State could consider earlier duck opener

Associate Editor

St. Paul A proposal that could potentially open the waterfowl
season a week earlier in Minnesota highlighted the National Flyway
Council meeting held recently in Washington, D.C.

While states in the southern portion of the Mississippi Flyway
supported a proposal to extend the waterfowl season framework dates
which would extend the season to Jan. 31 in the south northern
states in the flyway rejected an extension that would open the
season about a week earlier in the north, including Minnesota.

However, since northern states in three other flyways showed
some degree of interest in an earlier opener to offset a later
closing date in the south the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may
give the proposal greater consideration as it sets framework dates
for this fall, said Steve Wilds, Region 3 chief of migratory birds
for the USFWS at Fort Snelling.

“The other three flyways (Central, Atlantic, and Pacific)
supported the proposal, but not always with great enthusiasm,”
Wilds said.

The USFWS Regulations Committee will consider the proposal in
June before offering the public 30 days to comment on its
recommendation. The final decision will be made in August, Wilds
said.

Under the proposal, states in the upper portion of the flyway
states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio,
Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana would have the opportunity to open the
season about a week earlier than in the past, or the weekend
nearest Sept. 24.

Tim Bremicker, chief of the Minnesota DNR Division of Wildlife,
said should the offer be made, the DNR would give it “very serious
consideration.”

“We’re compelled to look at the trade-off between what’s in the
best interest of waterfowl and what’s good for the waterfowl
hunter,” he said.

Wilds said there are considerations when deciding if waterfowl
hunting should be an option in states such as Minnesota.

“The most significant is putting more pressure on the local
breeding population,” he said. “An increased harvest could affect
long-term productivity.

“Also, would the change affect harvest rates? (If it did) it
might reduce the number of times the liberal (hunting) package is
available to states.”

There also are concerns about extending the back end of the
season in southern states, one of which is breaking up bonding
pairs and potentially affecting productivity, Wilds said.

Three Southern states currently have an extension, which was
granted through Congress just a couple years ago, and is considered
a five-year “experiment,” Wilds said. Those states Alabama,
Mississippi, and Tennessee give up nine days of hunting on the
front end of their season in order to hunt through Jan. 31. Within
USFWS frameworks, Southern states are allowed to offer a season
that lasts through the final Sunday in January.

Under the current proposal, Southern states wouldn’t have to
give up the nine days called “offsets” to gain the extension.

Mechanical ducks

Wilds said motion duck decoys, such as Robo Duck and Perfect
Deception Decoy, were discussed at the flyway meeting in
Washington.

“This is a very difficult one,” Wilds said. “(The USFWS) is very
reluctant to oppose this type of decoy without hard data.”

Wilds said opinions vary regarding the ethics of such decoys,
and there’s disagreement in how much the motion decoys affect
harvest rates.

Currently, the state of Missouri is studying the use of the
decoys and their effect on harvest.

“The question is, where is the line?’ (on technology),” Wilds
said. “This is an issue for hunters to decide.”

Bremicker, who last year supported a failed proposal to put a
moratorium on motion decoys until their effects could be studied,
said this issue will be on the summer agenda for a meeting of the
Mississippi Flyway. At that time, members will see the results from
the Missouri study.

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