Some tribal waterfowlers to get crack at swans

State-threatened trumpeter swans.

Cloquet, Minn. — When it comes to waterfowling participation by Minnesota tribal members, things are much the same as that of their state-licensed counterparts. In other words, the activity maintains modest interest from so-called diehards, and its popularity is dwarfed by that of deer hunting (and, in some cases, moose hunting). That despite bag limits aimed at providing subsistence waterfowl hunting for members.

And, this year for some, the opportunity to harvest trumpeter swans.

“I think the hunter trends that apply to state-licensed hunters also apply to tribal hunters,” said Mike Schrage, wildlife biologist for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, located near Cloquet. Whitetails and moose generate much more interest than ducks and geese, he said.

The same general rule holds true for tribes under the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission umbrella.

“The short story is, the waterfowl stuff never has been highly participated in,” said Peter David, a GLIFWC wildlife biologist.

But should they choose to take part in a duck hunt, tribal members in 1837 and 1842 treaty areas need not worry much about exceeding the bag limit of ducks, or geese.

In the 1837 and 1842 treaty areas, the duck-hunting season opened Sept. 1 and closes Dec. 31. The daily bag limit for ducks is 50 (all duck species in aggregate), and the goose limit (Canadas and other geese) is 20.

GLIFWC also states that individual tribes (including the Mille Lacs band and Fond du Lac bands in Minnesota) might impose additional requirements or restrictions.

Those tribal members also are allowed a daily harvest of two sandhill cranes.

Tribal members in the 1837 and 1842 treaty areas will be allowed to harvest trumpeter swans, with the season closing when the total number of swans taken reaches 10, or Dec. 31 if that number isn’t reached.

David said he was “99 percent” certain the season would occur, and would begin Nov. 1. The tribes had sought such a season a couple years ago, he said, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed allowing the hunt this year.

“It will be a very limited harvest,” David said. The daily limit would be two swans.

The past two years, two cranes have been killed each year, “and I would expect the harvest (of swans) to be the same,” he said.

That reflects low interest overall in waterfowling, according to David, who says about 100 band members hunt ducks off-reservation in the states of 1837 and 1842 areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

“The regulations look incredibly liberal, and they are,” he said. But, he adds, it’s much more common for tribal waterfowlers to have duck hunts similar to those of state-licensed hunters, when about two birds on average are taken during a hunt.

According to Schrage, the Fond du Lac band’s duck rules are more restrictive than the GLIFWC framework. Off-reservation, the season runs Sept. 13 through Nov. 30, with a daily limit of 18 ducks. On the reservation, the season is Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, and the daily limit is 12.

Through an agreement with the state of Minnesota, the duck-hunting regulations for 1854 Authority bands – Bois Forte and Grand Portage – are similar to those of state-licensed hunters: a six-bird daily bag and a season that begins Sept. 27 and ends Nov. 30.

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