Duck limits kept in place while goose limits to increase
With breeding duck numbers at their lowest in 20-years, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is taking a conservative approach to duck bag limits.
The DNR announced this week that it will maintain last year's 60-day duck hunting bag limit that is more conservative than the regulatory structure allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The daily bag limit will is set at four-ducks with only one hen - limits which are identical to last year's regulation.
DNR officials point out that the limits are less than the six-duck, two-hen limit the federal government allows under the so called "liberal" hunting framework.
"We did not come to this decision lightly," said Dave Schad, director of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. "In the end, however, we agreed to this approach because we have been hearing loud and clear from duck hunters to take a conservative approach."
Schad said recent DNR hunter survey data indicates about 85 percent of duck hunters supported the four-bird limit or an even more restrictive regulation last year.
Based on an increase in breeding waterfowl populations and pond numbers across Canada and the northern plains, states in the Mississippi Flyway, including Minnesota, were offered a 60-day season that could include a six-duck limit with two hen mallards.
However, this spring's breeding duck numbers in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin were down - Minnesota's were the lowest in 20 years. As a result, Minnesota will stay with the conservative limit introduced last year.
"The four-duck bag limit was well accepted by Minnesota duck hunters last year," said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist. "Given what we know about Minnesota's breeding duck numbers this year, it seems prudent to take a conservative approach to duck limits again this year."
The daily bag limit for both canvasbacks and pintails will be one for the entire season. "Both species responded well to improved habitat conditions in southern Canada this spring," Cordts said. Bag limits for all other species will be the same as last season except the bag limit for hooded mergansers will be increased from one to two.
However, Minnesota goose hunters will have additional opportunities to harvest geese this season, particularly in western Minnesota.
The daily bag limit has been raised to two Canada geese statewide this year.
In addition, the season length in the West Goose Zone has been extended through Nov. 28.
"We're attempting to provide additional hunting opportunity aimed at resident giant Canada geese while minimizing impacts to the migrant Eastern Prairie Population of Canada geese that migrate through the state later in the fall," Cordts said.
He added that resident Canada goose numbers remain high and well above the statewide goal and that the Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese have been relatively stable over time.
"We have not had a two Canada goose bag limit around the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area since the late 1960s, so we will be carefully monitoring the effects of this expanded opportunity," Cordts said.
Minnesota's regular goose season will open in conjunction with duck season on Saturday, Sept. 30, except for the Canada goose season in the West-Central Goose Zone, which will open on Thursday, Oct. 19.
The regular goose season will close on Nov. 27 in the West Central Zone, Nov. 28 in the West Zone, and Dec. 8 in the remainder of the state. Possession limits remain at twice the daily bag limit.