Mild fall, poor habitat keep duck hunting success slim
Doug Smith Star Tribune Staff Writer
November 21, 2004 ONOT1121
Minnesota's duck season officially closes at sunset Tuesday, but for some hunters, it's been over for a while.
Duck hunters have had a tough time in many areas of the state this season, based on anecdotal reports. Hunters and wildlife officials won't know until hunter surveys are completed next year how many ducks were killed this season.
"I've heard very few good reports," said Jon Schneider, Ducks Unlimited manager of conservation programs for Minnesota. "My sense is the harvest will be way down."
One of the few bright spots has been far western Minnesota in Traverse and Big Stone counties.
Schneider said he believes the problem isn't necessarily a lack of ducks. "The ducks are there," he said. He attributes the poor hunting to several factors: mild fall weather, poor habitat and high hunting pressure.
"We never had a good low-pressure system from the west to push birds. They've been just trickling south," he said.
Meanwhile, duck hunting in North Dakota, a usual hotspot, also might be down this fall. Again, an unusually mild fall hasn't helped. "There have not been a lot of good duck hunting days," said Mike Johnson, waterfowl specialist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Most ducks have moved through the state, he said. "It's pretty quiet out here right now," Johnson said. The season ends Dec. 7 in much of the state.
I do not agree about the trick effect. several years ago we had a predominant west winds and every 2 to 5 days a cold front would come through and some ducks too. nothing great--but real consistent hunting that fall which lead to a great season for many. I remember I bagged 64 ducks-mostly Mallards in 16 outings that year. I had many 4 Mallard limits that year. ND and SD had terrible hunting theis fall too.
Frankly I think the USFWS duck number are hot air--the ducks do NOT exist to near the number they think they are. My guess is the ducks are at least 20% lower than what the USFWS says there are.