December 4, 2013
Just a reminder that next week – Tuesday, Dec. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. – we launch our new program called Waterfowl 365.
We really don’t have any grand plans, except to offer a forum in which waterfowl hunters and enthusiasts can get together and talk shop. We expect to start the discussion with one topic, but fully expect it will move on from there.
Anyone is welcome to attend – the more the merrier. Tell your friends or anyone you know who might be interested in waterfowl conversation. It will be held at our state office, which is at 907 First Street North in Hopkins.
If you plan to attend, or want more information, shoot us an email at email@example.com, or call (952) 767-0320.
Duck season ends
The duck season has come to a close, and based on reports we’re hearing – and our own experiences in the blind – about the best way to describe the season is OK. Most everyone saw and shot ducks. But there was never that huge grand passage of birds, and in many instances, ducks seemed to be here on day and gone the next.
On a positive note, the sales of state duck stamps increased again this year. While the increase was small, sales now have risen for a few years in a row.
November 20, 2013
The duck season may be on its last legs, but we’re excited to unveil a new program that’s catered especially to waterfowl enthusiasts.
It’s called Waterfowl 365, and it’s designed to be informative and educational, and to take place in a casual atmosphere and setting.
The idea is to provide a forum that allows waterfowl hunters – or even simply waterfowl enthusiasts – to come together and participate in conversations and discussions about a broad range of topics in the waterfowl world.
We want all of us who love waterfowl to be able to spend some time with like-minded individuals.
The plan is to meet on the second Tuesday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Minnesota Waterfowl Association state office in Hopkins. (Added benefit: You’ll be able to check out the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame and Museum.)
The first get-together is set for Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The idea is that every month we’ll have a specific topic about which we’ll start our discussion. This isn’t going to be a lecture or presentation, per se, but rather an opportunity for everyone who attends to have their say. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss your concerns and thoughts, or simply to share stories about waterfowl hunts of the past. In the end, we want you to have a voice on waterfowl issues in Minnesota and beyond.
Each month, there will be coffee and light snacks available.
Please RSVP to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call the state office at (952) 767-0320 and let us know you’ll be joining.
We look forward to seeing everyone, hearing about your waterfowl season, and simply talking ducks.
November 14, 2013
Let’s jump right into this week’s blog with a little mixed bag of items:
• Remember the duck season closes Nov. 19 in the state’s North Duck Zone. Based on reports we’re hearing, it sounds like a lot of birds have left that part of the state as a result of the cold nights that have caused ponds and wetlands – and even some smaller lakes – to have at least a skim of ice on them. The season runs through Nov. 24 in the Central Duck Zone, and through Dec. 1 in the South Duck Zone.
• Has anyone tried open-water hunting yet? Did you have any success? We’d love to hear from someone who gave it a shot!
• Remember that Thursday, Nov. 14, is Give to the Max Day. It’s a great time to think about a donation to the Minnesota Waterfowl Association.
• Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in town recently, and several of us from MWA were onhand to see her at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Jewell, the relatively new Interior Secretary, talked about the importance of refuges to local communities. It was good to see Jewell, and good to hear here talk about her support for our public lands.
• Can you believe it’s already been five years since the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed? Since its passage in 2008, nearly $400 million has been put directly into fish and wildlife habitat. Given everything we’re seeing on the landscape today, it’s pretty hard to imagine where we would be without the amendment.
October 17, 2013
The partial shutdown of the federal government has ended, which is good news for those of us who value conservation.
But let’s start a week ago, when it appears pressure applied by conservation groups and others caused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do an about-face and reopen waterfowl production areas, which the agency had closed to that point of the shutdown.
Remember, hunters like you and I who purchase federal duck stamps are the primary purchasers of these areas, since it’s mostly duck stamp revenues that fund them. There were real questions about why the Service opted to close them to access. However, it’s worth noting that many of our WPAs are in the South Duck Zone, which was closed through Oct. 11.
The Service reopened WPAs on the eve of the Minnesota pheasant opener, which was Oct. 12, so there likely were a bunch of duck and pheasant hunters who never really noticed the WPAs were closed. But you can bet those hunters in more northern reaches of the state took note.
So have you seen much for migrating ducks?
We’re getting reports that some decent pushes are occurring. Still a lot of local birds in hunters’ bags, but that should be flipping a little bit as we transition further into the season. In fact, if you read the reports from conservation officers in the southeastern part of the state, it sounds like the Mississippi River was absolutely ridiculous last weekend in terms of the number of teal hunters shot. Lots and lots of limits.
