Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Weather deals duck hunters a cold hand

Associate Editor

Baudette, Minn. Midway through the state’s duck season, many
Minnesota waterfowlers are facing the numbing prospect that their
hunt may be finished.

On Tuesday, many points across the northern half of the state
and even some in the south reported frozen-over ponds and lower
duck numbers. With even colder temps across the state in the
immediate forecast, some officials predict most ducks will make a
quick exit to warmer climes.

“Typically when it gets this late, you don’t expect numbers to
build,” said Jeff Dittrich, DNR area wildlife manager in
Baudette.

Local officials in Baudette a week removed from “the best duck
hunting in five years” say hunting remains “excellent” on Lake of
the Woods in some locations.

While the big bodies of water will hold ducks, getting to them
is becoming more difficult, Dittrich said. Unseasonable chill has
created frozen boat access points, another hurdle for those
attempting to get their final cracks at bluebills, buffleheads, and
goldeneyes.

Duck hunting has been possible nearly all season long the past
few years, Dittrich said. In fact, there were those hunting ducks
and others fishing in short-sleeve shirts during last year’s deer
season. This year the deer season begins Nov. 9 in most areas. Duck
season is open through Nov. 26, statewide, for all species but
pintails and canvasbacks. The pintail season closed Oct. 27 and
there was no canvasback season this year.

Officials from several other areas of the state say freeze-up is
bringing a quick end to the duck season. In International Falls,
DNR wildlife specialist Larry Petersen said Tuesday even portions
of Rainy Lake were becoming iced over, including Black Bay, where
late-arriving diver ducks sometimes congregate. Other areas of
Rainy remained good as of early this week.

“Bluebill hunting has been very good on the big lake,” said
Bruce Sandbeck, of the Loon’s Nest in International Falls. “It’s
been one of the better years we’ve seen over the past few
seasons.”

Farther south, the story is much the same frozen ponds and small
lakes, some hunting leftover on big water bodies.

Greg Rassett, of Bud’s Bait in Ortonville, said Tuesday lots of
geese remained in the area, joined by a few gadwalls, wigeon, and
some mallards. He, too, said waters around the border town were
freezing up, as were many in both North and South Dakota.

Rob Naplin, DNR area wildlife manager in Park Rapids, said small
ponds and rice beds were ice-covered. Hunting had been “spotty,” he
said.

Several ringnecks and bluebills were reported in the St. Cloud
area, but most small ponds were ice-covered.

Some areas of the state, including International Falls, had
snow, as well as ice, making the chances of ducks sticking around
even less likely.

“It got cut real short here,” Petersen said. “It’s kind of hard
to accept, given the mild falls we’ve had in the past.”

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