Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Sports Archives

Paynesville Press - August 13, 2003

Hunting and trapping seasons announced for 2003

Hunting and trapping seasons for 2003 have been announced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Several new law and regulation changes go into effect this fall, including: new youth deer licenses and special hunts are offered; new deer management permit area classifications and either-sex licensing are offered; changes have been made to the Zone 3 (southeast Minnesota and southwest metro) deer seasons; new restrictions in effect on bringing whole carcasses of deer, elk, moose, or caribou into Minnesota from other states or provinces; a new limited prairie chicken season; early September hunting of Canada geese near water has been expanded; a new migratory waterfowl feeding and resting area has been added on Rice Lake in LeSueur County; and a Social Security number is required to purchase a hunting and fishing license if the number is not already in the secure database.

New deer licenses
The deer management system has been changed, too, with most hunters no longer having to apply for either-sex permits.

A new system for managing the antlerless deer harvest eliminates the need for hunters to apply to take a deer of either sex in many areas of the state. Formerly, anterless permits were issued on a lottery basis.

Under the new system, more than three quarters of the firearms deer licenses sold this year will let hunters bypass the lottery drawing by automatically allowing the harvest of an either-sex deer on their regular license.

Hunters in many areas of the state will also be allowed to purchase permits over the counter to take more than one deer. "To keep the deer population and habitats of the state healthy, we need the help of hunters to maintain populations at levels in balance with habitats and land use," Commissioner Gene Merriam said.

Upland game
Prairie chicken hunting is back in Minnesota for the first time since the early 1940s.

"Most Minnesota hunters have not had an opportunity in their lifetime to hunt prairie chickens in this state," Merriam said.

Native prairies are one of the state's most endangered habitats, but improved prairie and grassland protection - and management programs by agencies, groups and private individuals - have helped protect and manage prairie and grassland habitats.

Minnesota's prairie chicken population has been relatively stable at about 3,000 birds in the spring and will not be affected by the closely regulated season, according to DNR officials.

"We hope this season brings an added attention to prairie chickens and the importance of prairie habitats," Merriam said.

Hunters interested in this season needed to apply by July 25.

Populations of ruffed grouse remain near the low of their 10-year cycle but appear to be on the upswing, indicating that hunting should continue to improve over the next few years.

Populations of sharp-tailed grouse that depend on open landscapes remain relatively low in their remaining range in northwestern and east-central Minnesota.

Waterfowl seasons
The DNR is proposing to open the 2003 duck season on Saturday, Sept. 27, one day earlier than last year and a week before the traditional opening date of the Saturday nearest to the first of October.

This year's proposed opener - which is the earliest date allowed under federal framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - was chosen to provide Minnesota hunters as much opportunity as possible before lakes and ponds begin to freeze.

The 60-day season and six-duck daily bag limit are similar to last year's season, except canvasback and pintail seasons will be restricted to 30 days for each. Goose season will also be similar to last year; however, the Lac qui Parle harvest index and Lac qui Parle goose zone will be discontinued.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Saturday, Sept. 20, one week before the regular opener. Young hunters may take regular season bag limits, including one canvasback and one pintail.

Goose bag limits for youth hunters have been increased to five in most of the state's goose zone.

September goose hunters will be able to hunt within 100 yards of surface water beginning this year in this zone. A non-hunting adult must accompany youth hunters.

Spinning-wing decoys will not be allowed during the youth waterfowl hunt.

The waterfowl season will once again begin at noon on opening day, but the DNR has made a commitment to promulgate a rule that will open the season at 9 a.m. beginning in 2004, according to Tim Bremicker, DNR wildlife division director.

Bremicker said the following regulations are being proposed by the DNR but will not be formally approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until late September.

The 2003 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement will be distributed in early September.

Proposed duck season
Minnesota's duck season will last from Saturday, Sept. 27, to Tuesday, Nov. 25. The daily bag limit is six ducks and may not include more than four mallards (only two of which may be females), three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, and one black duck.

The daily limit will also include one pintail and one canvasback during the 30-day open season from Saturday, Sept. 27, through Sunday, Nov. 9.

