Season changes implemented
DNR has adopted these proposed changes to Minnesota's waterfowl hunting regulations:
- Increasing the bag limit for Canada, white-fronted or Brant geese in any combination from three to five birds per day for the entire season;
- Extending legal shooting hours to sunset for the entire season, eliminating the 4 p.m. early season closure;
- Implementing a five-day early teal season (Sept. 4 - Sept. 8) as an experimental regulation for up to three years;
- Allowing statewide over-water goose hunting during the early September season; and
- Establishing season dates through the 2024 season for the north, central and south waterfowl hunting zones.
- North zone: Keeping a 60-day season with no split. The 2021 season dates would be Saturday, Sept. 25, to Tuesday, Nov. 23.
- Central zone: Keeping a 60-day season with a five-day split. The 2021 season dates would be Saturday, Sept. 25, to Sunday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Nov. 28.
- South zone: Implementing a 60-day season with a five-day split rather than the 12-day split implemented the past nine years. The 2021 season dates would be Saturday, Sept. 25, to Sunday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Nov. 28.
The DNR developed the waterfowl regulation proposals after public engagement efforts during the past few months, which included an online survey, direct staff outreach and a hunter attitude survey.
Preliminary results from hunter attitude surveys, online input, local engagement and input from waterfowl professionals and conservation partners informed these recommendations.
Multiple and sometimes competing objectives considered during this review of waterfowl regulations included:
- Maximizing long-term waterfowl populations;
- Minimizing waterfowl disturbance and impacts to the opening day experience for hunters;
- Minimizing conflict with other coinciding activities (kayaking, bird watching, wild rice harvesting, etc.);
- Maximizing collective waterfowl hunting opportunities and preferences;
- Simplifying hunting regulations; and
- Increasing consistency with other states.
Canada goose bag limit: Changes to the Canada goose bag limits would provide additional opportunity and simplify the regulation by allowing five geese per day the entire season. The Canada goose population in Minnesota has remained high for around two decades.
Extend shooting hours: Extending legal shooting hours to sunset for the entire season by eliminating the 4 p.m. early season closure would simplify regulations and provide more hunting opportunities. Harvest and hunter numbers have declined and the Minnesota breeding duck population remains above average.
Early teal season: A teal season would be consistent with other states in the Mississippi Flyway. A five-day teal season would allow an additional opportunity for teal that would otherwise have migrated south by opening day of regular duck season. An increase in teal harvest would be unlikely to negatively impact populations. The three-year experiment would evaluate impacts of this regulation and analysis would inform any decision to continue the season.
Over-water goose hunting: Allowing statewide over-water goose hunting would simplify regulations and provide more hunting opportunities. This change would primarily impact hunters in a small proportion of Minnesota, including Carlos Avery WMA and Swan Lake areas; Ocheda Lake game refuge; and the northwest goose zone.
- Regulation changes not considered
The DNR collected information on a number of other potential regulatory changes that will not be implemented at this time. These included:
- Allowing additional open water duck hunting: In 2014, we allowed open water duck hunting on border lakes (Lake of the Woods, Lake Superior, Lake Pepin) and Mille Lacs lake. Hunter participation is very low and we have heard very few requests to expand to additional lakes. Although public input generally indicated support for this change, attitude survey data collected to date has been mixed.
- Allowing special military/veteran's duck hunt: This was authorized by Congress in 2019 and is similar to Youth Waterfowl Weekend. While hunters generally support the hunt, preliminary survey data and public input collected from active military members and veterans suggests the special hunt is not desired. If interest of the user group increases, the DNR can revisit this issue.
- Allowing trolling motors on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs): Motors (including trolling motors) are not allowed on state WMAs. Allowing trolling motors could provide some additional access with limited disturbance to ducks. In general, public input and preliminary survey data suggest this change is supported. But making a change of this magnitude requires broader engagement of other WMA users such as anglers, wild rice harvesters and paddlers.
- Three-bird splash limit: This will be a three-year pilot program in South Dakota and Nebraska this fall. At the time of license purchase, a hunter selects either a normal waterfowl license or a license that allows a limit of three ducks of any species or gender. This could be an option mainly for new hunters. This is not an option for Minnesota now but could be considered at some point in the future.
In addition to these proposed changes, there is currently a bill in the Minnesota Legislature to allow motorized decoys statewide for the entire season, a measure that previous public input supported. If the Legislature changes the statute, the DNR will incorporate the expanded use of motorized decoys into waterfowl hunting regulations.