MN: Reports suggest a better ’10 duck season
Bemidji, Minn. – Once all the numbers have been tabulated, it may not look like the duck season that ended earlier this week was anything spectacular.
The number of hunters who targeted waterfowl probably will be down some from 2009, and the harvest likely will be on par with last year.
Yet, "generally, it probably turned out better than most people expected," said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR. "It wasn't our best season ever, but there were more good reports than just terrible reports, more or less, throughout the season."
The 60-day season ended on Tuesday of this week.
Hunters last year killed 576,000 ducks, based on state estimates. That amounted to 7.4 ducks per hunter for the season. Since 1995, the seasonal take per hunter has ranged from 6.9 to 9.9.
Though the number of hunters likely will be lower this year than last, Cordts figures the take per hunter may be up slightly this year over last year.
"Harvest will probably be in the same ballpark," he said. "It may be up a bit in that last year's harvest was as close to as low as it's been in a long time. A lot of that was based on our low number of duck hunters."
There were a few surprises this season, according to Cordts. In many parts of the state, hunters had nearly the entire season to hunt open water, "which in northern Minnesota doesn't happen all that often."
Also, despite mild weather throughout October – with the exception of the windstorm that hit at the end of the month and "shuffled some birds around" – much of the good hunting was due to diving ducks, he said.
"If you would have told me – as mild of weather as we had in October – that hunting would be decent, I would have been a little surprised by that," Cordts said.
Hunters had a shot at a mixed bag of birds. Ring-necked duck and redhead hunting was OK, especially in October, but the hunters who were waiting for a late-season push of mallards likely were disappointed.
"Mallard hunting, I don't think, was ever great," Cordts said. "That's sort of how it's been the past few years. I'm sure mallards will still be the number one bird in the bag – as they always are – but there wasn't the big concentration of mallards later in the season that we get sometimes."
Cordts didn't hear consistently spectacular reports from anywhere in the state, but said he heard good things about the Little Falls area and the northwest part of the state.
"Thief Lake was OK and they are always pretty good as far as ducks per hunter per day," he said.
Reports were spotty from the west-central part of the state, as were those from the north-central part of the state.
Some of the big water – lakes like Leech and Winnibigoshish – didn't seem to be good this year.
"I heard a lot of very poor reports from Leech," he said.
Cordts didn't hear much from the southeast.
"They had good numbers of ducks in early November, but the way the river was high, I don't know how that impacted duck hunting down there," he said.
As of early November, sales of state duck stamps were down from last year by about 2 percent. Sales in 2009 totalled just under 90,000. While the goose season is still open, and late-season duck hunters may have bought a few stamps, it's unlikely the state will be able to make up the deficit.
"If it's down any, it will be the fewest state duck stamps that we've sold since we started the stamp program in 1977," he said.