Hunting and Trapping Seasons Announced
A longer pheasant season and the state's first mourning dove hunt since 1946 were among the expanded hunting opportunities Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Gene Merriam noted today when he announced the 2004 hunting and trapping seasons.
"We've been listening to hunters and responding to their concerns," Merriam said. "Hunters will also find this year that we improved the deer permitting process and provided more deer hunting opportunities for youth."
Several youth deer hunts, which pair young hunters with mentors in controlled areas, will be held this fall. In addition, youth under 18 may harvest a deer of either sex with a half-price archery or firearm deer license.
NEW "BONUS" PERMITS
Antlerless deer permit system changes will help streamline licensing for Minnesota hunters. Under the new system, management and intensive harvest permits, which allowed the harvest of additional antlerless deer in certain permit areas, have been replaced by "bonus" permits that give hunters more flexibility in where they hunt. With a bonus permit, which costs half the price of a regular deer license, hunters may harvest extra antlerless deer in either managed or intensive-harvest permit areas.
"These changes should make it easier for hunters to legally harvest multiple deer in many areas of the state," Merriam said. "In turn, hunters will help us keep the state's deer herd at a level in balance with habitat and land use."
Hunters who purchase a bonus permit are no longer required to use it in one declared permit area. Bonus permits can be used in any permit area in their zone where extra antlerless permits are offered.
Minnesota's newest migratory game bird, the mourning dove, is the most widely dispersed and abundant upland game bird in North America. The season, which begins Sept. 1, will be the state's first since 1946.
The DNR expects 30,000 to 50,000 hunters to partake in the hunt. Hunters older than 16 need only a small game license to harvest mourning doves in Minnesota.
Mourning dove hunting is a particularly good way to get young people involved in hunting, according to Ryan Bronson, DNR hunting recruitment and retention coordinator. "Dove hunting is a great opportunity for adults to introduce kids to hunting," he said. "The weather is usually warm, the equipment is simple - a shotgun and maybe a camouflage shirt and adults and kids can hunt from the same blind."
Because Minnesota's dove hunt is regulated under federal guidelines that also govern southern states, the season will stay open for 60 days. However, doves tend to leave Minnesota when temperatures begin to drop near freezing, which is usually around the middle of September.
In addition to the new mourning dove season, there will be additional pheasant hunting opportunities this year. The season has been extended by 12 days to Dec. 31.
"The extension will allow families and friends to hunt over the holidays without harming pheasant numbers," Merriam said.
Populations of ruffed grouse remain near the low of their 10-year cycle, but are expected to increase and hunting should continue to improve over the next few years.
Populations of sharp-tailed grouse remain relatively low in their remaining range in northwestern and east-central Minnesota.
Minnesota's breeding waterfowl populations increased or remained stable and continue to be above the long-term average. Continental duck counts are down 11 percent, according to preliminary estimates. Fall hunting success in Minnesota will continue to depend on water conditions to the west and north of Minnesota and on weather during the season. In addition, the DNR continues to work with other agencies and organizations to improve the quality of fall migration habitat and to provide more areas for waterfowl to feed and rest during migration. The goal of this effort is to restore to its historic level, Minnesota's share of the Mississippi Flyway duck harvest.
Giant Canada geese that breed locally in Minnesota remain abundant and, along with migrant geese, provide Minnesota waterfowl hunters with excellent goose hunting opportunities. More Canada geese are taken in Minnesota than in any other state in the United States.
Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese, which nest near Hudson Bay and congregate in areas such as Lac qui Parle during migration, experienced a very late spring and had their worst breeding season since 1976, when record-keeping began. Liberal September goose hunting regulations will continue in many areas of the state in order to harvest as many local geese as possible before the migrant population begins arriving. More details will be announced in August.
However, regular season goose hunting opportunity will likely be restricted in some or all of the state’s goose zones to reduced harvest levels on Eastern Prairie Population geese.
More details about waterfowl and upland game populations will be available in late summer, when summer wildlife production surveys have been completed.
Moose populations in northwestern Minnesota are still very low and the season is still closed in that area. However, the northeast Minnesota moose population remains healthy and an increased number of moose licenses were offered this year.
