aspects of this fall’s season include:
- Shooting hours will be 30 minutes before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily through Oct. 6. After that, they will be 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
- Motorized decoys or other motorized devices designed to attract migratory waterfowl may not be used from the opening day of duck season through Oct. 6. On water bodies and lands fully contained with WMAs, such devices never are allowed.
- Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day is Saturday, Sept. 8.
Geese and cranes
- The early Canada goose season will run Sept. 1-21. The bag limit is five geese per day.
- The daily bag limit during the regular Canada goose season is three. Dates for goose hunting are as follows: North Duck Zone (Sept. 22-Dec. 16); Central Duck Zone (Sept. 22-30, Oct. 6-Dec. 21); South Duck Zone (Sept. 22-30, Oct. 13-Dec. 28).
“Hunters can expect to see excellent numbers of Canada geese again this fall,” Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said in a news release. “The number of breeding geese in Minnesota is very high and local production was very good this spring. In addition, we should see good numbers of migrant geese in the state this fall, especially in areas like Lac qui Parle WMA.”
- The sandhill crane season will open two weeks later this year than it has in the previous two seasons. It will run Sept. 15-Oct. 21. The daily bag limit is two sandhill cranes.