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.
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.
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.
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.
Minnesota’s wolf population remains about the same as in recent winters, according to results of the latest survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The latest survey results estimate that within Minnesota’s wolf range there were 374 wolf packs and 2,221 wolves last winter. Although this year’s specific population estimate is lower than the previous winter’s estimate of 2,423 wolves, there has been no statistically significant change in population size during the past three years, state wildlife officials said.
The population survey is conducted in mid-winter near the low point of the annual population cycle. Immediately following birth of pups each spring, the wolf population typically doubles, though many pups do not survive to the following winter.
“Results from the 2015 wolf survey demonstrate that the wolf population remains well established across northern and central Minnesota,” said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the DNR.
Minnesota’s wolf population remains above the state’s minimum management goal of at least 1,600 wolves and is above the federal recovery goal of 1,251 to 1,400.
Minnesota duck hunters will see a season framework similar to last year’s, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today. The state’s regular waterfowl season will open a half-hour before sunrise on Sept. 26, with similar bag limits and season dates that were in place last year.
Duck season will be open for 60 days in each of the three waterfowl zones.
In the north zone, duck season is Sept. 26 through Nov. 24.
In the central zone, duck season is Sept. 26 through Oct. 4, closes for five days, then reopens Oct. 10, and runs through Nov. 29.
In the south zone, duck season is Sept. 26 through Oct. 4, closes for 10 days, then reopens Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 4.
The only bag limit change from the 2015 season is for canvasbacks, 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 ducks and three for scaup.
The waterfowl seasons are based on a federal framework that applies to all states in the Mississippi Flyway.
More information on duck, goose, sandhill crane and other migratory bird hunting seasons will be available in the 2015 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations, available in mid-August in booklet form and online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.
All states in the Mississippi Flyway were offered the option for a September teal season or two bonus blue-winged teal during the regular season. Minnesota did not participate in either teal option last year and again made the choice not to take a teal season or bonus blue-winged teal option this year.
Mallard abundance from a continental spring survey that includes Minnesota is used to determine overall duck season length. This year’s estimate was 11.8 million mallards, which was well above the long-term average. Since 1997, duck season length has been 60 days each year and the mallard population has ranged from 6.8 million to 11.8 million mallards.
“The status of mallards, and most other species of ducks important to Minnesota hunters, is very good this year based on spring populations surveys,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.
Youth waterfowl day
Youth Waterfowl Day will be Sept. 12. Hunters ages 15 and under may take regular season bag limits when accompanied by an adult age 18 or older.
Canada goose seasons and limits
Canada goose hunting is open in the three duck zones, and also in an intensive harvest zone. For a map of the intensive zone and other information, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl.
The early September Canada goose season will open statewide on Sept. 5, and run through Sept. 22. Bag limits for Canada geese are 10 per day in the intensive harvest zone (west-central Minnesota) and five per day in the rest of the state. A $4 permit is required to hunt Canada geese during the September season.
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.
Sandhill crane season
The season for sandhill cranes is Sept. 12 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.
Hunters can hunt Canada geese in west-central Minnesota from Aug. 8 through Aug. 23, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Hunters are allowed to shoot up to 10 Canada geese per day, but there is no limit to the number of Canada geese a hunter can possess.
“The state’s Canada goose population remains high, and the August management action is one way to control goose numbers,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl specialist for the DNR. “This harvest helps limit the amount of damage the birds cause to crops in the western portion of the state.”
The August goose harvest will open only in the intensive harvest zone in west-central Minnesota, with shooting hours from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. A small game hunting license, special goose permit and state waterfowl stamp are required. A federal waterfowl stamp is not needed; however, it is required to hunt geese and other waterfowl beginning in September.
This is the third year the DNR has held an August goose management action.
“Last August, about 5,500 hunters harvested about 21,000 Canada geese, compared to 24,000 in 2013,” Cordts said. “Factors like weather and progress of small grain harvest tends to affect hunter success.”
The DNR in August will announce details of fall waterfowl seasons, including the September Canada goose season that runs from Sept. 5 through Sept. 22, and the regular Canada goose seasons that tentatively begin Sept. 26.
Minnesota’s breeding mallard population counts are down from last year, but other species saw increases, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today.
Each year, the department conducts spring waterfowl surveys across the state. This year’s mallard breeding population was estimated at 206,000, which is 20 percent below last year’s estimate of 257,000 breeding mallards, 17 percent below the recent 10-year average and 10 percent above the long-term average measured since 1968.
The blue-winged teal population is up 66 percent at 169,000, compared to the 2014 estimate of 102,000, but the population remains 21 percent below the long-term average of 212,000.
The combined populations of other ducks, such as ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, gadwalls, northern shovelers, canvasbacks and redheads was 149,000, which is 29 percent higher than last year and 16 percent below the long-term average.
The estimate of total duck abundance (excluding scaup) was 524,000, similar to last year’s estimate of 474,000 ducks.
The continental waterfowl population estimates will be released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later this summer and will provide an indicator of what hunters can expect this fall.
This year’s Canada goose population in Minnesota was estimated at 250,000, which was similar to last year’s estimate of 244,000 geese.