Unseasonably cold temperatures and warm memories were hallmarks of last weekend’s Minnesota duck hunting opener, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist, said hunting was good across most of the state, with blue-winged teal, wood duck and mallard comprising most of the harvest.

“Duck numbers were good,” Cordts said. “Hunter numbers were similar to last year, which was the first upturn in duck hunters in Minnesota in several years. The only downs were the temperature, which was nippier than many hunters expected, and water levels at certain locations.”

With three duck hunting zones in effect in Minnesota this year, Cordts reminded hunters in the Central and South duck zones to be aware of closed dates in those zones, splitting the season into two parts to provide more opportunity later in the fall in those parts of the state.

The waterfowl season in the Central Duck Zone (south of Highway 210) will be closed from Monday, Oct. 1, through Friday, Oct. 5, and then reopen Saturday, Oct. 6. In the South Duck Zone (south of Highway 212), the waterfowl season will be closed from Monday, Oct. 1, through Friday, Oct. 12, and then reopen Saturday, Oct. 13. The goose season is also closed in the Central and South duck zones when the duck season is closed.

“These temporary closures translate into additional hunting opportunity later this fall when late season migrants are passing through the state,” said Cordts. “This is just the second year we’ve managed the hunt by using zones and the first-ever time we’ve used three zones,” Cordts said the concept of multiple hunting zones is still relatively new for Minnesota duck hunters, but seems to be appreciated.

“We’re getting good feedback,” said Cordts. “Those who enjoy hunting for wood duck and teal seem to like it because most of the birds have yet to migrate south. Those who like late season diver hunting seem to like it too because they will still have opportunities deep into November.”

South Zone hunters will have opportunities for hunting major rivers and field hunting mallards into early December, he added.

So far the 2012 season is going very well, Cordts said. Duck hunters in north-central Minnesota averaged about 2.7 ducks per hunter on opening day, up from 2.2 ducks per hunter in 2011. One of the better locations was the Mud-Goose Wildlife Management Area (WMA), where hunters averaged 3.6 ducks on opening day.

“Any harvest above three ducks per hunter on a WMA is excellent hunting,” said Cordts. “I consider two fair and three good.”

In northwestern Minnesota, hunter success at Roseau River WMA was about two ducks per hunter, but goose hunter success was very good. At Thief Lake WMA, hunter numbers were down from last year, but those who hunted averaged 3.3 ducks on opening day with dabbling ducks (blue-winged teal, mallard, pintail and widgeon) the most commonly harvested species and ring-necked ducks the number five bird in the bag.

In central Minnesota, hunters averaged two to three ducks per hunter on opening day and by most accounts had a good opener. At Pelican Lake in Wright County, hunter numbers were extremely high. At Carlos Avery WMA in the Twin Cities north metro area, success was 1.3 ducks per hunter on opening day, mainly wood ducks and blue-winged teal.

“As always, results varied throughout the state,” said Cordts. “Harvest was down in some places. We heard best hunting in 20 years from other places. In north-central Minnesota, hunters had fair, good and excellent hunting on lakes all relatively close to each other, the differences being a function of the quality of the rice crop on each lake.”

Cordts said the outlook for the rest of the season remains good, though there will be the typical lull until new birds migrate into the state. He said migrant ring-necked ducks will soon begin to move in to northern Minnesota. Teal and wood ducks will still be fairly common in southern Minnesota this weekend.

Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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