Minnesotans will have a 60-day, three-zone duck waterfowl season opening on Sept. 22, the earliest the season has opened in 45 years, Department of Natural Resources officials announced Tuesday.
The state’s waterfowl season will open one-half hour before sunrise on Sept. 22 statewide. In the North Duck Zone (north of Minnesota Highway 210), duck season will run from Sept. 22 to Nov. 20.
The daily bag limit of six ducks per day and a 60-day season are unchanged from last year. The mallard bag limit remains at four per day, including two hen mallards. The wood duck bag limit will remain at three per day. The daily limit for scaup is four, up from two last year. Possession limits remain at twice the daily bag limits.
Youth Waterfowl Day will be Sept. 8, two weeks before the season opener.
Last year, the DNR split the state into two hunting zones with different season dates as part of an effort to provide additional hunting opportunity as birds migrate from north to south. The addition of a third zone furthers that approach.
A third zone was supported in data collected as part of a hunter survey and a first-ever waterfowl hunter focus group, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.
“This will extend the hunting season in southern Minnesota through the first weekend in December, which will appeal to hunters where waters have not yet frozen and migrating birds are still coming through,” Landwehr said in a statement.
Duck season length is based on mallard counts from a continental survey, including Minnesota information. This year’s estimate was 11 million mallards, which was above the average of 8.1 million mallards and the second highest count since 1992. Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said breeding duck numbers for all species were very good this year. He noted wetland conditions in the major waterfowl breeding areas were drier than last year but still near long-term averages.
“The population index of local breeding mallards in Minnesota was at their long-term average of 225,000 breeding mallards this spring,” Cordts said.