Waterfowl public input

We need your help

Ducks flying over Aitkin County's Rice LakeYou're encouraged to weigh in on potential changes to state waterfowl hunting regulations that could alter seasons and create additional hunting opportunities.

We're asking you to help us by identifying your preferences regarding potential season and regulatory changes. Getting some direction up front allows DNR to be responsive and offer proposals that consider your preferences.

Below you'll find a summary of potential changes and a link to questionnaire that seeks input on each possible regulation change.

You can comment on these proposals through Monday, Jan. 31. The DNR will use the information you provide as it finalizes waterfowl regulation change proposals.

In early March, we expect to present these final proposals at an online public meeting. Comments will be accepted at the meeting, and we'll continue taking comments online for two weeks afterward.

Final regulation changes will factor in those public comments and could become effective as early as this fall’s waterfowl season.

Potential regulation changes

Adjust season dates in your preferred zone

No split (Option A)

2020 dates

North: Sept. 26 - Nov. 24
Central: Sept. 26 - Oct. 4; Oct. 10 - Nov. 29
South: Sept. 26 - Oct. 4; Oct. 17 - Dec. 6

Possible regulation

Saturday, Sept. 25, to Tuesday, Nov. 23. This season was used last year in the north duck zone.

Rationale & background

With our current three duck zones, we are allowed one split (closed period) in each zone. The north duck zone typically freezes before the end of the season so there's no reason for a split.

Five-day split (Option B)

2020 dates

North: Sept. 26 - Nov. 24
Central: Sept. 26 - Oct. 4; Oct. 10 - Nov. 29
South: Sept. 26 - Oct. 4; Oct. 17 - Dec. 6

Possible regulation

Saturday, Sep. 25, to Sunday, Oct. 3. Close for five days and reopen Saturday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Nov. 28. This season was used last year in the central duck zone.

Rationale & background

With our current three duck zones, we are allowed one split (closed period) in each zone. A short five-day split allows the season to run through Thanksgiving Day weekend rather than ending on the Tuesday before the holiday.

12-day split (Option C)

2020 dates

North: Sept. 26 - Nov. 24
Central: Sept. 26 - Oct. 4; Oct. 10 - Nov. 29
South: Sept. 26 - Oct. 4; Oct. 17 - Dec. 6

Possible regulation

Saturday, Sept. 25, to Sunday, Oct. 3. Close for 12 days, reopen Saturday, Oct. 16, to Sunday, Dec. 5 This season was used last year in the south duck zone.

Rationale & background

With our current three duck zones, we are allowed one split (closed period) in each zone. The past three years, we have had early freeze so some hunters in southern Minnesota have expressed concern about lost opportunity with the 12-day split in the south zone.

Expand teal harvest

Early season (Option A)

Current regulation

No early season.

Possible regulation

Beginning in 2021, establish a three-year experimental early teal season for as many as 16 days in duration prior to the regular duck season, allowing up to 6 teal daily.

Rationale & background

Increase consistency with other regional states. All states in the Mississippi flyway currently have an early teal season. The concept is supported by some because it allows additional opportunity for teal that would otherwise have migrated south by opening day of regular duck season. The concept is not supported by others because of concerns for harvest of other ducks and/or potential for scaring ducks away by opening day of the regular season. An extensive review was conducted by the USFWS in other states showing harvest of teal in early seasons is very low and the slight increases in harvest would have no biological impact to populations.

Bonus blue-winged teal (Option B)

Current regulation

No bonus teal allowed.

Possible regulation

Allow bonus of two blue winged-teal daily during first 16 days of season.

Rationale & background

Other regional states (ND/SD/MT/WY use this option. This would be instead of an early teal season, rather than in addition to an early teal season.

No bonus teal (Option C)

Current regulation

No bonus teal allowed.

Possible regulation

No change.

Rationale & background

 

Allow motorized decoys
Current regulation

Not allowed.

Possible regulation

Expanded allowance for use of motorized decoys throughout the season statewide, including all wildlife management areas.

Rationale & background

Studies have shown that motorized decoys increase harvest by individual hunters. Despite increased use in Minnesota, statewide duck harvest and hunter numbers are declining. The DNR believes biological impacts to the resource will be minimal.

No 4 p.m. early season closure
Current regulation

Early season closes at 4 p.m.

Possible regulation

Extend hours to sunset, making it consistent with the remainder of the season.

Rationale & background

The closure was initially implemented to reduce harvest of breeding ducks; however, harvest and hunter numbers have declined and the Minnesota breeding duck population remains above average.

Allow over-water goose hunting
Current regulation

Restricted in northwest goose zone, Carlos Avery WMA, the Swan Lake area and Ocheda Lake Game Refuge.

Possible regulation

Remove all restrictions against hunting geese within 100 yards of surface water.

Rationale & background

Although originally implemented to reduce waterfowl disturbances, there are no data supporting the effectiveness of this restriction.

Allow open water duck hunting
Current regulation

Only allowed on Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs, Lake Pepin and Lake Superior. In all other places, hunters must be in concealing vegetation.

Possible regulation

Allow hunters statwide to shoot from open water using a layout boat or anchored boat blind.

Rationale & background

Few hunters currently use this method so expansion would increase hunting opportunity throughout the state without negatively impacting duck populations.

Create a military/veterans hunt
Current regulation

No special hunt.

Possible regulation

Provide a two-day, weekend hunting opportunity prior to the regular duck season for veterans and active duty members of the military.

Rationale & background

Like other states, this would provide an additional opportunity for members of the military or veterans. This hunt would potentially overlap with the youth waterfowl hunt and the early teal season (if early teal was established).

Implement a splash-duck bag limit
Current regulation

Limts implemented by species.

Possible regulation

An experimental thee-year regulation that would allow hunters to shoot three ducks of any species.

Rationale & background

Allows hunters to shoot ducks without indentifying the species. It may be attractive to new hunters who have difficulty with identification or those who are interested in harvesting just a few ducks of any species.

Increase Canada goose bag limit
Current regulation

Current regulations drop the bag limit to 3 on Oct. 1.

Possible regulation

Bag limit of 5.

Rationale & background

The Canada goose population in Minnesota has remained well above state goals for the past 20 years.

Allow trolling motors on WMAs
Current regulation

Using trolling motors on wildlife management areas is restricted.

Possible regulation

Allow use of trolling motors anywhere, including WMAs.

Rationale & background

Trolling and outboard motors have been restricted for decades (with a few exceptions), likely due to concerns about the potential for waterfowl disturbances. The DNR is seeking opportunities to increase WMA accessibility. Use of trolling motors could provide additional opportunities and access for hunters while minimizing disturbances.

Complete the survey

After reveiwing the potential changes listed above, please register and take the online questionnaire.

Online public meeting

Check back here in February for details on how to register and partipate in the March online meeting on waterfowl regulation proposals.