Possession limits are twice the daily bag limits.

Except for opening day, when shooting hours will be noon to 4 p.m., shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily through Saturday, Oct. 11, and from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset beginning Sunday, Oct. 12, through the close of the season.

Decoys with visible moving parts that are above the water surface may not be used, according to Minnesota law, to take waterfowl, except geese, on public waters from Saturday, Sept. 27, through Saturday, Oct. 4. Motorized "spinning wing" decoys are included under this definition, but swimming decoys or "shakers" are generally not restricted under this law.

Public water includes all water basins where the state or federal government owns any shoreline or provides public access, or the basin is listed in the Public Waters Inventory. County maps identifying public waters are available for viewing at all county auditors' offices or at

The estimated total duck breeding population of 36 million birds in the Dakotas, Montana, Alaska, and much of Canada was 16 percent above last year and nine percent above the 1955-2002 average.

In Minnesota, the number of breeding mallards declined 23 percent to 281,000. This was the first time since 1991 that the survey has indicated less than 300,000 mallards, but the estimate remains 29 percent above the long-term (1968-2002) average.

Blue-winged teal in Minnesota declined to 193,000 birds, similar to recent years but well below last year's count, which was higher because of the late spring and delayed migration. Blue-winged teal were 15 percent below the long-term average in Minnesota, but increased elsewhere in surveyed breeding areas.

Proposed goose season
Minnesota's regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season on Saturday, Sept. 27, except for Canada goose seasons in the west-central goose zone- including the former Lac qui Parle goose zone - which will open on Saturday, Oct. 11.

The Lac qui Parle goose zone and harvest index setting a maximum quota on harvest are being dropped this year. The quota zone was an important part of goose management for many years, but due to changes in goose hunter distribution and goose migration it became less effective or necessary as a management tool. Harvest will continue to be monitored in the former zone and hunting regulations on the lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area remain unchanged.

The number of days of regular and special Canada goose hunting seasons will be the same as last year in each zone. Daily bag limits will be the same as last year.

Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada geese had a better nesting year than last year, but the number of breeding birds was lower. Seasons in EPP zones will be similar to last year.

Resident Canada goose populations in Minnesota remain high, and excellent goose hunting should again be available for Minnesota waterfowl hunters.

Early goose season
The early Canada goose season will open statewide on Saturday, Sept. 6. The September season is designed to harvest as many Minnesota-breeding geese as possible, and hunter survey results show there is a large opening weekend harvest.

Opening on Saturday ensures that most hunters can be in the field to maximize harvest effectiveness. The early season will close on Monday, Sept. 22, except in the northwest zone where it closes on Monday, Sept. 15.

A special early and late goose-hunting permit is required.

Restrictions on hunting near surface water have been dropped in much of the state. The restriction against hunting within 100 yards of surface water continues in the northwest, southeast, and Twin Cities goose zones and in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area and an area surrounding Swan Lake in Nicollet County.

Early season goose hunters should consult the 2003 Hunting Regulation Handbook for details.

Regular goose season
The regular Canada goose season will be 40 days in the northwest and west goose zones, from Saturday, Sept. 27, to Wednesday, Nov. 5. The daily bag limit bill will be one Canada goose in these zones.

In the west-central zone, the 40-day regular Canada goose season will be from Saturday, Oct. 11, to Wednesday, Nov. 19. Because the Lac qui Parle goose zone and harvest index have been dropped, the season in this former zone will be the same as the west-central zone. The daily bag limit will be one Canada goose.

The remainder of Minnesota will have a 70-day Canada goose season, from Saturday, Sept. 27, to Friday, Dec. 5, with a bag limit of two Canada geese daily.

Late goose season
Special December Canada goose seasons will be offered statewide except in the west-central goose zone, which includes Lac qui Parle. Late-season hunters must have a Special Goose Hunt Permit, which is valid for both early and late special goose seasons. The late season will be open from Saturday, Dec. 6, to Monday, Dec. 15, except in the southeast where the season will be open Friday, Dec. 12, to Sunday, Dec. 21.

