More Minnesota hunters hunted ducks last fall, and they killed 19 percent more ducks than in 2011, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported.
A total of 77,000 hunters went afield in 2011, up from 70,000 in 2010 but still far short of the 100,000 who hunted ducks as recently as 1999. Minnesota’s duck hunter numbers have dwindled steadily over the past decade as hunters have seen and shot fewer ducks.
The DNR made several changes to duck season last fall, among them opening the season a week earlier than in most recent years and allowing shooting to begin at one-half hour before sunrise on opening day.
Minnesota’s duck harvest was 621,000 last fall, up from 524,000 in 2010. The average harvest over the most recent 10 years is 655,000, DNR officials said.
Also, Minnesota ranked first in the nation in Canada goose harvest and second to Louisiana in the number of active waterfowl hunters.
Mallards were the most common duck in hunters’ bags, with 181,000 harvested. Mallards represented 29 percent of the total duck bag. The recent 10-year average mallard harvest is 206,000 mallards.
Wood ducks were the second most common duck in hunters’ bags, with 151,000 wood ducks harvested in 2011 compared to 78,000 in 2010. The recent 10-year average wood duck harvest is 102,000 birds. Blue-winged teal harvest was 90,000, ring-necked duck harvest was 63,000, and green-winged teal harvest was 37,000.
Duck hunter success was 8.1 ducks per hunter per season, which increased from 7.5 ducks per hunter per season in 2010 and near the 10-year average of 8.4 ducks per hunter per season.
Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said opening the season earlier likely had the most impact on increases to duck harvest, particularly with the large increase in harvest for early migrant species like blue-winged teal and wood ducks.
Canada goose harvest increased from 189,000 in 2010 to 239,000 in 2011 and was above the 10-year average of 220,000 Canada geese. About 100,000 Canada geese were harvested during the early September goose season.