USFWS allows liberal waterfowl regs

St. Paul — On the heels of a continental duck population estimate just below last year, and habitat conditions that were similar, or slightly improved, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced it once again is giving states the option of liberal seasons and bag limits for the upcoming waterfowl season.

Additionally, it’s allowing states to offer possession limits that are three times the daily bag limit.

In the Mississippi Flyway, of which Minnesota is part, the season can open as early as Sept. 21. It seems likely the DNR will open the season that day, though an official announcement hadn’t been made as of Outdoor News press time this week.

The USFWS also is allowing a daily bag limit of six ducks, which may include no more than four mallards (two hens); three wood ducks; three scaup; two pintails; two canvasbacks; two redheads; one mottled duck; and one black duck.

The major changes from last year include a reduction in the daily bag for scaup, and an increase for canvasbacks.

Hunters were allowed four scaup last year, but the limit was cut by one after the species’ estimated population dropped from 5.2 million last year to 4.2 million this year.

On the other hand, the canvasback population estimate – 787,000 – was near a record, and 37 percent above the long-term average. For that reason, the daily bag limit can be as high as two cans, up from one last year.

The last time the canvasback limit was two per day was 2008.

During recent seasons, the DNR has used waterfowl zones in the state, and then split the seasons in those zones to allow hunters to hunt early and late in the season. Last year in the southern part of the state, for example, the season opened Sept. 22 and ran for eight days before closing. It re-opened again in mid-October and ran through Dec. 2.

The agency likely will offer zones and splits again this year, but, again, it hadn’t made an announcement as of Tuesday afternoon.

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