I’d guess ring-necked duck abundance will peak this week and into next, so there should be some good shooting opportunities there, too.
And we’re interested in hearing from anyone who plans to – or already has – done some over-water hunting in Minnesota. Remember, the DNR opened a limited numbers of lakes to open-water hunting this year. It’s unlikely a lot of hunters will try it, but once those divers start heading into the state, you can bet some people will give it a shot.
If you do, let us know how it goes.
That’s it for this week. Have a safe hunt.
October 8, 2013
As we sit here today – Tuesday, Oct. 8 – the federal government remains in shutdown mode.
Some people may think: What does if have to do with me? Talking strictly about hunting, maybe not much. Maybe a whole lot.
Raise your hand if you ever hunt on federal waterfowl production areas? How about national wildlife refuges? To varying degrees, both are vitally important to hunters.
And both are currently closed as the shutdown drags on.
Like a variety of other conservation and sporting groups, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association believes lawmakers need to find a way to end the shutdown and re-open the lands for which sportsmen largely have footed the bill.
But there’s only so much we as organizations can do. It’s up to all of us to contact our United States representatives and senators. Tell them to find a solution so we can access the lands to which we’re entitled, and carry on the wide variety of conservation work that’s been negatively affected.
September 27, 2013
How was your duck opener?
Based on personal experience and reports from other hunters around the state, it was a bit of a mixed bag. As expected, blue-winged teal and wood ducks seemed to be the dominant birds in hunters’ bags, though success seemed to be spotty, at best.
It’s probably not a stretch to say the 2012 opener was better than the 2013 version. (But keep in mind that, thanks to season splits, there are two more “openers” in the central and southern duck zones.)
According to an article in Outdoor News, DNR waterfowl specialist Steve Cordts said he heard great teal reports from opening weekend, but that those reports were from states south of Minnesota. Keep in mind some of those same states earlier this month reported they had some of the lowest teal numbers on record.
So did a bunch of teal pack up and leave in advance of the Sept. 21 opener? It’s possible some did, given a cold front that hit the day before the opener. It wasn’t a strong front, to be sure, but it may have been enough to nudge some birds south.
Please have a safe hunt if you’re heading out this weekend, and remember the season in the central and south zones closes after Sunday’s hunt.
And before you head out, check out this news release from the Minnesota DNR. It’s a reminder that we all need to do our part to prevent the spread of invasive species.
DNR advises waterfowl hunters to avoid spreading invasive species
Now that hunting season is underway, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warns waterfowl hunters it’s against the law to transport aquatic invasive species (AIS).
DNR conservation officers routinely inspect equipment during the hunting season and enforce state regulations related to invasive species.
Many people only associate the threat of spreading AIS with summertime activities, but hunters are also at risk of moving aquatic invaders from one waterbody to another. Without proper precautions, invasive plants and animals such as purple loosestrife, faucet snails, Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels could be transported on duck boats, blind material and hunting gear.
“Hunters are legally required to drain all water and remove visible plants from boats and equipment before leaving the water access,” said Allison Gamble, DNR AIS specialist. “Waterfowl hunters should also remove all mud and check everything that could harbor aquatic invaders – even hunting dogs – to avoid carrying unwanted hitchhikers.”
Hunters are required by law to:
Remove faucet snails and other prohibited invasive species from boats, waders, push poles, decoys, and decoy anchors before leaving the water access to avoid their spread.
Cut cattails or other aquatic emergent plants above the waterline for blinds or camouflage. Thoroughly clean these materials before moving to another waterbody. When inspecting boats on infested waters, the DNR often finds zebra mussels attached to vegetation.
The DNR also recommends that waterfowl hunters switch to elliptical, bulb-shaped or strap decoy anchors that won’t snag submerged aquatic plants as easily.
Invasive species can damage habitat for waterfowl, fish and other wildlife, and even cause die-offs of waterfowl. It only takes a fragment of Eurasian watermilfoil to spread into a new waterbody.
At early life stages, some invasive species such as young zebra mussels are difficult to see. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another water body: spray with high-pressure water, rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds) or dry for at least five days. Air drying may require additional days due to cool weather.
September 20, 2013
If you’re like us, you’ve probably already been waterfowl hunting this year. Maybe during the August Canada goose season, or the early Canada goose season, or on Youth Waterfowl Day.
But you’ve probably also been waiting patiently – or, more likely, impatiently – for half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, Sept. 21.
