Hunters to Minnesota DNR: Establish a third duck zone
St. Paul — Hunters appear supportive of several regulation changes the DNR is proposing, including one that would create a third duck-hunting zone in the southern part of the state.
The other proposals include requiring non-toxic shot for rail and snipe hunting, and allowing snaring to begin earlier in the year on private property in the farmland part of the state.
Of the 1,300 people who took an online survey about the proposals, 66 percent supported a third duck zone, or didn’t have an opinion. Nearly 80 percent of the people who attended one of the five meetings (56 of 70 attendees) supported the change or had no opinion.
The majority of hunters who support a third zone – 848 in the online survey and 41 at one of the meetings – would rather see it extend across a wide swath of the south (like south of Highway 212, for example), rather than just along the Mississippi River in the southeast.
Adding a third zone in the south could allow the DNR to offer more late-season hunting opportunities.
“It still depends a lot on when you time the season,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR. “The only way to hunt late in that part of the state is to give up something else (like opening the season later than the rest of the state, or closing it for a period of time in the middle of the season). You can’t just hunt late without losing something.”
Cordts said the agency also expects to receive the results within a couple of weeks of a survey it sent to duck hunters across the state. That survey also asked hunters their thoughts about a third duck zone.
He figures responses on that survey will mirror the input the agency already has gathered. He’s not surprised there wasn’t more preference for a zone that only included the Mississippi River.
The number of people who hunt the river late “is a very small number,” Cordts said. “…Less than a thousand.”
Dennis Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief, said he was a little surprised by the results, since many of the people the agency hears from are those who want to hunt late on the Mississippi River.
“There’s probably more field-hunting opportunities (in southern Minnesota) than I’m aware of,” he said. “A lot of late-season field hunters are having some good luck.”
The reality, though, is that a third duck zone in the south would be most useful under a more restrictive duck season – a 30-day season, for example.
“If worse comes to worst and we’re forced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to go into a restrictive season, a third zone would be much better for hunters,” Simon said. “It would provide us more options.”
It’s been more than 15 years since the last time there was anything but a liberal, 60-day duck season, but the current dry period could cause changes.
Any duck zone the DNR puts in place would remain in effect for four years.
The agency also asked people what they thought about allowing snaring on private land in the farmland to begin on the Saturday closest to Oct. 30, instead of Dec. 1.
Of the 70 people who attended a meeting and answered the question, 49 approved or didn’t have an opinion (total of 66 percent). Sixty percent of the 1,214 people who took the online survey supported the change or didn’t have an opinion. The idea is to provide more trapper opportunity.
“Originally, we were trying to minimize the impact to and interference with pheasant hunters,” Simon said. “That doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.”
Finally, the DNR asked about people’s support for requiring that snipe and rail hunters use non-toxic shot. Of the 70 people who attended a meeting, 49 supported the change, or didn’t have an opinion. Of the 1,107 people who took the online survey, 54 percent supported the proposal or didn’t have an opinion.