Bag limits for Canada geese during the late season will be five per day, except in the southeast goose zone, where the bag limit will be two. The southeast goose zone includes an area south of the Twin Cities along the Mississippi River, extending westward to the Rochester area.

A map of the goose hunting zones is in the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook and will be in the Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement.

The season for light geese (snow, blue, and Ross geese), white-fronted geese, and brant will be from Saturday, Sept. 27, to Sunday, Dec. 21. The daily limit will be 20 light geese, two white-fronted geese, and one brant.

Overall conditions
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported improved habitat conditions and higher duck breeding population numbers on North America's major duck breeding grounds. Conditions improved dramatically in prairie Canada, especially in portions of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Much of the increase in duck populations occurred in the western portion of the survey area.

Other information
Waterfowl seasons will not be finalized until after the comment period on the proposed federal migratory waterfowl rules closes in early September. However, it is unlikely that the federal waterfowl season frameworks will be different from those noted above.

The Minnesota DNR will announce the final season dates and limits in early September.

Bremicker noted that all migratory bird hunters, including waterfowl hunters, must be enrolled in the Harvest Information Program (HIP). To legally hunt migratory birds, hunters must answer "yes" to the question on the small game hunting license about whether the hunter will hunt any migratory birds this year. The license must say "HIP certified."

Hunters who did not check "yes" when they bought their small game license but who later wish to hunt migratory birds may visit an Electronic License System agent to obtain HIP certification.

Waterfowl forecasts
While Minnesota's breeding waterfowl counts are down, they are still above the long-term average, and continental duck counts are very good. Fall hunting success in Minnesota will continue to depend on water conditions to the west and north of Minnesota and on weather during the season.

In addition, the DNR continues to work with other agencies and organizations to improve the quality of fall migration habitat and to provide more areas for waterfowl to feed and rest during migration. The goal of this effort is to restore to its historic level Minnesota's share of the Mississippi Flyway duck harvest.

Giant Canada geese that breed locally in Minnesota remain abundant and, along with migrant geese, provide Minnesota waterfowl hunters with excellent goose hunting opportunities. More Canada geese are taken in Minnesota than in any other state in the United States.

Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese - which nest near Hudson Bay and congregate in areas such as Lac qui Parle during migration - experienced a very early spring and had a strong nesting effort. Liberal September goose hunting regulations will continue in order to harvest as many local geese as possible before the migrant population begins arriving.

Wild turkey populations remain at all-time highs and their geographic range continues to expand.

Moose populations in northwestern Minnesota are still very low and the season is still closed in that area. However, the northeast Minnesota moose population remains healthy and an increased number of moose licenses were offered this year.

2003 deer outlook
After mild winters five out of the past six years, Minnesota's deer population has continued to increase, particularly in northern-forested areas hit the hardest by the back-to-back severe winters of 1995-96 and 1996-97. The pre-hunt population of deer this fall is estimated at 1.14 million, up nearly 50,000 from last year.

The firearms deer season will open on Saturday, Nov. 8; archery deer on Saturday, Sept. 13; and muzzleloader deer on Saturday, Nov. 29.

There will also be more opportunities for youth deer hunters this fall. A new half-price youth deer license with a tag replaces the old youth license that came without a tag. The new youth license, for hunters age 12 through 15, lets the youth take and tag their own deer, rather than having an adult tag the deer for them.

In addition, special youth deer hunts are being offered at Camp Ripley, Arden Hills, and the Whitewater State Game Refuge.

The 2003 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook - including regulations, quotas, and special hunt information, is now available.

Deer hunters interested in obtaining either-sex or special area permits are encouraged to apply early. The application deadline for either-sex and special hunt permits is Thursday, Sept. 4. Hunters interested in these permits may apply at any of the 1,800 Electronic Licensing System license agents throughout Minnesota, beginning in early August. They may also apply over the Internet at

System streamlined
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will authorize more hunters than ever to harvest antlerless deer this fall, but relatively few will need to apply for either-sex permits through the lottery-drawing process.

