Bemidji, Minn. – During the opening two days of last fall’s duck
season, John Schroers never pulled the trigger.
He’ll be in the field Saturday for this year’s opener with high
hopes, but he doesn’t know what to expect.
“I’ll be very concerned about early bird departures,” said
Schroers, an avid waterfowler and president of the Minnesota
Waterfowl Association. “It never seems to fail there is a weather
event just before the opener. They certainly had a wind to ride (on
Indeed, a strong wind from the northwest ushered in fall in many
parts of the state last weekend. And nobody seems quite sure
whether birds from the north will replace birds that headed
“We have been dealing with summer a lot longer than we expected,
and the birds responded accordingly – they didn’t move,” said Randy
Prachar, manager at the Thief Lake and Roseau River wildlife
management areas. “We had a big northwest wind, so we’ll see if we
get a net gain or a net loss from that.”
Oftentimes, wood ducks and teal make or break the duck opener,
said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.
Of the total wood duck and teal harvest for the season, about 80
percent will be killed in the first nine days of the duck season.
And, in most years, about one-third of the entire season’s harvest
happens during the first two days of the season.
“A lot of that is driven by hunting pressure – how many guys are
out there,” Cordts said. “But (from a harvest perspective) it can
kind of make or break the whole season.”
Earlier this week, Cordts was starting to compile information
for his weekly duck migration report. The weather kept him from
surveying things from the sky, but he had heard from wildlife
managers in some parts of the state.
“It seems pretty spotty as far as both water levels and, at
least, their perception of duck numbers,” he said.
Reports indicated water levels and duck numbers were pretty good
in the southwest part of the state. It’s dry in the Redwood Falls
and Sauk Rapids areas, and managers reported losing teal.
Cordts also is worried about an exodus from the Bemidji area,
especially with freezing or near freezing temperatures forecasted
for earlier this week.
“I’m a little worried that we are going to lose a lot of teal up
here (Monday and Tuesday),” he said. “It’s just hard to say what
impact the weather will have on pushing other ducks into the
There are some ducks starting to use Thief Lake, Prachar said.
Ringnecks and mallards are most abundant, he said.
“Duck numbers are pretty good for opener on the lake,” he said.
“I expect the best is yet to come.”
Local duck production was “excellent” around the Roseau River
WMA, for both diver and puddle ducks, Prachar said.
“It seems there are still a fair number of ducks in the area,”
he said. “I’m not sure that we’ve got much out of the north there
Where Schroers hunts in the south metro, he hasn’t seen much for
ducks. Even when he was goose hunting near some youth hunters on
Youth Waterfowl Day, he didn’t see the number of ducks he figured
But that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm, even if he’s already
looking beyond opening day.
“Hopefully at some point during the season we’ll get that grand
passage,” Schroers said. “If you haven’t ever witnessed that, it is
something to behold.”
Warning for Winnie
DNR officials are asking duck hunters on Lake Winnibigoshish to
check their equipment for faucet snails, which carry parasites
called trematodes that have killed thousands of scaup on Winnie
since the fall of 2007.
Both hunters and anglers should be sure not to transport
vegetation or water from the lake, but decoy lines are also of
special concern, according to Jeff Lawrence, group leader of the
DNR’s wetlands wildlife populations and research group.
“They do seem to hang on cords and weights and those kind of
things,” he said. “We would like to encourage waterfowl hunters to
check their equipment as they are picking it up so they don’t
inadvertently transport those snails to other basins that hold
Hunters should run a gloved hand up the decoy lines to strip any
snails from them, and look in crevices or other places where the
snails could hide, Lawrence said. Power washing also is good,
especially if hunters plan to haul their boats to other waters.
Transport of the snails is a particular concern since many
diving duck hunters travel from lake to lake in search of good
“The snails are incredibly tough – they can actually live about
30 days outside of the water,” Lawrence said. “We are concerned.
There are several lakes throughout north-central Minnesota and
across Minnesota that are important diving-duck lakes.”