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State's duck hunting season begins Sept. 25
Doug Smith, Star Tribune
August 1, 2004 ONOT0801

Minnesota's duck season will open on Sept. 25 and run for 60 days.

Based on opinion surveys, hunters prefer that date rather than waiting until Oct. 2, the Department of Natural Resources said last week.

The season will open at 9 a.m. instead of the traditional noon because of a law passed by the Legislature.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized the waterfowl seasons recommendations last week after hearing proposals from the four flyway councils. The season lengths will be 60 days in the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway.

Minnesota's 60-day season and six duck daily bag limit are similar to last year. Seasons for canvasbacks and pintails will again be restricted to 30 days. And goose seasons will be restricted in most zones due to record low production of young Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) geese.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Sept. 18, one week before the regular opener. A non-hunting adult must accompany youth hunters and spinning-wing decoys will not be allowed during the hunt.

And the motorized decoys with visible, moving parts that are above the water surface may not be used to take waterfowl, except geese, on public waters from Sept. 25 through Saturday, Oct. 9.

Goose changes

The regular goose season also will open on Sept. 25, except for Canada goose seasons in the West-Central goose zone. Resident Canada goose populations in Minnesota remain high.

However, poor reproduction by the EPP goose population will result in hunting restrictions. Those restrictions to protect migrating geese during the regular goose season will not affect the special September and December goose seasons, which are designed to reduce populations of resident giant Canada geese that nest in Minnesota.

The regular Canada goose seasons in Minnesota will be:

• Northwest Zone (40 days): Sept. 25-Nov. 3; one bird daily limit.

• West Central Zone (25 days): Oct. 21-Nov. 14; one bird daily limit.

• West Zone (35 days): Sept. 25-Oct. 29; one bird daily limit.

• Remainder of state (60 days): Sept. 25-Nov. 23; two birds daily limit.

The early Canada goose season will open statewide on Sept. 4 and run through Sept. 22, except in the Northwest Zone, where it closes on Sept. 15.

Pheasant bonanza

Everyone suspected Minnesota pheasant hunters had some of the best hunting in years last fall, but now the numbers are in to prove it.

Hunters harvested 511,000 roosters -- the highest in a dozen years and only the third time the harvest exceeded a half-million birds in the past 38 years. Consecutive mild winters and warm, dry springs helped boost pheasant numbers.

"I would have been real disappointed if we hadn't hit the 500,000 mark," said Kurt Haroldson, DNR wildlife researcher at Madelia, Minn. "Based on anecdotal comments we got last fall, hunting success seemed to be good throughout the pheasant range."

DNR officials projected a half-million-bird harvest, based on last year's August roadside pheasant survey.

Haroldson said a cold, wet spring this year likely will keep pheasant numbers down from last year. "We had the potential for an absolutely great fall, but the June weather was bad," he said. "I'd be surprised if we could match last year's harvest."

Meanwhile, pheasant hunter numbers jumped last fall to an estimated 105,000, up from 91,000 in 2002.

Grouse harvest

Hunters killed 350,654 ruffed grouse last season, up 100,000 birds from 2002 and a sign the bird's boom-to-bust population has bottomed out and may be on the rise. But they have a ways to go. Hunters shot nearly 1 million ruffed grouse in 1998, the last population peak.

Duck harvest down

Hunters killed 884,000 ducks in Minnesota last year, down about 6 percent from the 944,000 killed in 2002, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The estimates are based on hunter surveys.

Mallards remained No. 1 in the bag at about 304,000, about a 9 percent increase over 2002. Hunters also shot 130,000 wood ducks, 101,000 green-winged teal, 92,000 blue-winged teal and 72,000 ring-necked ducks, 47,000 gadwalls, and 34,000 lesser scaup (bluebills).
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