MN: DNR plans duck-hunter survey for 2012
Bemidji, Minn. – Regulation changes that allowed hunters to kill more wood ducks and hen mallards, and that opened the season earlier and divided the state into zones, likely still will be in place next fall.
That assumes counts next spring don't show big changes in duck status, and that hunters don't express widespread opposition to the new regs.
"If people are generally supportive of what we did last year, and duck numbers generally are OK, then I think we would probably recommend a very similar season," said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR.
One change, though, could be the addition of a third duck zone in the state. But before the agency makes such a decision, it will ask hunters what they think.
The DNR plans to send a survey in early January to thousands of duck hunters in all regions of the state. It hopes to have results by about April so they can be used "to help make decisions for next year," Cordts said.
The agency will ask about the changes it made to this year's season, including opening the season a week earlier; increasing the hen mallard and wood duck limits; splitting the state into two zones; and allowing hunters to shoot a half-hour before sunrise on opening morning.
"We made so many changes last year," Cordts said. "We'll get some feedback on all the changes we made and whether people liked them or didn't like them, anyway."
But he'd be surprised if there's a big group of hunters that didn't like the changes, in part because he heard little feedback after the agency announced them.
"Typically, when we've really screwed up, you hear from a lot more people than we heard from this year," Cordts said.
The survey also will ask about people's motivations for duck hunting, and how they got into waterfowl hunting in the first place. That sort of information will allow officials to compare Minnesota to other states, and duck hunters to other types of hunters, and "see if there's anything we can do about what continues to be declines in hunter numbers," Cordts said.
Surveys also are important for discerning what most people think. There's a vocal group of people, for example, who want to do away with the youth waterfowl day, but surveys show support for that hunt.
"Without surveys we wouldn't know that," Cordts said. "Two-thirds of hunters support youth day as-is."
The DNR has conducted similar surveys in the past, including after the 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2010 seasons. In Minnesota and across the nation, there has been an effort to obtain better "human dimensions" information from duck hunters.
After the 2009 duck season, the DNR sent out a survey to "lapsed hunters" – those who hunted ducks in the past, but not in recent seasons.
The idea was to learn about the reasons why people left the sport.
"There's no smoking gun, or one factor," Cordts said. "There are a whole host of factors."
Among them: aging, money, time, health, and a lack of ducks. The DNR is expected to release the report in the next week or two.