Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Duck season ends; now looking ahead

Season closes on a positive note

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Shakopee, Minn. — Devout duck hunter John Schroers is still
giddy about the last two weeks of the waterfowl season.

“I’m trying to get over mallard mania,” Schroers said last
Wednesday, a day after the duck season closed. “If you take into
consideration the late-season aspect, it was one of the best
(seasons) we’ve ever had.”

Altogether, Schroers said the entire season was a marked
improvement over last year.

Schroers’ sentiment echoes the word from waterfowl
officials.

“Most of what I’ve heard has been that guys were doing a little
better,” said Steve Wilds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional
migratory bird chief. “It wasn’t fast and furious, but there were
birds around and people were getting some cracks at them.”

Said Ray Norrgard, wetland wildlife program leader for the DNR:
“You had your normal variability across the state, and we had our
typical doldrums. But overall, people had better
opportunities.”

The weather pattern this year, especially season’s end, was more
conducive to duck hunting. Unlike seasons in the recent past, this
fall’s season effectively ended in many areas before the official
close because ponds froze and pushed ducks south, Norrgard
said.

Harvest tallies aren’t available yet, but a decrease in hunters
could hold it down. Fewer than 102,000 state duck stamps were sold
this fall. That’s almost 13,000 fewer than last year, and a
decrease of about 20,000 since 2000, according to the DNR License
Center.

“That’s going to have an effect on what the overall harvest
was,” Norrgard said.

The main duck movement occurred in mid-November, when air
temperatures plummeted.

Schroers was afield during that push, and worried it would send
the ducks packing. Some headed south, he said, but others stayed
around the south metro, where Schroers does a lot of hunting. He
and another hunter each shot four birds on the last day of the
season.

“Things got so good that it was just a very welcome change from
last year,” Schroers said. “We had that non-fall last year. Mother
Nature cooperated this year and did what she was supposed to
do.”

Based on anecdotal reports from wildlife managers, there was
good duck hunting in the southeast, southwest, and west-central
parts of the state; good hunting early and late in the northwest;
and poor hunting in the south-central part of the state, Norrgard
said.

Duck hunting at Marsh Lake in the Lac qui Parle Wildlife
Management Area was decent most of the year, but there were few
hunters on the lake to see it, said Dave Trauba, WMA manager.

“Some of it probably was just people’s memories from 2004 and
kind of the forecast of the same type of season,” he said in
reference to the lack of hunters.

Cold temperatures in the early and late parts of the season
moved mallards and other ducks into the area, Trauba said.

“Anytime we got a little bit of northwest energy, it spun in new
birds and there would be a flurry of activity,” he said.

Late-season field hunts

Schroers notwithstanding, hunters in Minnesota are less apt to
hunt fields than their counterparts in North Dakota, Norrgard
said.

There were field-feeding geese and ducks late into the season,
but not many hunters targeting them, Norrgard said.

“They were there, but they weren’t necessarily easy to hunt,”
Norrgard said. “A lot of hunters don’t take advantage of (the late
season) or have difficulty finding places to hunt.”

Canadian prairie prime

The Canadian prairie had good water this fall, which bodes well
for next spring, Wilds said.

“At least they’re going into winter with a pretty good frost
seal,” he said.

Heading into winter, it’s good if the soil is wet so that it
freezes. That way when the snow melts next spring, it will run off
into potholes, rather than into the ground, Wilds said.

“Things are set pretty well for spring on the prairies of
Canada,” he said.

The Dakotas were a little dry through the fall, but recent
snowstorms could help ducks.

“Maybe this weather that’s been rotten for upland birds will be
beneficial for waterfowl over the long term,” Wilds said.

Lac qui Parle improves

After hunters had historically low success rates on geese at Lac
qui Parle in 2004, this year was an improvement. Hunters killed
close to 350 geese out of the state blinds – up from last year, but
down from past years when hunters have taken between 800 and 1,000
geese.

Part of the reason for the decrease in harvest could have to do
with the fact that geese are migrating and arriving at Lac qui
Parle up to a month later than they have in the past, Trauba
said.

Most hunters come to the WMA in October, before most of the
geese have arrived. The goose count didn’t hit 100,000 until around
Nov. 9.

“(Hunters) are going to have to switch and start coming in
November,” Trauba said.

Wetlands Summit set for mid-winter

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Duluth, Minn. — Aftershocks from the Ducks, Wetlands, and Clean
Water Rally held last April continue. Next up: A Wetlands Summit,
scheduled for Feb. 4.

Organizers expect 200 to 300 people at the summit, the end
result of which will be, in part, a position paper and set of
recommendations for stemming the tide of wetland loss.

“Our rally is all about action,” said Dave Zentner, rally
co-chair. “The vision with this is where we are at – and we know we
are not going to like where we are at – but what do we have to do
to change it?”

The inaugural summit is set for 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at
Normandale Community College in Bloomington.

The morning session will examine the history and status of
wetland policies, programs, regulations, current problems, and
changes needed, according to an Izaak Walton League of America
release.

Radio personality and TV host Tony Dean will give a speech
during a noon luncheon, offering an outside perspective of the
state’s wetland problems.

Breakout sessions will be held in the afternoon, during which
specific topics will be covered, possibly including things like how
government agencies can be more efficient in dealing with wetlands,
or what the big-picture vision for the state’s wetlands is, Zentner
said.

Once breakouts are done, there will be a closing summary that
will include recommendations for action.

“Most of them will probably be Minnesota recommendations to the
Legislature,” Zentner said.

The summit will include students, government officials,
conservationists, and citizens. Zentner said the summit is a
“working group” that will work through questions such as: What are
the biggest threats to wetlands? Is the state actually gaining or
losing wetlands, and how is that defined? Are there too many
agencies governing wetlands?

“We want to make it clear that this is not just another
sit-down,” Zentner said.

The plan is to hold a similar summit every year, and be able to
use Summit ‘06 as a baseline for judging accomplishments or losses
in regards to wetlands.

There have been similar wetland conferences in the past – the
Ikes have held them, and the Minnesota Waterfowl Association holds
an annual waterfowl symposium (set for April in Detroit Lakes) –
but this likely will be different, said Ray Norrgard, DNR wetland
wildlife program leader.

“There have been some different efforts, but I think this one
differs in that the intentions… (are) to come out with some
potential policy recommendations,” he said.

Pre-registration for the summit is required, and there is a
registration fee of $20 per person, or $10 for certified students.
For more information, call the Ikes at (651) 221-0215, or email
ikes@minnesotaikes.org.

Rally 2

The second Ducks, Wetlands, and Clean Water Rally is set for
Earth Day, April 22.

Organizers are shooting for about 10,000 people at the second
rally, which likely will be more focused on political organization,
rather than speakers, Zentner said. About 5,000 people attended
last year’s rally.

Rallying statewide support for dedicated funding will be a focus
of the second rally, Zentner said, which assumes the Legislature
passes a measure to put the question to the voters next
November.

For now, the rally supports dedicating one-quarter of one
percent of the state sales tax: one-eighth for clean water,
one-eighth for fish and wildlife.

“LCMR reform is ongoing,” Zentner said. “Dedicated funding takes
care of two things, if it happens: $80 million for clean water and
$80 million for habitat.

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