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|Paynesville Press - August 14, 2002|
Proposed waterfowl seasons announced
Minnesota's 2002 duck season will begin on Saturday, Sept. 28, maintaining the tradition of holding the opener on the Saturday closest to Oct. 1, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). |
Minnesota will be one of the few states that will not take advantage of an expanded season framework offered this year by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to DNR Wildlife Division Director Tim Bremicker. The new framework would have allowed Minnesota to open the duck season a week earlier.
"While we felt the expanded framework would provide additional opportunities for Minnesotans to harvest early migrants like blue-winged teal without risking Minnesota's strong breeding populations of ducks, the proposal for such an early date stirred a lot of concern and controversy among Minnesota waterfowlers," Bremicker said. "As a result, we decided to continue this year with our traditional opening date."
Public comments weighed heavily in the decision to maintain a traditional opening date, Bremicker said.
"It would have been the earliest opening day in more than 50 years," said Bremicker. "It was very clear to us that our hunters were concerned about losing late season hunting opportunities and the rich hunting traditions and experiences associated with an opening day near Oct. 1. We listened."
Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14, two weeks before the regular opener. Spinning-wing decoys will not be allowed during the Youth Waterfowl Day hunt.
Although much will remain the same for the 2002 opener, Bremicker emphasized that Minnesota waterfowlers will see a number of changes in the waterfowl hunting season this year. The canvasback season will be closed, the pintail season will be reduced to 30 days, and there will be early season limitations on the use of motorized decoys.
Bremicker said the following regulations are being proposed by the DNR and will not be formally approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until late September. The DNR will distribute its special 2002 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Supplement in early September.
Minnesota's duck season will be from Saturday, Sept. 28, to Tuesday, Nov. 26. The proposed 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. One pintail may be taken during the limited open season (Sept. 28 to Oct. 27). Possession limits are twice the daily bag limits. The canvasback season is closed.
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. 5, and from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset beginning on Sunday, Oct. 6, to the end of the season.
Decoys with visible moving parts that are above the water surface, including "spinning wing" decoys, may not be used to take waterfowl, except geese, on public waters. This restriction is in effect from opening day of the duck season through Saturday, Oct. 5.
Swimming decoys are generally not restricted under this new 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. Maps identifying public waters are available on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us.
Minnesota will conduct a study this fall on the effectiveness of "spinning wing" decoys in waterfowl hunting. The DNR is particularly interested in discerning if there are differences in the susceptibility of local versus migrant ducks.
Minnesota and other states in the Mississippi Flyway were offered liberal duck limits (six ducks) and season length (60 days) because mallard breeding populations and habitat conditions in the major breeding range will support this level of hunting opportunity, according to the Adaptive Harvest Model developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The model is designed to balance mallard population goals in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and maximize harvest.
The estimated total duck breeding population of 31 million birds in the Dakotas, Montana, Alaska, and much of Canada was 14 percent below last year and six percent below the 1955-2001 average.
In Minnesota, the number of breeding mallards was unchanged at 367,000 and remains at relatively high levels. Blue-winged teal in Minnesota increased to 430,000, a substantial increase from recent years. Total ducks, excluding scaup, were 1.17 million. Migration was delayed so some of the ducks recorded during the survey were still in migration.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering liberal hunting opportunities on most ducks," said Bremicker. "At the same time, they are ensuring that adequate restrictions exist on species that need more protection: pintails, canvasback and scaup."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the canvasback season in response to a continent-wide population decline of 18 percent from 580,000 to 487,000. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Canvasback Harvest Management Strategy calls for a closed season at these population levels. The canvasback season was restricted last year and has been closed in the past.
Pintail breeding populations fell to a record low this year. Pintail season length varies among the flyways, but is 30 days for Minnesota and other Mississippi Flyway states. The pintail season will be open on Saturday, Sept. 28, and last until Sunday, Oct. 27.
"Pintails are an early fall migrant. Thus, this season timing reduces the chance a hunter will take a pintail by mistake," Bremicker said.
The scaup population estimate was unchanged (down five percent) and the daily bag limit of three scaup will be maintained this year.
Minnesota's regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season on Saturday, Sept. 28, except for the Canada goose seasons in the West-Central Goose Zone, including Lac qui Parle, which will open on Saturday, Oct. 5.
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.
Despite a late spring on their breeding grounds near Hudson Bay, Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada geese were at relatively strong levels and nesting effort was greater than expected. Seasons in EPP zones will be similar to last year. Resident Canada goose populations in Minnesota remain high.
The early Canada goose season will open statewide on Sunday, Sept. 1, the earliest date possible under current frameworks. The early season will close on Sunday, Sept. 22, except in the Northwest Goose Zone where it closes a week earlier.
In the West-Central Goose Zone, the 40-day regular Canada goose season will be from Saturday, Oct. 5, to Wednesday, Nov. 13. The harvest index in the Lac qui Parle Goose Zone will be 12,000, and the season may close earlier if the index is reached. The daily bag limit in these zones will be one Canada goose.
The regular Canada goose season will be 40 days in the Northwest and West goose zones, from Saturday, Sept. 28, to Wednesday, Nov. 6. The daily bag limit will be one Canada goose in these zones.
The remainder of Minnesota will have a 70-day Canada goose season, from Saturday, Sept. 28, to Friday, Dec. 6, with a bag limit of two Canada geese daily.
This will be the fourth year of the expanded December Canada goose seasons, intended to reduce Minnesota's resident goose flock. Special late 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 ($4), which is valid for both early and late special goose seasons. The late season will open on Saturday, Dec. 7, and close on Monday, Dec. 16, except in the Southeast Goose Zone, where the season will be from Dec. 13-22.
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 goose hunting zones is in the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.
The season for light geese (snow, blue, and Ross' geese) will be from Saturday, Sept. 28, to Sunday, Dec. 22. The season for white-fronted geese and brant will be Saturday, Sept. 28, to Friday, Dec. 6. In the Lac qui Parle Goose Zone, the season will remain open this year and will not close with Canada goose season. The daily bag limit will be 20 light geese, two white-fronted geese, and one brant.
Waterfowl seasons will not be finalized until after the comment period closes on the proposed federal migratory waterfowl rules in early September. However, it is unlikely that the federal waterfowl season frameworks will be different from those noted above.
To comment on the proposed seasons, write to: Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, ms 634 - ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.
More information is available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Bird Management's website at http://migratorybirds.fws.gov.
The Minnesota DNR will announce the final season dates and limits in early September. Waterfowl hunters should consult the 2002 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, which is now available from license agents and DNR offices, for basic waterfowl regulations and September seasons.
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 at no charge.
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