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Duck season off to a good start; split season closures in central and south duck zones start today

October 1, 2012

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

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.

Wolf season lottery results available online
From the DNR

Hunters and trappers who applied to participate in Minnesota’s first-ever wolf season can check lottery results online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/wolf to see if they were successful in the drawing.

They also can view a copy of the 2012 wolf season regulations handbook.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received more than 23,000 applications for the 6,000 available licenses.

Lottery winners, who also will receive notification and wolf hunting regulations via postal mail, now may purchase their licenses from DNR license agent, online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense or by telephone at 888-665-4236.

Participants in the early season hunt, which coincides with firearms deer season, must purchase their wolf licenses by Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Participants in the late hunting and trapping season, which runs from Saturday, Nov. 24, to Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, must buy their licenses by Thursday, Nov. 15.

Any licenses not sold by those dates will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to unsuccessful lottery applicants beginning at noon on Monday, Oct. 29, for the early season and at noon on Monday, Nov. 19, for the late hunting and trapping season.

Any remaining licenses not purchased by unsuccessful applicants will be available for purchase by any eligible hunter beginning at noon on Thursday, Nov. 1, for the early season and noon on Wednesday, Nov. 21, for the late hunting and trapping season.

Minnesota assumed state management of the gray wolf after the species was removed Jan. 27 from federal protection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Minnesota’s wolf population is estimated to be about 3,000 wolves.

The target harvest of 400 wolves for this inaugural wolf season is a conservative approach that does not pose a threat to the conservation of the population.

Additional information about wolf management in Minnesota is available online at www.mndnr.gov/wolves.

DNR to hold public land auctions
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will offer 24 parcels of land for sale at two public auctions scheduled for Nov. 7 and Nov. 9.

The auctions include a variety of recreational properties available for sale.

Fourteen parcels will be offered at an oral auction at the DNR Central Office Sixth Floor Conference Room, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m.

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. Parcels are located in Cook, Dakota, Itasca, Lake and St. Louis counties.

Ten parcels will be offered at an oral auction at the Roseau County Courthouse Board Room, 606 Fifth Ave. SW, Roseau, Minn., on Friday, Nov. 9, at 1 p.m.

Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. Parcels are mainly located in the northern portion of the state including Beltrami, Hubbard and Roseau counties.

Additional information regarding the land sales and terms and conditions may be requested by emailing MIN.landsale@state.mn.us or by visiting www.mndnr.gov/landsale.

Conservation officers come across a cart full of trouble
From the DNR

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are normally confined to waterways, so conservation officers (COs) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were surprised when they recently discovered a full-blown infestation in a parking lot.

CO candidate Jen Mueller and CO field training officer Kipp Duncan of Duluth were on patrol in Two Harbors when they made the discovery.

“We pulled into a parking lot and inside the bed of a pickup truck we saw a shopping cart completely covered with zebra mussels,” said Mueller.

The owner of the truck, Bruce A. Hinsverk, 51, of Wahpeton, N.D., told the officers he was on vacation and saw the shopping cart next to two dumpsters near Lake Superior.

He planned to drive up the North Shore to Grand Marais before returning to North Dakota with the shopping cart.

“He thought it was unique to have a cart with mussels attached and that it would make a nice addition to his business,” Mueller said, “so he placed it in his truck. He did not know it was illegal to transport invasive species.”

The officers took photographs of the cart before removing it and placing it in a DNR storage facility.

Hinsverk was cited for unlawfully possessing or transporting a prohibited invasive species other than aquatic macrophyte.

He was given instructions on how to appeal or pay the $500 fine.

While securing the infested cart, the officers noticed that some zebra mussels were still alive.

They drove to an area near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in Duluth harbor where Hinsverk said he had found the cart. There they discovered zebra mussels on the ground next to the two dumpsters.

Lake Superior is infested with zebra mussels. It’s unknown how the shopping cart made its way from the lake to near the dumpsters.

A nonnative invasive species, zebra mussels pose serious ecological and economic threats to Minnesota’s lakes and streams.

Heavy infestations can kill native mussels, impact fish populations, interfere with recreation, and increase costs for industry, including power and water supply facilities.

Native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia, zebra mussels were first discovered in Minnesota in 1989 in the Duluth harbor. They subsequently have spread to dozens of Minnesota’s inland lakes.

Minnesota law prohibits the possession or transport of any prohibited invasive species in Minnesota.

Conservation officers and peace officers may stop and inspect motorists pulling boats or other marine equipment upon a “reasonable belief” that prohibited invasive species are present.

Prohibited invasive species include zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, silver and bighead carp, ruffe, round goby and sea lamprey.

To help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, anglers and boaters are required by law to:

• Drain bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving any water access.
• Remove aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species from boats and trailers.
• Pull the plug on their boat and drain all water when leaving all waters of the state.
• Keep the drain plug out while transporting water-related equipment on roadways.
• Keep boatlifts and docks out of the water for 21 days before placing in another water body.

For more information on AIS and how to prevent their spread, visit www.mndnr.gov/AIS.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) gave talks at Ney Park for trapping and furs with over 300 kids attending.
CO Mies checked duck hunters on the opener and they had good success.
CO Mies held an AIS work crew.
CO Mies worked on a wetland complaint along with other TIP calls.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) gave presentations at Ney Park for conservation field day to 5th graders in Wright County.
Reller also attended training at Camp Ripley.
Duck opener was busy on area waters and hunters did fair this year with most bagging a couple bags per hunter.
Most ducks species were local wood duck, teal, and mallards.
Enforcement action was taken for unplugged shotgun, use of toxic shot, no PFD in duck boat, transport watercraft with drain plug in and take smallmouth bass out of season.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked bow hunters and investigated deer baiting complaints.
AIS details were worked reminding waterfowl hunters to remove all vegetation from boats and duck decoy strings and anchors.
The duck opener was worked with mixed success; most hunters did well on wood ducks.
Enforcement action was taken for no federal duck stamps, unsigned stamps, using motorized boats in a waterfowl feeding and resting area, no licenses and duck stamps in possession.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports working an extremely busy opener to the waterfowl season.
Oberg reports most every hunter checked shot ducks.
The majority of the ducks taken were wood ducks, with limits common.
AIS enforcement went very well with the waterfowl hunters; compliance was very good overall.
Violations noted were for no license, gun capable of more than three shells, and no HIP.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Although the loon is a bird, it differs from songbirds and waterfowl. How?

A: The bones of most birds are hollow and light in order to maximize the efficiency of flight; loons, however, adapted to life in the water, have several large solid bones that make diving easier but flying more difficult.

This extra weight enables them to dive deep – in excess of 100 feet – to search for food.

Once underwater, loons can remain there for several minutes.

Even though loons are capable of diving deep and for long periods, most dives are shallower and shorter.

Because their bodies are heavy relative to their wing size, loons need a runway of 60 or more feet in order to take off from a lake.

When airborne loons can fly more than 75 miles per hour.

Another unique characteristic of a loon is its legs.

These extremities are set far back on its body, which means a loon cannot walk like other birds.

If on dry land, a loon must push itself along on its chest.