By Chris Jennings
Warm, humid weather didn’t dampen the spirits of hunters as Minnesota’s regular waterfowl season opened on September 23. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Waterfowl Migration and Hunting Report indicated that habitat conditions, water levels, and wild rice production should be generally favorable for waterfowl hunting this season. In addition, the MDNR noted that molt migrant Canada geese have returned to the state, bolstering local goose numbers.
“We had a good opener for ducks,” says Buck Nordlof of Baudette. “We shot a mix of species, including a handful of teal.”
On Sunday, Nordlof’s group hunted a harvested wheat field and bagged limits of Canada geese, including two lessers and a banded bird. They also shot a juvenile blue goose and two wood ducks that buzzed the decoys in the first few minutes of shooting time.
“Our migration is just getting started,” Nordlof says. “We’ve picked up a bunch of new Canada geese and the blue goose is a good indication that birds are just beginning to migrate and will continue to move into our area.”
Jon Schneider, DU’s manager of conservation programs in Minnesota, has received several reports of Canada geese, blue-winged teal, and wood ducks being taken throughout the state.
“The warm temperatures may be uncomfortable for hunters, but it really helps for the opener as bluewings are still abundant,” Schneider explains. “We’ve had a couple of cool fronts—not cold, but cool. In years that it gets cold early, we lose bluewings.”
Ducks Unlimited and the MDNR cooperatively manage nearly 100 wild rice lakes in northern Minnesota through DU’s Living Lakes Initiative.
“The wild rice crop is really good this year. One of the best we’ve had for many years in northern Minnesota,” Schneider says. “This habitat is really important for ringnecks and other ducks that arrive later in the season and bodes well for holding birds in the state. In Southern Minnesota, which has lost nearly 90 percent of its wetlands, we focus on enhancing large wetlands to make them more ecologically productive. Managing these shallow lakes helps improve habitat conditions for waterfowl and provide better hunting opportunities.”
As Minnesota waterfowlers wait for the next cold front to bring new flights of ducks and geese down from the north, Schneider says the best is yet to come.
“Hunters in Minnesota know that waterfowling is a weather-driven game. When the next front comes through, it should push some birds in too,” Schneider says. “We will lose bluewings, but we should pick up the bigger ducks from the prairies.”
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