ELK A limited season with five permits will be held. The deadline for applications has passed.
NEW REGULATIONS Merriam advised Minnesota hunters to be aware of several new law and regulation changes in effect this fall. They include:
- waterfowl shooting hours on opening day now begin at 9 a.m.
- prairie chicken hunters may take sharp-tailed grouse
- firearm and all-season deer hunters will no longer be restricted to taking antlerless deer in an area declared in advance, but will be asked what permit area they hunt most often
- the prohibition of party hunting with all season deer licenses has been removed
- hunters cannot bring entire carcasses of deer, elk or moose into Minnesota from areas of other states or provinces where CWD has been found in wild deer or elk
- youth under 18 may purchase a half-price archery or firearms deer license and may take deer of either sex statewide
- youth deer hunts have been expanded; youth hunters may now apply through ELS; a special youth season will be held in northwest Minnesota
- proposed regular waterfowl season regulation changes will be announced later this summer after federal frameworks are established
2004 MINNESOTA HUNTING AND TRAPPING SEASONS SMALL GAME HUNTING Cottontail rabbit, jackrabbit, snowshoe hare, Sept. 18 - Feb. 28; gray and fox squirrel, Sept. 18 - Feb. 28; ruffed and spruce grouse, Sept. 18 - Dec. 31; sharp-tailed grouse, Sept. 18 - Nov. 30; gray (Hungarian) partridge, Sept. 13 - Dec. 31; Take-a-Kid Hunting Weekend, Sept. 25 - Sept. 26; ring-necked pheasant, Oct. 16 - Dec. 31.
WATERFOWL AND MIGRATORY BIRD HUNTING
Mourning doves, Sept. 1-Oct. 30; early Canada goose (statewide, except Northwest), Sept. 4 - Sept. 22; early Canada goose (northwest Zone), Sept. 4 - Sept. 15; waterfowl opener, Sept. 25 or Oct. 2 (to be announced); youth waterfowl hunt, Sept. 18; common snipe (Wilson's of Jacksnipe), Sept. 1 - Nov. 4; sora and Virginia rails, Sept. 1 - Nov. 4; woodcock, Sept. 25 - Nov. 8; crow, March 1-31 and July 15 - Oct. 15.
BIG GAME HUNTING
Deer - Archery Northeast Border Zone (permit areas 116 and 127), Sept. 18 - Nov. 21; remainder of state, Sept. 18 - Dec. 31. Deer - Firearms Zone 1 (northeastern Minnesota), Nov. 6 - Nov. 21; Zone 2 (Lake of the Woods to Twin Cities), Nov. 6 - Nov. 14; Zone 3A (southeastern Minnesota), Nov. 6 - Nov. 12; Zone 3B (southeastern Minnesota), Nov. 20 - Nov. 28; Zone 4A (southern and western Minnesota), Nov. 6 - Nov. 7; Zone 4B (southern and western Minnesota), Nov. 13 - Nov. 16; deer - muzzleloader, Nov. 27 - Dec. 12. Black bear, Sept. 1 - Oct. 17. Moose (northeast zone), Oct. 2 - Oct. 17; moose (northwest zone), closed. Elk, (bull season), Sept. 18-26; (cow season) Nov. 20-28.
Raccoon and red fox, continuous; gray fox, badger, opossum, Sept. 18 - March 15; bobcat, Nov. 27 - Jan 9; pine marten and fisher, Nov. 27 - Dec. 12; mink and muskrat (north zone), Oct. 23 - Feb. 28; mink and muskrat (south zone), Oct. 30 - Feb. 28; beaver (north zone), Oct. 23 - May 15; beaver (south zone), Oct. 30 - May 15; otter (north zone), Oct. 23 - Jan. 9; otter (south zone), Oct. 30 - Jan. 9.
The DNR is proceeding with a rule to re-establish a closed season during the spring and summer on red fox, but will delay a similar action on raccoons to allow time to look into addressing hunters' concerns with raccoon running season restrictions during summer "nesting" season.