Outlook tough for Saturday’s duck opener

Most teal and wood ducks have already left Minnesota, but fair numbers of ring-necked ducks have moved into northern Minnesota with duck season opening Saturday.

Most Department of Natural Resources wildlife managers across the state are predicting a poor to fair duck season similar to last year’s, according to a report issued Thursday by the DNR.

Waterfowl surveys conducted this week indicated that duck numbers in most locations were lower than last year at this time. Many blue-winged teal and wood ducks have already migrated out of the state.

Fair numbers of migrant ring-necked ducks have moved into northern Minnesota, but birds are fairly concentrated on a few lakes and numbers are near average for this time of year. In the northern third of the state, ring-necked ducks should dominate opening weekend bags. In other areas, mallards, blue-winged teal, and wood ducks will be more common.

The number of breeding ducks in the state was unchanged from 2009, and continental breeding duck numbers were also unchanged from last year for all species.

Habitat conditions are generally very wet across most of Minnesota. Extensive areas of sheet water and flooded fields are present and will likely disperse ducks early in the season.

Canada goose hunting should be good statewide; goose numbers have increased in many areas since mid-September as flocks of molt migrant giant Canada geese have moved back into the state starting in mid-September.

Duck hunter numbers in 2009 were the second-lowest recorded since 1977 and are likely to be similar or lower than that this season, DNR wildlife officials say.

The duck season opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday and runs through Nov. 30. Shooting hours end at 4 p.m. through Oct. 9 and sunset the remainder of the season.

Bag limit is six ducks per day. The bag limit for hen mallards, canvasbacks and black ducks is one per day. The bag limit for pintails, wood ducks, redheads, and scaup is two per day. Only four mallards may be included in the daily limit.

The regular Canada goose season opens statewide on Saturday and runs through Dec. 25, except in the Rochester goose zone, where the season runs from Oct. 2 to Dec. 7 and Dec. 16 to Jan. 2. The bag limit is three Canada geese per day statewide for the entire season.