Last update: November 18, 2004 at 8:33 PM
Duck management system is outdated
Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune
November 19, 2004 ANDY1119
Some years ago, I was in Louisiana, lying in a marsh with federal agents, watching duck "hunters" violate the law. These guys -- criminals is what they actually were -- had strewn corn around their blind to bait ducks to within gunshot range. By the time they were stopped, they had killed about 50 ducks in a little more than an hour.
Making the morning more exciting, the men, when confronted by the agents, tried to outrun the officers in their mudboats. But the race was soon cut short when an agent named Bill Mellor appeared from behind a levy in an airboat powered by a 454 Chevy with a nitro kicker.
During the discussions that followed, one agent, David Hall -- recognizing one hunter as a man he had busted two times previously -- said to the guy:
"I've written you up twice before and put you in jail once for killing too many ducks. Still you're out here violating -- only now you've got your kids with you and you're showing them how to do it.
"What's it going to take to get you to come into this beautiful marsh on a beautiful morning like this and shoot only a limit of ducks -- and to stop shooting when you've reached your limit?"
The man considered the question carefully. Then he said: "Raise the limit."
In Minnesota, regarding ducks, that's exactly what we've being doing for many years -- though in reverse.
We've raised the limit of what we will accept, not in terms of how many ducks we kill -- but how few we kill. Or even see.
It wasn't that long ago that hunter and non-hunter alike saw plenty of ducks in Minnesota. Consider Leech Lake, over which for centuries bluebills have arrowed in October and November.
How many duck camps on that body of water today lie idle because bluebills and other diving ducks have gone missing in Minnesota in the past 15 years?
Consider also Winnie, Lake of the Woods, Mud Goose, Long Lake near Willmar and any number of lakes near Ashby.
Ducks in Minnesota?
There are no ducks in Minnesota. Not to speak of.
Most years, Minnesota puts more duck hunters in the field than any state -- well over 120,000. Yet today, most of those waterfowlers are hunting memories and little else.
Season after season, Minnesotans have accommodated the decline in the number of ducks that visit the state with barely a whimper about the loss.
Overseeing ducks and duck habitat in the state is a little-known panel of Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials called, appropriately, the DNR Waterfowl Committee.
Depending upon one's viewpoint, the group does or doesn't do anything for ducks. But what can't be argued is that in recent decades the state's ducks and duck habitat have largely disappeared.
Perhaps no autumn in the history of Minnesota, in fact, has been so bleak in terms of duck numbers as the one just concluding.
What to do?
It's time we recognize we have "raised the limit" in terms of duck and duck-habitat losses as far as it can be raised in the state, without the birds disappearing altogether.
It's time also to blow up the state's duck management system.
Begin by disbanding the DNR Waterfowl Committee in favor of a commission that includes citizens from around the state and representatives of duck conservation groups.
Quickly, such a commission should propose establishment of more duck refuges in the state, as well as assessment of food and habitat quality on the refuges, and prospects for planting food and cover for ducks across broad swaths of Minnesota.
Also, shooting hours near the refuges (and perhaps statewide) need to be shortened and restrictions enacted on the number of people who can hunt near any duck refuge, new or old.
Longer term, the DNR needs to decide whether it wants to raise walleyes in many of the state's wetlands, as it does now -- or ducks. The state also must begin to prosecute landowners who pollute or otherwise degrade watersheds, in part or whole.
Absent these and other aggressive, immediate actions and ducks and duck hunting in Minnesota will go the way of the passenger pigeon.
Perhaps, given the season just ending, they already have.
Dennis Anderson is at
I agree that if things keep going as they have been, there will be no duck hunting season in my lifetime due to lack of huntable numbers of ducks.