DNR to survey waterfowlers after 2010-11 season ends
Bemidji, Minn. – As it does every few years, the DNR will survey waterfowl hunters after the upcoming season.
It will ask about duck hunters' experiences and from where they derive their satisfaction as it relates to duck hunting. It will ask about season structure and the possibility of duck zones or split seasons.
It may even ask when hunters think the season should open. The season currently opens on the Saturday nearest Oct. 1.
"We don't have the option right now to open the season early because of legislation, but perhaps we might by next year," said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR in Bemidji.
Members of the waterfowl stamp subcommittee of the Game and Fish Fund Budgetary Oversight Committee also had requested the agency conduct a survey.
In this year's report, members of the subcommittee weighed in on one of the questions hunters likely will be asked later this year.
"The (committee) also feels strongly that the waterfowl opener be moved from the traditional Saturday closest to (Oct.) 1 to Saturday closest to (Sept.) 24," the committee wrote. "The (committee) believes that this will help in recruitment and retention as there should be more waterfowl in the area. The main migration for blue-winged teal and wood ducks is generally before (Oct. 1), and we know that waterfowl hunters want to see more ducks while hunting and we feel this will help in that."
The survey, which the DNR does in conjunction with the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, will be sent to 4,000 hunters. Response rates to past surveys have been around 65 percent, which is "surprisingly high," Cordts said.
One aspect of the survey results that's been fairly consistent in the years they've been done – 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2007 – is hunter satisfaction, he said.
Between about 60 percent and 65 percent of the respondents have reported being satisfied at some level.
"It's certainly not the case that most of our hunters are dissatisfied," he said. "(But) I suspect if we asked hunters after last season – it was such a poor duck season – that we would have seen a drop in satisfaction."
The survey will dig into the reasons why hunters derive satisfaction from duck hunting. Is it seeing lots of ducks? Bagging lots of them? Spending time with friends?
Cordts noted that South Dakota conducts similar surveys and though duck hunting there tends to be consistently good, "their duck hunters aren't any more satisfied than our guys. And, in some cases, they were more dissatisfied," he said.
The DNR after last season sent out a survey to so-called drop-out hunters – hunters who at various times have bought state waterfowl stamps, but haven't for a certain period of time.
Given the drop-outs aren't duck hunting in Minnesota anymore – perhaps they moved or died – the response rate has been lower and a second wave of surveys went out a few months ago, Cordts said.
There's never really been much focus on those hunters who drop out, and while some of the reasons may be obvious – lack of time or money to pursue ducks, or the perception there aren't any ducks around – it would be helpful to have data on the reasons, he said.
"If there is anything we could change, we would certainly think about it pretty seriously," Cordts said.
Some waterfowl hunters in the state will receive a survey from a graduate student at Louisiana State University, he said. That student is surveying hunters in the Mississippi Flyway to gauge their opinions on such topics as management strategies and satisfaction.