Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Spinning-wing decoy use climbing in state

Associate Editor

Bemidji, Minn. Duck hunters are happy with some things and
dissatisfied with others, a recent survey commissioned by the
Minnesota DNR has found. In the meantime, use of motorized
spinning-wing decoys continues to grow.

The 2002 survey followed on the heals of the 2000 survey. Many
opinions were similar, but some things continue to change.

“One reason we did it two years after the last one was to get a
better handle on the use of spinning-wing decoys,” said Steve
Cordts, DNR waterfowl staff specialist in Bemidji.

From 2000 to 2002, those surveyed indicated use of the decoys
grew from 10 percent to 26 percent, and Cordts said he’s certain
use is even higher now.

Generally, respondents were “neutral” about restrictions on the
spinning-wing decoys, but most agreed they helped in harvesting
more ducks.

While dissatisfaction (very, moderately, or slightly) with their
duck harvest decreased from 2000 to 2002 (50 percent to 44
percent), Cordts said that’s one area the DNR would like to
improve. In both surveys, about 70 percent of hunters said they
were to some degree satisfied with waterfowl hunting in
general.

Hunters were asked their opinion about hunting seasons, and
options within the various possible season frameworks. For a
liberal, 60-day season, about half of the respondents favored an
early opener; for a 45-day season, about 30 percent favored a
single season with a traditional opener; while if a 30-day season
were offered, nearly half preferred a single season with a
traditional opener.

Support for the Youth Waterfowl Hunt dropped from 66 percent in
2000 to 61 percent in 2002, which surprised Cordts.

“In other states, we see surveys that are really positive, and
most of those states allow a two-day hunt,” he said. “It doesn’t
make sense to me that there should be this controversy.”

The reason could be because an estimated 19,000 youths take part
in the one-day hunt in Minnesota, and fewer participate in other
states, Cordts suggested.

Cordts said the results of the surveys will be used to guide DNR
decision-making for duck regulations in the future. Another survey
will follow, but probably not for a few years.

The 2002 survey was distributed to 4,800 waterfowl hunters
following the 2002 hunting season. A total of 3,129 responded. The
average age of respondents was 45 years old and had been hunting
waterfowl for 22 years. More information on the report is available
on the DNR web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Minnesota numbers up

Cordts said the breeding population of mallards, blue-winged
teal, and “other” ducks was up, according to recent surveys.

For mallards, the count was about 375,000 ducks, up 34 percent
from the 281,000 counted last year. The 2003 count was the first
since 1992 that was below 300,000.

Cordts said the ’04 mallard count also is 9 percent above the
long-term average. The Minnesota mallard count is used to help
determine season frameworks for waterfowl hunting.

Bluewings rebounded dramatically from the 2003 survey. There
were 353,000 counted this year, up 83 percent, a statistically
“significant” increase, Cordts said.

And “other” ducks, including wood ducks, ringnecks, and gadwall,
were up 13 percent to 280,000 this year. Woodies were about 40
percent of the “others.”

The total duck population was estimated at just above 1 million,
Cordts said. He said teal likely stayed in Minnesota, or were
delayed because of cool, wet spring conditions.

Cordts said pond counts were down 19 percent, but significant
rains hit most areas right after the pond counts were complete.

“Things are in real good shape right now in the state,” he
said.

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