That’s right. Duck opener is finally upon us.
It’s been an odd year, no doubt, as poor spring weather seemed to nearly wipe out this year’s Canada goose reproduction effort. And as late as last month, there will were reports of very young duck broods from all parts of the state. Indeed, everything is a couple of weeks late this year, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the early part of the duck season.
It seems pretty likely we’ll still have lots of early migrants like blue-winged teal and wood ducks around, and potentially for longer than usual. We’ve been hearing reports that numbers of teal in Louisiana are at all-time lows for this time of year.
Please keep us posted about how your hunts go, and feel free to share pictures or stories with us on this blog.
While there aren’t many regulation changes this year, there were a few, so make sure you know what you can and cannot do before you head to the field. State regulations are here.
Also, here’s a link to the DNR’s first waterfowl migration report, which DNR waterfowl specialist Steve Cordts puts together. It’s a valuable pre-hunt resource.
From all of us at MWA, have a safe and enjoyable hunt.
September 10, 2013
Well, our Young Waterfowlers Program (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also is a sponsor) had another successful year this year.
We had 13 kids, and 12 of them took part in the culmination of the program – a mentored duck hunt last Saturday during Youth Waterfowl Day. The date was Sept. 7, and it was among the earliest anyone ever has been allowed to hunt ducks in Minnesota.
And it was hot. Even when we met at 5 a.m., the car’s air conditioning felt pretty darn good.
But despite the less-than-ducky weather, the kids and their mentors had a blast. Literally.
While I wouldn’t want to speculate on the total number of shots fired, the kids – who hunted in various parts of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge – wound up doing well. They killed a total of 21 ducks (six mallards, six wood ducks, five blue-winged teal, three green-winged teal, two pintails, and a wigeon) and three geese.
And, as is so often the case when we’re with kids in the field, the looks on their faces were priceless.
Now, I suppose, it’s time to look ahead to the regular duck season, which kicks off Sept. 21. Make sure to check the regulations closely to make sure the area you’re hunting is actually open (the state once again has been split into duck zones, and the three of them close and re-open at different times).
And remember: Youth day isn’t a silver bullet for turning kids into waterfowlers. That happens only with a concerted effort. So do your best to bring a kid to the blind with you this season.
August 26, 2013
Before we get into anything else, let’s start with this: Stay cool. We’re in the midst of a heat wave.
That in mind, it’s hard to believe there’s already one season behind us – the early, early goose season – and the others are just around the corner. The regular early Canada goose season opens Sunday (Sept. 1), Youth Waterfowl Day is the Saturday after that (Sept. 7), and the duck opener is two Saturdays after that (Sept. 21).
There’s lots going on.
So, without further adieux:
• Woodie Camp was a remarkable success. Not only was it our 25th anniversary, but of the 47 kids in attendance, 12 were girls. That’s the most girls we’ve ever had, and hopefully is the beginning of a trend. Every year we have between 65 and 75 applicants, so we wind up having to turn some kids away. At some point, we would love to be able to put on two Woodie Camps.
• We’re in the middle of our Young Waterfowlers Program, which will culminate with a mentored hunt on Sept. 7. There was lots of interest in the program this year, and we had to close registration. It’s another good sign that we’re seeing an interest among our youths in conservation, ducks and hunting.
• The DNR last week released its annual small-game hunter survey. Some of the biggest surprises were in the duck arena. The DNR sold 90,052 duck stamps, which was the most since 2008. Hunters killed 834,950 ducks, which is up by more than 100,000 from 2011 and the highest harvest since 2003.
August 8, 2013
It’s hard to believe the 25th Woodie Camp begins in just a few days.
Twenty-five years of teaching kids about conservation, hunting, and waterfowl. Can you believe it? It’s been quite a run, that’s for sure.
This year’s roster includes all the volunteers who help us pull off Woodie Camp every year, and 47 kids – 12 of whom are girls. That’s the most girls we’ve ever had attending, and it seems fitting something like that would happen on this big anniversary.
There seems to be an increasing interest among females in hunting and other outdoors sports, so it’s nice to see that trend beginning at such an early age.
We had a total of 72 kids apply to come to Woodie Camp this year, so interest in the week-long camp remains strong. How do we select the kids who get to attend? Basically, a committee goes through each application we receive and reads each kid’s essay. Assuming everything is equal in the application, the strength of their essay determines who will be invited to camp.
We’re looking forward to another great year of Woodie Camp. As usual, you’ll be able to follow camp in near real-time here.