Minnesota DNR seeks changes in dates, shooting hours for duck-hunting season
Opener could shift, as well as hunting hours
By Chris Niskanen
Updated: 02/13/2010 11:40:16 PM CST
Minnesota duck hunters could see earlier seasons and shooting hours under two proposals being floated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The agency will propose that the Legislature rescind a law that prohibits the duck opener from occurring before the Saturday nearest Oct. 1. The law keeps the DNR from opening the season earlier, even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows Minnesota to open the season the Saturday nearest Sept. 24.
The federal framework allows Minnesota to open as early as Sept. 21, but it's unlikely hunters would approve of that, said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife chief.
Instead, the DNR might choose the Saturday nearest Sept. 28 or a date no earlier than Sept. 24.
Under that framework, next fall's duck opener would be Sept. 25.
Simon said he doesn't expect all hunters or lawmakers to agree with the change. Though an earlier season allows hunters a better chance at early migrants, such as wood ducks and teals, it would mean the season would end earlier, eliminating late-season mallard hunting.
The DNR also is considering earlier shooting hours on opening day.
Hunting currently begins at 9 a.m. on opening day. For years, the shooting hours started at noon, until the DNR moved the start to 9 a.m.
Now, managers are proposing to start the duck opener a half-hour before sunrise.
The DNR doesn't need the Legislature to approve the new shooting hours, but the rule will be among several changes to be discussed at public hearings this spring.
"We'll be asking if people want to go back to a half-hour before sunrise for an opener," Simon said. "Frankly, the 9 a.m. opener isn't doing much for us. People don't like it."
He said in a recent poll, hunters equally favored either a noon opener or starting a half-hour before sunrise.
If both duck regulations are adopted, hunters could start the duck season Sept. 25 with shooting hours beginning a half-hour before sunrise.
Bring back ATV grouse rule? In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature repealed a law requiring ruffed grouse hunters in the vicinity of a motor vehicle to be at least 20 yards from their vehicle before shooting and to have the engine turned off.
After hearing complaints from foot hunters last fall, the DNR would like to have the rule reinstated.
"We got a quite few complaints last year about people who enjoy hunting on foot but felt they were being disrupted by motorized hunters," the DNR's Dennis Simon said. "They felt motorized hunters were given an opportunity for unfair chase."
Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, was responsible for rescinding the previous law, and he's not sure he supports bringing it back.
"I don't like the idea of people jumping off a four-wheeler and taking a partridge, but then we have to look at the number of feet" from the vehicle, Dill said. "I want to know, 'How do you measure it? Where do you start the measurement?' "
Former DNR Commissioner Rod Sando used a commissioner's order to implement the law in 1998. Dill said he received complaints about it from ATV riders.
Either way, the issue promises to be hotly debated this year.
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The Northwest Sportshow is set for March 24-28 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
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The Minnesota Outdoors Heritage Association legislative banquet is Wednesday night at the St. Paul Holiday Inn East.