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Minnesota Duck and Goose Season Proposed   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Written by Minnesota DNR  
Thursday, 05 August 2004
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing to open the 2004 duck season on Saturday, Sept. 25. Hunter opinion surveys conducted in 2000 and 2002 indicate most Minnesota duck hunters would prefer the earlier opening date this year instead of delaying the opener to Saturday, Oct. 2.

The 60-day season and six duck daily bag limit are similar to last year's season. Seasons for canvasbacks and pintails will again be restricted to 30 days.

Goose seasons will be restricted in most zones due to record low production of young Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada geese that migrate through Minnesota.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day will be Saturday, Sept. 18, one week before the regular opener. Young hunters may take regular season bag limits including one canvasback and one pintail. Goose bag limits for youth hunters will be five, except in the Twin Cities, Southeast, and Northwest goose zones and Carlos Avery WMA and the Swan Lake area, where the bag limit is one.

A non-hunting adult must accompany youth hunters and spinning-wing decoys will not be allowed during the Youth Waterfowl hunt.

The legislature passed a law that will open the waterfowl season at 9 a.m. instead of noon on opening day this fall, according to Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl staff specialist.

The following regulations are being proposed by the DNR, but will not be formally approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until late September. The 2004 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement will be distributed in early September.


Minnesota's duck season will be Sept. 25 to Nov. 23. The daily bag limit is six ducks, and may not include more than four mallards (only two of which may be females), three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, and one black duck. The daily limit will also include one pintail and one canvasback during the 30-day open seasons for those species. One pintail per day may be taken from Saturday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Oct. 24. One canvasback per day may be taken from Saturday, Oct. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 7. Possession limits are twice the daily bag limits. Except for opening day, when shooting hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., shooting hours will be from one half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. daily through Saturday, Oct. 9, and from one half hour before sunrise to sunset beginning Sunday, Oct. 10, through the remainder of the season.

According to Minnesota law, motorized decoys with visible, moving parts that are above the water surface may not be used to take waterfowl, except geese, on public waters from Sept. 25 through Saturday, Oct. 9. Motorized "spinning wing" style decoys are included under this definition, but swimming decoys or "shakers" are generally not restricted under this law. Public water includes all water basins where the state or federal government owns any shoreline or provides public access, or the basin is listed in the Public Waters Inventory.

County maps identifying public waters are available for viewing at all county auditors offices or on the DNR Web site at

Results from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys indicate the total duck population estimate was 32 million birds in 2004, 11 percent below the 2003 estimate of 36 million and 3 percent below the long-term average. Mallard abundance, an important component for the Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) process, was similar (7.4 million) to 2003 (7.9 million) and the long-term average (7.5 million).

In Minnesota, the number of breeding mallards increased 34 percent to 375,000 and remains 9 percent above the 10-year average. Total duck abundance (excluding scaup) was the third highest on record (1,008,000 birds) between 1968-2004.


Minnesota's regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season on Saturday, Sept. 25, except for Canada goose seasons in the West-Central goose zone. Resident Canada goose populations in Minnesota remain high and excellent goose hunting should again be available for Minnesota waterfowl hunters.

However, EPP Canada geese, which nest near Hudson Bay and migrate through Minnesota had a "bust" production year in 2004. Deep snows covered the nesting grounds until late spring. Few geese attempted to nest and production of young geese is expected to be the lowest recorded since 1976.

"Without additional restrictions, and with no young birds in the population, we would be cutting directly into the breeding population," said Ed Boggess, DNR fish and wildlife policy manager. "Protecting this population is essential to maintaining future goose hunting opportunities at important EPP concentration areas, such as Lac qui Parle," he said.

The EPP Management Plan, approved by the Mississippi Flyway Council, calls for states and provinces in the EPP range (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Manitoba) to implement hunting regulations that will reduce EPP harvest by 25 percent in "bust" production years.

Based on goose band recovery data, the proposed restrictions in hunting opportunity in most Canada goose zones should reduce harvest this season and prevent over harvest of future breeding birds.

