Upbeat reports so far from duck hunt
Bemidji, Minn. — The 2012 Minnesota waterfowl season started on a good note for most hunting parties. There were some hunters disappointed with the number of birds they encountered, which is always the case on opening weekend. Statewide, however, good reports were more consistent than bad ones.
The key to success this year was finding water. With drought conditions in many regions, the water that remained tended to hold a lot of ducks. If you set up on one of those small ponds, puddle ducks were in good supply.
Blue-winged teal and wood ducks dominated hunter bags on opening weekend, with a surprising number of mallards and a few divers in the mix in select locations. A good supply of Canada geese and a few early migrant snow geese rounded out what some considered the best duck opener in many years.
“Saturday was better than Sunday, which is typical, but it was a good opener,” said Paul Telander, DNR regional wildlife manager in Bemidji. “Overall, it was a good start to the duck season in the northwest.”
Hunting pressure was down from past openers at the Thief Lake and Roseau River WMAs, likely the result of well-publicized dry conditions, but those who spent opening weekend on them found some success.
Telander noted that blue-winged teal were the number one bird taken, followed by mallards, pintails, wigeon, and a few ringnecks and canvasbacks.
Randy Prachar is the DNR wildlife manager at Roseau River and he said goose hunting was excellent for those who didn’t shoot a lot of ducks. Northwest winds and colder air just prior to opening day seemed to move some geese down from Canada.
“We averaged a goose per hunter per day and on public hunting areas half that total is good,” he said. “There also were some snow geese around and we saw them in bags, which is unusual this early in the season.”
Reports from the Fergus Falls and Ortonville areas indicated big numbers of puddle ducks. Hunters found limits of wood ducks and teal quite easy to come by with a few mallards rounding out those limits.
Conservation officer reports from opening weekend were mostly upbeat. With just a few exceptions, participation numbers were up and most hunters were genuinely impressed with the ducks they saw and shot.
- CO Jeff Birchem (Baudette) found most hunters had a successful opening weekend with good numbers of ducks on Lake of the Woods. Diving ducks were the most present with redheads and scaup in most bags.
- CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji) worked a busy opening weekend and although success varied, most bags included wood ducks, teal, mallards, and ringnecks.
- CO Phil Seefeldt (Moorhead) reported a successful opener for most hunters and many of them stated it was one of the better openers in years.
- CO Bret Grundmeier (Hinckley) found a limited number of groups on opening day, but those that made it out had great success shooting teal, wood ducks, and mallards.
At Swan Lake in Nicollet County, water levels were higher than most other parts of the region and that meant good hunting, according to Greg Abraham, New Ulm area conservation officer.
Abraham noted that hunter success on Swan averaged 2.5 ducks per hunter on the north end and four ducks per hunter on the south. Redheads were the most common duck shot followed by blue-winged teal, wood ducks, and mallards – limits were seen within the first hour of hunting.
In central Minnesota, duck hunters also had a better start to the duck season than they had in several years, according to Beau Liddell, DNR wildlife manager in Little Falls. Wood ducks and teal dominated bags in this region.
“I’m sure some groups had a below average opener, but to be honest, I haven’t heard a bad report,” Liddell said. “It was considerably better than I thought it would be with a lot of limits reported.”