Here is a link to this week’s DNR waterfowl report, a summary of last weekend’s activity and a look at duck numbers in the state.
Hunter success on Saturday’s opening day of duck season was above average on three popular waterfowl lakes in the Grand Rapids area. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife staff conducted waterfowl bag checks on opening day, Sept. 26, on Big White Oak Lake, Mud Lake (both near Deer River) and Big Rice Lake near Remer.
Hunter success in terms of ducks bagged per hunter varied from a low of 1.8 ducks per hunter at Mud Lake, 2.6 ducks per hunter at Big Rice and 3.0 ducks per hunter at Big White Oak Lake.
Blue-winged teal, ring-necked ducks and wood ducks were the most common birds in the bag. Blue-winged teal were the most commonly bagged bird at White Oak and Mud Lakes, and ring-necked ducks were the most commonly bagged species at Big Rice Lake.
Based on car counts, hunter numbers were up about 11 percent from the five-year average.
“Blue-winged teal and wood ducks usually migrate out of the state at the first cold snap so we are lucky when we have good numbers still around when the season opens like this year,” said Perry Loegering, Grand Rapids area wildlife manager. “Ringnecks usually start migrating into the state in late September, and some have arrived.”
During the first week of Duluth’s city bow hunt for deer, hunters registered 65 deer, according to Brian Borkholder of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance. That included 64 antlerless deer and one buck. The season opened Sept. 19 and will continue through Dec. 31. That total is about half the average from the same period for the years 2008 to 2014.
Hunters enjoyed good weather during that first week of the hunt.
Minnesota and northern Wisconsin waterfowlers are looking forward to Saturday’s duck opener in both states (north zone only in Wisconsin). Mallard numbers are good across the continent this year (11.8 million, well above the long-term average), and hunters are expected to find some this weekend.
Minnesota’s waterfowl season opens a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday.
In Minnesota’s north zone, duck season will be open for 60 days starting Saturday. Season dates vary in the central and southern zones. Check regulations.
The only bag limit change from the 2015 season is for canvasback, which increases from one to two per day. The daily duck bag limit remains six ducks per day. The mallard bag limit remains four per day, including two hen mallards. The daily bag limits remain at three for wood duck and three for scaup.
Each week, on Thursday during duck season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will post a waterfowl migration report. I haven’t seen today’s report yet.
Goose and sandhill crane seasons
Minnesota’s regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season statewide on Sept. 26, with a bag limit of three dark geese per day the entire season. “Dark” geese include Canada geese, white-fronted geese and brant. Goose season will be closed in the central and south duck zones when duck season is closed.
The season for sandhill cranes remains open through Sunday, Oct. 18, in the northwest goose and sandhill crane zone only. The daily bag limit will be one sandhill crane per day. A $3 sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license.
Wisconsin’s waterfowl season opens Saturday and continues through Nov. 24 in the North Zone. Shooting opens at one-half hour before sunrise. Daily limit is six ducks, no more than 4 mallards (only 1 may be a hen), three wood ducks, one black duck, two redheads, three scaup, two pintail and two canvasback.
Saturday was a big day for the broad-winged hawk migration at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. A total of 16,815 broadwings passed over the ridge, many in large “kettles” in which the birds spiral higher and higher on hillside thermals, according to observers. That movement brought the season total for broadwings at Hawk Ridge to 33,983, according to Janelle Long, executive director at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Broadwings typically move in large numbers during mid-September.
Winds were light, from the west or southwest, according to counters. Also on Saturday, 459 sharp-shinned hawks were counted at Hawk Ridge, along with 276 bald eagles.
On Sunday, the count dropped off dramatically with winds brisk from the southwest. Just 28 broadwings passed over the ridge among a total of 560 raptors.
Caleb Mannon, 15, was up early on Saturday for opening day of Minnesota’s archery deer season and Duluth’s city bow hunt for deer. Caleb and his dad, Phil Mannon, who live just north of Duluth, were taking part in the city bow hunt. Look for a story on the hunt in Sunday’s Outdoors pages of the Duluth News Tribune.
It’s a sure sign of fall when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources releases the dates for for whitefish and tullibee netting. And that’s today. The whitefish and tulibee netting season opens Oct. 9 on designated lakes that are less susceptible to sudden changes that impact water temperature, according to the DNR.
These lakes, known as Schedule II lakes, offer recreational netting on the following schedule:
Schedule II A lakes open Friday, Oct. 9, and close Sunday, Dec. 6.
Schedule II B lakes open Friday, Nov. 6 and close Sunday, Dec. 13.
Schedule II C lakes open Friday, Nov. 13, and close Sunday Dec. 13.
Schedule I Lakes, which are more susceptible to factors that impact water temperatures, will be opened and closed on a 48-hour notice posted at lake accesses, other public places and the DNR website.
The DNR recommends drying nets for 10 days or freezing for two days before moving a net to a new lake, or netting only one lake in a season. Netting in infested waters may be restricted or closed to sport netting of whitefish and tullibee. See fishing regulations for list of infested waters or online at www.mndnr.gov/invasives/ais/ infested.html.
A complete list of all Schedule I and II lakes, status of the seasonal openings and closures, as well as detailed netting regulations are available online at mndnr.gov/regulations/ fishing or by calling the DNR Information Center at (888) 646-6367 in greater Minnesota.
About 700 people obtain permits to net for whitefish and tullibee each year
Minnesota’s black bear season opened Sept. 1, and through Tuesday, a total of 1,131 bears had been taken, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Through the first seven days of the season, a total of 1,118 bears were registered, up 14 percent from the same period of the 2014 hunt.
A total of 3,700 permits were issued to hunters in the Quota Zone for this fall’s hunt, and another 2,800 or more hunters outside that zone were expected to buy over-the-counter licenses.
A total, of 1,627 bears were taken in Minnesota last year, and the 2013 harvest was 1,866. Those were the lowest harvest totals since the 1980s. Minnesota’s bear population, an estimated 12,000 to 15,000, has dropped from an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 in 2001. The DNR had kept the number of permits low, hoping to allow the population to expand.
South Dakota’s pheasant population is up 42 percent over last year, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department announced Thursday. The statewide PPM index is similar to 2011 when hunters harvested 1.56 million roosters.
This year’s population index is more than double the 2013 level, when hunters harvested just under one million pheasants. The index continues to lag behind the 10-year average due to the extremely high counts from 2005 through 2010.
South Dakota’s traditional statewide pheasant hunting season opens Oct. 17 and runs through Jan. 3.
The highest counts in the survey were recorded in the Chamberlain, Pierre and Winner areas.
I’m doing a fun story for the Duluth News Tribune’s outdoors pages this Sunday, Aug. 23, on Dylan Kukkkonen, a 14-year-old angler from Nashwauk with his own boat. We had a nice evening fishing together recently. Catch the story if you can. I think you’ll enjoy it.