Problems emerge with duck season splits
St. Paul — A few waterfowl hunters found themselves on the wrong side of the law last week, hunting as they were during the closed season in the Central and South duck zones.
All three of the state’s duck zones opened Sept. 22, but the Central Zone was closed Oct. 1-5. The South Zone remains closed through Oct. 12.
“One hunter had taken a limit of ducks and two geese before he was apprehended,” St. Peter-area Conservation Officer Chris Howe reported. “He had not read the waterfowl synopsis carefully and did not realize the season was closed.”
A number of officers made similar reports, according to Capt. Greg Salo, DNR regional Enforcement supervisor in St. Paul. Other hunters – who often hear shooting while they’re at home waiting for the season to re-open – generally report such violations, so even if they’re innocent mistakes, officers typically write tickets, he said.
“That’s kind of a black and white one,” Salo said.
Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said hunters last week were found each day at the Carlos Avery and Lamprey Pass wildlife management areas, both of which were in the closed areas. By the time the alleged violators were caught, they’d averaged a duck apiece.
Based on reports Cordts got, more hunters have encountered problems with the split seasons this year than they did last year.
“I would have thought last year would be worse since the only other time we’d used split seasons was in 1991, ‘92, and ‘93 – and that’s a generation ago,” Cordts said. “I hate people getting tickets for something that’s completely avoidable.”
Hunters could avoid problems simply by reading the waterfowl regulations synopsis and knowing where they’re hunting, Salo said.
“People need to look at those,” he said. “The season dates are very clear in there, and it’s written very well.”
Some hunters last Saturday also ran afoul of the 4 p.m. closure and the restrictions on motorized decoys. It wasn’t until Sunday that they could hunt ducks until sunset and use motorized decoys.
“Those regulations haven’t changed for a long time,” Cordts said.
Hunters in the Sauk Rapids area had a fair go of it late last week, though reports Cordts saw indicated the cold weather didn’t result in many new ducks. Hunting reports from the Little Falls area were a little more upbeat, and the cold front brought in new Canada geese and diving ducks.
Cordts saw more ring-necked ducks in the Bemidji area last weekend, as well as other migrants such as buffleheads, canvasbacks, gadwalls, pintails, scaup, and wigeon.
He also had snow geese swim into his decoys late last week.
Cordts expects Saturday’s re-opening of the season in the South Duck Zone to be “very good.”
“With a 12-day split, I think there will be a lot of ducks around and it will be good,” he said. “We’ve never had a 12-day split like that in our duck season before. I’m curious to see what the reaction is and what the hunting is like, especially at some of our most heavily hunted areas.
“The intent is that it will be very good and guys will see a bunch of ducks,” Cordts said.