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

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Duck hunt forecast: 60 days, six ducks

Associate Editor

Duluth, Minn. When the dust settles from a long road of meetings
and data examination, duck hunters in Minnesota most likely will
see another 60-day hunting season this year, along with 30-day
seasons within the season for canvasbacks and pintails. The duck
season’s proposed start date is Sept. 25.

Members of the Mississippi Flyway Council which includes 14
states and three provinces followed the recommendation of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and made a similar recommendation at the
council’s meeting this past week in Duluth.

Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the Minnesota DNR, said
the Youth Waterfowl Hunt is slated for Sept. 18. A public waters
ban on mechanical spinning-wing decoys will be in effect until Oct.
9 in Minnesota this year, which coincides with the end of the 4
p.m. daily closure time. Also new this year is a 9 a.m. opener.

It appears the regular goose season will include some changes,
in the form of reduced hunting opportunity, this year. A “bust”
production year for the Eastern Prairie Population of Canada geese
will result in a 25-day season in the West-Central Zone this year.
Last year’s season was 40 days. The regular season in the remainder
of the West Zone will be 35 days (40 days last year), and the North
Zone will see a 40-day season, the same as last year. The daily bag
in these zones will be one goose.

In the remainder of the state, the goose season will be reduced
from 70 days last year to 60 this year; the daily bag will be two
geese, Cordts said.

Other states that see large concentrations of migrating EPP
geese Iowa and Missouri both will implement control measures to
limit EPP harvest. The EPP Plan calls for EPP states/provinces to
reduce harvest by 25 percent in the event of a bust production
year.

Tim Bremicker, Minnesota DNR wildlife manager and representative
to the flyway council, questioned the liberal season framework
offered by the USFWS. Members of the council had just watched the
agency’s video, which recapped spring pond and breeding counts, and
had shown in many parts of the Prairie Pothole Region of the U.S.
and Canada extremely dry conditions.

Pond counts in Canada and the U.S. were down 24 percent,
according to the USFWS, but weren’t as low as they were two years
ago, according to Guy Zenner, of the Iowa DNR. Further, though
mallard counts were down (8.3 million counted in 2004 versus 8.8
million last year), the number was still higher than in ’02 (7.5
million), Zenner said.

This will be the second year that seasons within the season will
be in place for canvasbacks and pintails, two species whose low
numbers concern biologists. During the open season for those
species, the daily limit will be one duck. The season approved by
the flyway council also includes bag limits of six ducks, four of
which may be mallards (no more than two hens), three mottled ducks,
three scaup, one black duck, two wood ducks, and two redheads.

The USFWS Regulations Committee was to examine recommendations
from each of the nation’s four flyway councils this week. From
there the waterfowl season recommendations must be approved by
USFWS Director Steve Williams.

Duck gumbo?

To curb confusion regarding the “seasons within a season” for
both pintails and canvasbacks, members of the Central Flyway
Council have been pushing an idea Cordts refers to as “gumbo.” It’s
a possible way to keep the entire season open to pintail and
canvasback hunting, with a few added restrictions.

Cordts said Central Flyway members including those from North
and South Dakota “have a long history of despising closed
seasons.”

Two years ago the idea of a “gumbo bag” surfaced. A
representative from Oklahoma proposed an aggregate bag, in which
the daily bag could include a hen mallard, canvasback, pintail, or
mottled duck.

From initial discussions two years ago, the idea became a
proposal by the Central Flyway Council this February, Cordts
said.

Members of the Central Flyway unanimously supported the
aggregate bag limit as a way to avoid abbreviated seasons during
the regular season. In the proposal, however, the daily bag was
reduced from six to five.

“(The proposal) has some appeal,” Cordts said. “But it would be
hard to evaluate in terms of harvest.”

One possibility, he said, is a three-year experiment with the
plan in the Central Flyway. But the plan must be approved by the
USFWS. And approval is more likely if the plan is supported by the
other flyways the Mississippi, Atlantic, and Pacific.

Cordts said the state of Illinois conducted a hunter survey
regarding the aggregate bag limit and hunters “were very supportive
of it.”

Wisconsin proposal tanks

Mississippi Flyway states rejected a proposal by Wisconsin to
change the duck hunting boundaries in the state.

Officials from Wisconsin DNR has requested flyway council
support when it appealed an earlier decision by the USFWS to deny
boundary changes in the state.

Members from other states said changes in Wisconsin would prompt
attempts at change in other states, and the system of reviewing
boundaries every five years had worked well in the past.

Currently, an area in northwestern Wisconsin is included in the
southern zone. The southern zone hunt last year included a split,
along with a closed period during the 60-day season. Coupled with
freeze-up during the latter stages of the season, that delay caused
loss of hunting opportunity for those hunters.

“We realize it’s easier for the council not to support it, and
for the Fish and Wildlife Service to say live with it for another
two years,’ ” said Tom Hauge, the Wisconsin DNR’s Bureau of
Wildlife Management director. “But we ask that the Upper and Lower
Regulations committees support our request for a zone change.”

Hauge said the state’s Congressional contingent had sent a
letter to the USFWS voicing support for the change.

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