Duck season: earliest opener since 1945

St. Paul — Duck hunters who enjoy things like zones, splits, and early and late-season hunting should find this year’s duck season to their liking.

And save for a couple changes, it’s just like last year.

“Hunters had a good waterfowl season last year,” said Paul Telander, DNR Wildlife Section chief. “We heard positive reports so we maintained the same season structure.”

The season will open Sept. 21, which is the earliest since 1945. In the North Duck Zone (north of Highway 210), it will run continuously through Nov. 19. In the Central Duck Zone (south of Highway 210, north of Highway 212), it will run through Sept. 29, close for five days, and then run Oct. 5 through Nov. 24. The South Duck Zone (south of Highway 212) will run through Sept. 29, close for 12 days, and then run Oct. 12 through Dec. 1.

Like they did last year, hunters likely will have an abundance of blue-winged teal and wood ducks at which to shoot.

“That’s why we open early – to try to give some additional opportunity for those early migrants,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. “I would think it would be good again this year.”

The strategy appears to be working, if raw harvest is any indication. Hunters last year shot 184,396 wood ducks, compared with 150,593 in 2011, and 77,900 in 2010. (Additionally, the daily bag for wood ducks went from two birds to three last year.)

Hunters shot 123,322 blue-winged teal last year, compared with 89,767 in 2011, and 39,360 in 2010.

Duck harvest last year increased to 749,300, compared with 621,000 in 2011. Wood ducks and blue-winged teal made up more than half of that increase.

The daily bag limit remains at six ducks this year. The mallard bag is four, two of which may be hens. The wood duck limit also is staying at three birds per day.  The only changes in species’ daily bags are scaup (from four per day last year to three this year) and canvasbacks (from one per day last year to two per day this year).

Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offered all states the option of increasing the possession limit from two times the daily limit to three for all migratory birds. Minnesota went along with the change, so hunters will be able to possess 18 ducks.

One of the reasons Minnesota retained the same zones and splits during the season as last year is hunters seemed to support them, Cordts said.

In the South Duck Zone last year, “from what I heard, the second opener was pretty good, but we didn’t have a whole lot of weather to push some ducks into the state,” he said.

The Central Duck Zone, with a five-day split, sees less effect from the split.

Open-water hunting

The DNR is opening Lake Superior, Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs Lake, and Lake Pepin to open-water hunting. Boats must remain anchored.

The new open-water rules are the result of an input process that included citizen input and a waterfowl focus group.

“Hunters should wear their life jackets, not just have them aboard,” said Maj. Phil Meier, DNR enforcement operations manager. “They’ll also have to be on the lookout for recreational boaters, large waves from barges and other commercial traffic, and unfavorable changes in the weather. It’s a different type of hunting; it takes a different safety mindset.”

Other seasons

The following waterfowl seasons also are set:

• August Canada goose, from Aug. 10 through Aug. 25 in the Intensive Harvest Zones. Bag limit is 10 per day.
• Early Canada goose season, open statewide, from Sept. 1 through Sept. 20. Bag limit is 10 per day in the Intensive Harvest Zone, and five per day in the rest of the state.
• Youth Waterfowl Day: Sept. 7.
• Regular goose season, which opens along with the duck season on Sept. 21. The daily bag limit is three. In the North Zone, the season runs through Dec. 16; in the Central Duck Zone, it runs Sept. 21-29, and Oct. 5 through Dec. 21. In the South Duck Zone, the goose season runs Sept. 21-29, and Oct. 12 through Dec. 28.
• Sandhill crane season, from Sept. 14 through Oct. 20. Bag limit is two cranes per day, and the season is open only in the Northwest Goose and Sandhill Crane Zone.

Lac qui Parle

Hunters no longer need to apply for a reservation date to hunt from a goose blind in the controlled hunting zone at the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area.

Daily drawings will be held beginning at 6 a.m. and be in effect from Oct. 17 through Nov. 30. Since applications for the controlled hunt have been on the decline, the traditional application process no longer is necessary, said Dave Trauba, the LqP manager. 

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