A third duck zone in Minnesota?

Bemidji, Minn. — After it made big changes to duck-hunting regulations in Minnesota last year, the DNR is in the process of collecting input that could lead to additional changes.

Among the topics of its current round of input meetings: the idea of adding a third duck zone in the southern part of the state. The final meeting is set for next Thursday at DNR headquarters in St. Paul.

In addition to the public input it’s collecting, the DNR also has a waterfowl-hunter survey that’s out right now.

In terms of a third duck zone, there are a couple of possibilities, said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR: a zone that encompasses just the southeast, Mississippi River area, and one that’s a little broader than that.

The former idea is especially interesting, said Brad Nylin, executive director of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association.

“Certainly, you can count on the river holding birds (after the regular duck season has ended),” he said. “I think you’re going to see people heading that direction if the opportunities are there.”

It’s unclear exactly how the season in a third zone would look. Last year, the state had a northern zone that ran for 60 consecutive days. A southern zone opened for two days, closed for five, and then re-opened. That structure allowed the season in the south to run through Thanksgiving weekend.

A new zone, especially if it’s just in the southeast, probably would borrow some characteristics of the latter, though it could be open even deeper into the year.

Wisconsin, for example, has a Mississippi River Zone. Last year, that season opened Sept. 24 and ran through Oct. 2. It closed from Oct. 3 through Oct. 14, and then re-opened from Oct. 15 through Dec. 4.

“What they’re giving up is essentially a week in October for a week after Thanksgiving,” Cordts said.

There’s a certain amount of complaining every year about the duck season in Minnesota being closed while there’s a pile of ducks on the Mississippi River in the southeast, Cordts said.

“We’ve always heard some complaints; there’s just no way to know (how many ducks will be left after the season closes),” he said. “But if we freeze up early, and we’ve given up days (in October) to be able to hunt into December, that, to me, is worse than closing while there are still ducks on the river.”

In general, a late-season hunt on the river is a mallard hunt, Cordts said. By early November, the other main birds in hunters’ bags – blue-winged teal, wood ducks, and ringnecks – largely have flown south.

“Those who like to hunt mallards (late) – they seem like they are the real avid guys,” Cordts said. “That’s who we hear from. They want to hunt late and don’t care if they lose (earlier) opportunities.”

People who cannot attend next week’s meeting can voice their opinions on the DNR website – www.dnr.state.mn.us – or by sending an email to wildlife.dnr@state.mn.us.

Written comments may be addressed to: Season comments, DNR Section of Wildlife, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4007.

Categories: Hunting News

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