Restrictions to protect migrating EPP geese during the regular goose season will not affect the special September and December goose seasons, which are designed to reduce populations of resident giant Canada geese that nest in Minnesota.

Early September Goose Season

The early Canada goose season will open statewide on Saturday, Sept. 4 and run through Wednesday, Sept. 22, except in the Northwest Zone where it closes on Sept. 15. The Saturday opening date ensures that the most hunters can be in the field to maximize harvest effectiveness.

This September season is designed to target resident giant Canada geese that nest in Minnesota. The Special Goose Hunt Permit ($4) is required for both the early and late special seasons.

The restriction against hunting within 100 yards of surface water remains in the Northwest, Southeast, and Twin Cities Metro Goose Zones and in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area and an area surrounding Swan Lake in Nicollet County. September goose hunters should consult the 2004 Hunting Regulations Handbook for further details and zone maps.

Regular Goose Season

The regular Canada goose seasons in Minnesota will be: Northwest Zone (40 days): Saturday, Sept. 25-Wednesday, Nov. 3; one bird/day West Central Zone (25 days): Thursday, Oct. 21-Sunday, Nov. 14; one bird/day West Zone (35 days): Saturday, Sept. 25-Friday, Oct. 29; one bird/day Remainder of state (60 days): Saturday, Sept. 25-Tuesday, Nov. 23; two birds/day The season for light geese (snow, blue and Ross' geese), white-fronted geese, and brant will be Sept. 25 to Dec. 19. The daily limit will be 20 light geese, two white fronted geese and one brant.

December Goose Seasons

Special December Canada goose seasons will again be offered statewide except in the West-Central Goose Zone, which includes Lac qui Parle WMA. The Special Goose Hunt Permit ($4) is required and valid for both early and late special goose seasons. The late season will be open Saturday, Dec. 4 to Monday, Dec. 13, except in the Southeast Goose Zone, where the season will be begin Friday, Dec. 10 to Sunday, Dec. 19.

Bag limits for Canada geese during the late season will be five/day, except in the Southeast Goose Zone (which includes the Rochester area), where the bag limit will be two/day. December goose hunters should consult the 2004 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook and the 2004 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement for zone maps and additional details.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported drier habitat conditions in 2004 across most of the key breeding areas than during 2003. Numbers of ponds in prairie Canada (2.5 million) declined 29% from 2003 and were 25% below the long-term average. Pond numbers in the north central U.S. declined 16% from 2003 and were 8% below the long-term average. Southern Manitoba, eastern Montana, and western North Dakota were the only regions with improved pond conditions from the previous year.

"Habitat conditions in Minnesota were below average in May, but improved in many areas by mid-July," Cordts said. "We expect another good wild rice crop on most of our rice lakes but weather conditions over the next few months can greatly influence fall migration habitat before opening day."


Waterfowl seasons will not be finalized until after the comment period closes on the proposed federal migratory waterfowl rules in early September. However, it is unlikely that the federal waterfowl season frameworks will be different from those noted above.

To comment on the proposed Minnesota waterfowl season selections for 2004, e-mail to or write to Division of Fish and Wildlife, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN, 55155-4007.

To comment on the proposed Federal waterfowl season frameworks, write: Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, ms 634 ARLSQ, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.

More information about waterfowl status is available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Bird Management Web site at

The Minnesota DNR will announce the final season dates and limits in early September. Waterfowl hunters should consult the 2004 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, which is now available from license agents and DNR offices, for basic waterfowl regulations and September seasons.

For details on regular and December season waterfowl regulations, consult the 2004 Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement, which will be available in early September.

All migratory bird hunters (doves, waterfowl, woodcock, etc.) must be enrolled in the Harvest Information Program (HIP). To legally hunt migratory birds, hunters must answer "yes" to the question on the small game hunting license about whether the hunter intends to hunt any migratory birds in Minnesota this year and "HIP certified" will appear on the license. Hunters who did not answer "yes" to this question when they bought their small game license, but who later wish to hunt migratory birds, may visit any Electronic License System agent to obtain HIP certification at no charge.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 August 2004 )


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