Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Few bangs as duck hunt draws to close

December 2004 Canada goose

hunt, however, holds promise

By Tim Spielman

Associate Editor

Bemidji, Minn. As an unseasonably warm Minnesota November brings
the state duck hunt to a close, it may be ushering in a promising
late Canada goose season, according to state officials.

The duck season closes statewide on Tuesday, Nov. 23. Meanwhile,
the December (late) goose season runs Dec. 10-19 in the Southeast
Zone (daily bag of two; possession limit of four) and Dec. 4-13 in
the remainder of the state (daily bag of five geese; possession
limit of 10). There’s no December goose hunt in the West-Central

Most reports regarding duck hunting in the state have included
few ducks, little hunting. But with high temperatures nearly 10
degrees above average during mid-November, open water for hunting
isn’t a problem this year.

“The positive thing is we have open water in the northern part
of the state where most years it’s frozen,” said Steve Cordts,
waterfowl specialist for the Minnesota DNR. “We lost a lot of ducks
last week, mostly ringnecks, which is not surprising. We expected
scaup and mallards to replace them, but that hasn’t happened. It’s
pretty tough hunting right now.”

Cordts, who has flown weekly duck survey routes during the
hunting season, said ringnecks are typically “calendar” migrators,
whereas “mallards are more like geese; they’ll stay until they have
to go (because of freezing, snow, and cold).”

Cordts believes some of the mallards that pass through the state
still are in parts of Canada because of the lack of ice on water
bodies. He said duck reports from both of the Dakotas have not been
glowing, either.

Conservation officers this week most of whom were observing deer
hunters said lack of ducks didn’t help to increase duck hunting

CO Keith Backer, of Blackduck, said a light freeze-up in that
area failed to result in new ducks to the area.

However, Morris-area CO Tony Anderson said he and area hunters
were seeing a few more migrant ducks. A similar report came from CO
Todd VanderWeyst, of Paynesville. He said a few more mallards had
arrived in the area, “but still not the numbers hunters have

CO Tony Arhart, of Deer River, said duck hunters still were
putting effort into their pursuit, but concentrations of ducks
hadn’t materialized.

The waterfowl count on the Lac qui Parle refuge was indicative
of the duck situation in the state. According to Dave Trauba, DNR
area wildlife manager, there were about 10,000 mallards on the
refuge early this week. Normally, the refuge harbors about 40,000
to 80,000 this time of year.

LqP geese

There’s no late goose hunt in the West-Central Zone, which
includes Lac qui Parle.

Just last week, the bulk of migrating Canada geese showed up at
the refuge. Trauba said about 100,000 birds took up temporary
residence there, just as the season closed Nov. 14.

“And they’re not even all here yet,” he said.

Trauba said several factors this year which he dubbed “the year
of one-day cold fronts” contributed to the “perfect storm”
regarding poor goose hunting conditions at LqP.

Poor production on the breeding grounds by Eastern Prairie
Population geese which use the refuge made the population older,
and wiser.

“They definitely knew how high to fly around the refuge,” Trauba

Further, warm weather meant a delayed migration, resulting in
the greatest number of birds arriving after the season closed.

And why leave Canada? Geese were feasting not far from breeding
grounds on crops still in the field. Wet conditions in Canada
slowed the harvest this year, giving geese a virtual

Hunters in blinds run by the state took about 100 geese this
year, Trauba said. That compares to past success of more than 500
and sometimes up to 2,000 geese harvested from the blinds.

“The only silver lining is that if we had to have a tough year
of hunting, this was the year to have it,” he said, pointing to the
fact that the season was 40 days long and not the restrictive
25-day season which hunters have seen in the past. “It will
probably go down, for the refuge, as one of the toughest seasons
since the 1970s.”

Good goose

hunting ahead?

While hunters in west-central Minnesota may have had a
disappointing season, there’s still plenty of opportunity for goose
hunters in most areas of the state.

Mild conditions thus far could bode well for December goose

“We find that weather does have quite an effect (on goose
hunting) as far as freeze-up and snow on the ground,” said Steve
Maxson, DNR goose specialist in Bemidji. He said in most years, the
best goose hunting is reserved for the southern part of the state,
though this year good hunting could be more widespread,
weather-dependent, of course.

The December harvest of geese most of them resident giants in
past years has been between 8,000 and 12,000.

“It’s a small proportion of the total goose harvest,” Maxson
said. He said the current breeding population of resident Canada
geese in Minnesota is about 300,000, with a management goal of
about 180,000. He said that may be revised upward in the

Popular areas of Minnesota to hunt December geese include the
Rochester area where about 15,000 to 20,000 “hang around all
winter” and some locations around Fergus Falls.

“Other than that, it can be hit or miss,” Maxson said.

A late crop harvest in much of Minnesota could mean readily
available waste corn on which geese may dine, if deep snow doesn’t
cover it up.

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