Duck hunting will not be great this fall
The waterfowl season will run Oct. 4 through Dec. 2. In Minnesota, we will be allowed to harvest only one scaup (bluebill) except for Oct. 25 through Nov. 13, when two of these may be taken. And we won't be able to shoot canvasbacks. Canvasbacks have a 40 percent decline in numbers.
The six duck bag limit may include four mallards, but only one of these may be a hen. The opening day shooting is legal at 9 a.m., but closes at 4 in the afternoon. In some years past, Minnesota was alone with its noon opening, but now we're in step with the rest of the Mississippi flyway. We had cool, wet spring, which wasn't at all conducive to great waterfowl production. It won't be great here abouts, but hunters will get some ducks, as blue wing teal and wood ducks appear to be doing better.
The early goose season began on Sept. 6, and hunters are doing well, according to reports I've heard. The early goose season closes on Sept. 22. While hunters have been taking an impressive number of geese, the population remains high, but not necessarily growing. The geese numbers have stabilized in recent years. Minnesota's Canada goose numbers are about 290,000 and thousands more migrate through the state each year. About 25,000 hunters take part in the goose hunting annually.
North Dakota's duck hunting
You may wish to think twice about motoring over to the North Dakota pothole country for some waterfowling this year. The prairie pothole region starts in central Iowa, crosses west central Minnesota, across North Dakota and ends in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Duck numbers in the prairie pothole region will not be great. They've had severe lessening of desirable water levels in the farm ponds where we have had such fabulous luck in past seasons. Not this year. The area is short of topsoil moisture according to the U.S. Department Of Agriculture. Many out of state hunters zero in on this territory each year, but their numbers may be lower this year, as bird numbers, coupled with high gasoline prices will be on the minds of many of us. Many will wait until the last minute to buy the out of state license and make reservations. The motels, gas stations and restaurants in North Dakota's small towns depend on visiting hunters. Right now things aren't looking good.
We worked hard for a decade or so, and finally got the legislature to give us a mourning dove season in Minnesota. The season is open right now and mother nature will end it as soon as we get a few cool nights. Mourners move on, a few hundred miles in a day, where the ground remains unfrozen and a supply of works and insects is available.
Since 2004, we have about 13,000 dove hunters afield every year. It is not a spectacular number, nowhere near what the gulf states and those in western U.S. put into the field. The DNR would like to see a lot more of us shouldering a light weight shotgun and have a go at dove hunting. It's a real challenge and you can burn up a lot of ammunition at these deceptive, speedy fliers. In any case, at a good field, a hunter get a lot of great action, and who can complain about that?
The dove populations, continent wide, could use a lot more gunning pressure. The mourning dove is a prolific breeder. His numbers do not fluctuate very much and hunting does not take many of these birds. They have a short life span and many predators, including all hawks and wolves and farm cats. Early mowing of alfalfa fields also takes many doves. But farmers have been really great about that!
Dove hunting is easier than most other hunting when it comes to getting prepared. It is a great hunt to take your young boy or girl along and let them get in on the shooting. You'll need a chest full of sandwiches, some cold pop and water, as this hunting is done on warm afternoons, and is a great deal of fun.
Our 125,000 hunters who go after ringnecks in our state, will have a good year. The numbers of birds aren't quite as good as last year, when Minnesota gunners bagged a very respectable 655,000 ringnecks. Now that's a lot of birds, the highest in 43 years. Our spring weather was wet and cool, bad for pheasants, as the chicks need the protein that insects provide. When spring is chilly or wet, the bugs aren't there when the chicks are hatched but are still with the hens in the alfalfa. Our hunters should do well. Many of the Federal Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) or the State's Wildlife Management Areas (WPA) locations, along with a reduced number of acres in CRP protection should provide some good available hunting lands. But, it's always a blessing when you have some connections, which will make good hinting areas available to your party.
South Dakota ringnecks. Wow!
The numbers of pheasants in South Dakota have risen to spectacular numbers. Pheasant production has been very good in the central part of the state, with the index up 9 percent from last year. It is the highest in 45 years. South Dakota's regular pheasant hunt begins on Oct. l8 and runs until Jan. 4. In South Dakota, there are lots of land where you can hunt. Sure, many hunters' boots may have trod these fields before you get there, but hunting should be good statewide. When you buy your non-resident license, you'll be offered a plat book that shows in color all of the public places. If you seek the more out-of-the-way spots, you may find some spectacular shooting. Hunters will do well, but expect plenty of competition, as this state attracts big parties of very determined hunters.
The annual Ducks Unlimited fundraiser will be this week. On Tuesday evening at the Club House Hotel ballroom, supporters of Ducks Unlimited and its very successful efforts to restore wildfowl habitat will gather for a sumptuous banquet dinner, exchange hunting stories, and look over the new offerings in guns and equipment. An extensive array of sportsmen's items will be involved in a raffle and there are lots of items to win.
The Lakes Area Chapter of Ducks Unlimited all started in 1972. The principal prime movers were publisher John Meyer, groceryman Dick Wallin, and attorneys John Quam and Francis Schroeder. Honored guests in those early days three decades ago were Sports Afield writer Jimmy Robinson, wildlife artist Les Kouba, A.C. Elscholtz of Midnite Express truck lines, and Vern Aanasen of Old Dutch Foods. Other local sparkplugs were Harry Johnston, Dick Carr, and Bernie Revering. Next Tuesday, Sept. l6 is the date, and you can still get a ticket at the door if you've neglected buying into a membership up to now. DU does a great job in habitat preservation and restoration. It is a great night out, for hunters, wives and kids too, so make preparations to come to the Club House, formerly Holiday Inn, this week. You'll have a good dinner, and a grand time.