A new system for managing the antlerless deer harvest eliminates the need for hunters to apply to take a deer of either sex in many areas of the state, according to Lou Cornicellie, the DNR's big game program coordinator.

More than three quarters of the firearms deer licenses sold this year will let hunters bypass the lottery drawing by automatically allowing the harvest of an either-sex deer on their regular license. Cornicelli said. The change is part of a streamlining of deer license sales, especially in areas of the state where the number of antlerless tags regularly exceeded the number of hunters seeking them.

"Getting drawn in the lottery had become nothing more than a formality for hunters in parts of the state with large deer populations," Cornicelli said. "The new system makes it easier for hunters to get licensed to take antlerless deer and will improve our capability to manage deer populations within goals."

The annual lottery system for either-sex permits will remain in place only in permit areas and seasons where wildlife managers need to more closely regulate the number of hunters taking antlerless deer.

Under the new system, the state's 128 deer permit areas have been classified into one of three categories: lottery, managed, and intensive. All firearms and all-season deer hunters - including those who hunt bucks only - will be required to declare a permit area when they purchase their license. Firearms licenses will be valid to take a legal buck anywhere in the zone, but the taking of antlerless deer on a regular license will only be authorized in the area selected.

Firearms hunters who declare a managed or intensive permit area may take a deer of either sex within that area on a regular license tag. Firearms hunters who declare a lottery deer permit area may take an antlerless deer only if they apply for and receive an either-sex permit in the lottery drawing.

Getting permits to take more than one deer will also be easier. Firearms hunters will no longer need to apply in advance for management permits to take a second deer. Licenses to take additional deer in specified areas will be available over the counter for firearms, archery, and muzzleloader hunters. Muzzleloader and archery licenses will still be valid to harvest a deer of either sex statewide.

Details on permit area classifications and specific licenses follow.

•Lottery Deer Permit Area: Firearms hunters must apply for an either-sex permit through the lottery by Thursday, Sept. 4, to legally harvest an antlerless deer. Deer management and intensive harvest permits are not available.

•Regular Firearms: Must apply for an either-sex permit through the lottery system. The application and lottery process follows the same procedure as in previous years. The application deadline is Thursday, Sept. 4. Lottery winners will receive their permits via mail. If successful in the lottery, the bag limit is one deer of either sex.

•Archery/Muzzleloader: May take one deer of either sex without applying in the lottery.

•All-season deer: If hunting with a bow or muzzleloader, a hunter can use the antlerless portion of the license to take an antlerless deer without applying in the lottery. Firearms hunters must apply for the lottery. Successful applicants may use the antlerless portion of their license to tag the deer. There is a two-deer limit in lottery areas for All-Season Deer License holders.

•Multi-Zone buck: May not apply for an either-sex permit in any permit area or special hunt.

•Managed Deer Permit Area: These deer permit areas have a two-deer limit, with all permits available over the counter. There is no lottery procedure or application. Hunters who purchase a firearms license for a managed deer permit area will automatically receive an either-sex license.

•Regular Firearms: Firearms hunters will be issued an either-sex license at the time of purchase. The license will be valid for a buck anywhere in the zone or a deer of either-sex in the selected permit area.

Hunters will also have the option of purchasing a deer management permit for one-half the cost of the regular license. That permit will be for antlerless deer only and valid only in the selected permit area.

•Archery/Muzzleloader: These license holders won't have to declare a permit area and will be able to take a deer of either sex in a managed permit area. Also, archers and muzzleloader hunters can purchase one intensive harvest permit to use in a managed area.

The archery and muzzleloader deer management permits have been discontinued and replaced by the intensive harvest permits. Hunters cannot use more than one intensive harvest permit in managed permit areas during the year.

•All-Season Deer: May take one legal buck statewide (except Zone 3B) and use the antlerless portion of the regular license to take an antlerless deer; may also purchase one additional deer management permit for use in the selected permit area.

•Multi-Zone Buck: May not purchase deer management permits.

•Intensive Deer Permit Area: These permit areas have a five-deer limit, with all permits available over the counter. There is no lottery procedure or application. Permits may be purchased throughout the season.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community