Nearly 90,000 hunters bought Minnesota waterfowl stamps in 2012, Department of Natural Resources officials said Monday. Final waterfowl stamp sales last fall were 89,950. Stamp sales have held stable the past four years at just under 90,000, but down from earlier years when as many as 140,000 Minnesotans hunted ducks.
“We’d like to see our hunter numbers increase but at least they’ve stabilized,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist at Bemidji. “We will continue to explore opportunities for additional hunter recruitment and retention.”
Last year, the DNR offered an earlier season opener and other regulation changes that created more opportunity for hunters.
The DNR added a third duck zone in southern Minnesota and used different splits, or closed periods, to provide some later hunting in that part of the state.
“We’ve heard a lot of positive reports from hunters. Most seemed very satisfied,” Cordts said.
This year, Cordts said, the agency is considering even more changes, including allowing Canada goose hunting in August, changing the early goose season bag limit and allowing open water duck hunting on a small number of lakes.
“No decisions have been made — and some would require federal approval — but we are floating these concepts out for discussion and feedback,” Cordts said.
Formal input on those proposals will be taken later this year.
Although 2012 duck harvest numbers will not be available until summer, an increase in harvest is expected. Duck harvest in recent years has been around 650,000 ducks.
High commodity prices and rising global demand for food and energy are having a significant negative impact on wildlife habitat because more land is going into farm production, Cordts said.
“Nearly 3 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program ground in Minnesota and the Dakotas have been converted from wildlife habitat to mainly row crops since 2008,” said Cordts. “To put that in perspective, that’s nearly 5,000 square miles, which translates into a 20-mile wide corridor along Interstate 94 from St. Paul to Fargo, N.D.”