Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Duck hunt at midseason: ‘pretty good’

Bemidji, Minn. — For those waterfowlers who live to hunt in the harshest of conditions, who revel in sleet, snow, and bitter-cold winds, the 2014 Minnesota duck season thus far has been anything but for you. That said, it’s only about half over.

And duck hunting has, according to most accounts, been decent, said Steve Cordts, the DNR’s waterfowl specialist who tracks the birds’ migration during fall via plane flights and other methods. He also gets a good chunk of first-hand knowledge of the status of ducks in the state by actively participating in the hunt.

“Up until now, it’s been pretty good,” Cordts said of this fall’s duck hunt, adding that right now there appears to be a slight lull in hunting activity in some areas as warm, pleasant weather dominates the state. It was expected to remain that way, he said, into the near future.

“The 10-day forecast looks nice,” he said earlier this week. “(Ducks are) moving (now), but cold and wind would get new birds moving in, and birds moving around, having to feed a lot more.”

Following a duck-tracking flight earlier this week, Cordts said duck numbers in portions of the state were moderate, with concentrations of birds in refuge areas of northern Minnesota.

Duck hunting had slowed across the state this week, he said.

Each Thursday, Cordts issues a migration and hunting report that’s available on the DNR’s website. Last week, he reported diving ducks, such as ring-necked ducks, canvasbacks, and redheads, were abundant in some areas. Further, “A few wood ducks and blue-winged teal remain in southern Minnesota, and a few late-season migrants such as scaup and buffleheads have moved into the state,” he wrote.

Besides hunting over water, field hunting for ducks and geese should gradually become a viable option as corn is harvested, he wrote.

Some points of interest from Cordts’ Oct. 16 report, with the disclaimer that changes can occur quickly during fall:

• At Roseau River Wildlife Management Area, “goose and mallard use of the WMA is somewhat diminished from a week ago. Ring-necked duck numbers continue to be impressive on the pools.”
• Rice Lake WMA also reported high ringneck numbers.
• At Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, hunting pressure has remained steady, although there have been “no significant waterfowl migrations of note …”
• Wildlife officials in the Cambridge area reported a mix of mallards, wigeon, green-winged teal, redheads, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, and scaup.
• At the Sherburne NWR, “approximately 4,000 coots were seen” on the main reservoir, St. Francis Pool, last week.
• Most areas in southern Minnesota made note of limited waterfowl migration last week, thanks to stable weather.

“Area weather is now in a mild mode, with above-normal temps and southerly winds in the forecast for the next several days …” the report from Willmar stated. That weather report for the most part held form, and is expected to continue for at least a few more days.

State conservation officers had varying reports from the duck blinds last week.

CO Brett Oberg, of Hutchinson, reported “plenty of ducks and duck hunters in the area. Divers are really starting to show up in good numbers.”

On the flip side, CO Dan Starr, of Onamia, reported “very few ducks remain in the area.”

CO Chris Vinton, of Perham, said both duck and duck hunter numbers recently had fallen off.

The 2014 duck-hunting season continues through Nov. 25 in the North Zone, Nov. 30 in the Central Zone, and Dec. 6 in the South Zone.

Cordts said 80,000-some people are likely taking part in the season, up slightly from the number who hunted waterfowl last year. He expects a few of the dedicated, all-season hunters are hoping Mother Nature soon will send them more migrating birds.

“We’re waiting for some weather,” Cordts said, a reference to that of the inclement variety.

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