Waterfowl hunters must make safety the priority

Watching the sun rise over a marsh is an awe-inspiring experience, a memory bank deposit that for many duck hunters is as valuable as the number of birds they bag.
Yet, every year some duck hunters find themselves in bad situations, the result of falls into cold water, mishaps with their firearms, or other incidents that may forever cloud what’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience.
As Minnesota’s waterfowl hunting season gets underway Saturday, Sept. 21, Department of Natural Resources conservation officers remind hunters to ensure their hunting and safety gear is in good condition before heading afield. Once they’re hunting, adhering to the key tenets of safe firearms handling is the best way to reduce the risk they’ll be involved in what could be a life-changing incident.
“Safe hunts are successful hunts, but they don’t just happen on their own,” said Jon Paurus, DNR Enforcement Division education program coordinator. “It’s up to hunters to put themselves in safe situations.”
For those who use boats during their hunt, that means thinking of themselves as boaters. Wearing a life jacket is the best way to avoid drowning. Colder water this time of year increases the likelihood of cold water shock and hypothermia. Duck hunters should tell someone else where they’re going and when they plan to return, and have a communication device such as a cell phone or radio along with them. Overloaded boats also are susceptible to capsizing or swamping, so it’s important to pack only the gear that’s necessary and distribute it as evenly as possible.
Each year, duck hunters also are involved in firearms-related incidents that lead to injury or death. The three most common factors are careless handling, not knowing the safe zone of fire and not being sure of what’s beyond the target. By following the four tenets of safe firearms handling, hunters can avoid most firearms and hunting-related incidents:
* Treat each firearm as if it is loaded.
* Always control the muzzle of the firearm.
* Be sure of the target and what’s beyond.
* Keep finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Hunters, landowners must check if baiting, feeding is banned

MADISON, WI - Before taking part in upcoming hunting seasons or placing feed for wildlife, hunters, landowners and wildlife enthusiasts should verify which counties currently prohibit wildlife baiting and feeding activities by searching the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, for baiting and feeding.
Since the conclusion of the 2018 deer hunting season, new baiting and feeding bans are now in place in Green Lake, Kenosha, Waushara, Wood, Racine, Burnett, Barron, Polk and Washburn counties. Additional baiting and feeding bans may be added in 2019 if there are new chronic wasting disease or bovine tuberculosis (bTB) detections in captive or free-roaming deer. All current county-level baiting and feeding bans will remain in effect throughout the 2019 deer hunting season.
The effects of baiting and feeding may artificially increase and sustain deer populations beyond carrying capacity and alter deer behavior. The primary intended goals of a baiting and feeding ban are to protect the local wild deer herd and reduce the spread of disease.
Individuals may still feed birds and small mammals, provided feeding devices are within 50 yards of a human dwelling and at a sufficient height or design to prevent access by deer.
The DNR is required by state statute (29.336, Wis. Stats) to enact a ban on the baiting and feeding of deer for a period of three years in any county where CWD or bTB has been detected in a wild or captive deer or elk as well as a two-year ban in any county that is within 10 miles of a CWD or bTB positive detection. Baiting and feeding bans may eventually be lifted if no new CWD or bTB positive detections are found or may be extended if there are additional positive detections.
Hunters, landowners, hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts can also contact a local wildlife biologist to determine if baiting and feeding ban end dates have changed within individual counties. For more information regarding baiting and feeding, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for baiting and feeding. For more information regarding CWD in Wisconsin, search for keyword "CWD."
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Wisconsin wildlife survey results available on DNR website

MADISON, WI - The public can find the latest results for a wide variety of wildlife surveys conducted in 2019 on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' website. Survey results include population surveys and estimates, harvest results and wildlife observation reports.
The reports include data collected on small game, big game, waterfowl, furbearer and non-game species and were made possible by Pittman-Robertson funding. DNR staff would like to thank all the volunteers who assisted with survey efforts for their continued commitment to Wisconsin's wildlife.
The following reports for 2019 can be found by visiting dnr.wi.gov and searching keyword "reports."

* Small Game Harvest, 2018-2019
* Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey, 2019
* Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Survey, 2019
* Rural Mail Carrier Pheasant Survey, 2019
* Spring Ring-Necked Pheasant Survey, 2019

* Black Bear Population Analyses, 2019
* Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program, 2018
* Agricultural Deer Damage Shooting Permits, 2018
* Spring Turkey Hunting Questionnaire, 2019
* Winter Severity Indices, 2018-2019

* Wisconsin Youth Waterfowl Hunt, 2018

* Bobcat Harvest, 2018
* Fisher Harvest, 2018
* Otter Harvest, 2018-2019
* Bobcat Population Analyses, 2019
* Fisher Population Analyses, 2019
* Bobcat Hunter/Trapper Survey, 2018
* Beaver Trapping Questionnaire, 2018-2019
* Fur Trapper Survey, 2018-2019
* Wisconsin Fur Buyers Report, 2018-2019

* Central Wisconsin Greater Prairie-Chicken Survey, 2019
* Frog and Toad Survey, 2018
* American Marten Winter Track Surveys in Northern Wisconsin, 2018-2019
* Moose Observations, 2018
* Rare Carnivore Observations, 2018

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Statewide regular season duck zones open Sept. 28

MADISON, WI - Duck hunters in the North, South and Mississippi River zones will begin another fall duck hunt one-half hour before sunrise on Saturday, Sept. 28.
"With average spring breeding counts and a fairly wet summer, Wisconsin waterfowl hunters have the potential for a good hunting season," said Taylor Finger, migratory game bird ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The Northern Zone hunt will begin Sept. 28 and run through Nov. 26. The Southern Zone hunt will run from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6, close for a five-day split, then remain open from Oct. 12 to Dec. 1. The Mississippi Zone will be open Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, close for a seven-day split, and reopen from Oct. 12 to Dec. 3. Opening day shooting hours will begin one-half hour before sunrise.
The goose season in the southern portion of the Exterior Zone will also be closed during the five-day split in October. Also, hunters should note that goose season in the Mississippi River Subzone will not open until Sept. 28 and will be closed during the seven-day split in the Mississippi River Zone.
The 2019 continental breeding surveys showed a drop in populations of most species, though most populations remained above their long-term averages. Even with promising breeding indications, local conditions and scouting will be the most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall. Because parts of the state have experienced wet conditions leading up to the duck season and some areas of the state remain dry, scouting this fall will be particularly important to identify the areas that are holding birds.
The daily bag limit statewide is six ducks, including no more than four mallards, of which only one may be a hen; two black ducks; two canvasbacks; three wood ducks; one pintail; three scaup; and
two redheads.
Five mergansers may be harvested daily, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers; 15 coots may be harvested daily.
Licenses and stamps required for duck hunting include a Wisconsin small game license (included in the Conservation Patron and Sports packaged licenses), a Wisconsin waterfowl stamp and a federal migratory bird stamp. The federal stamp can be purchased at a U.S. Post Office. Hunters will also have the option of purchasing the federal stamp privilege at DNR license vendors for an additional $3 surcharge. The purchase will be noted on their license, but the stamp itself will arrive several weeks later in the mail.
Waterfowl and other migratory bird hunters must also register each year with the federal Harvest Information Program, which places them on a list of hunters that may receive a mailing asking them to provide a summary of their harvest. HIP registration is free. Hunters can register for HIP when they purchase their licenses or added later if a hunter decides they may pursue migratory game birds.

Regular Goose Season
With resident Canada goose breeding numbers similar to recent years and average production of the Ontario breeders, hunters should have ample opportunities this year and will again enjoy a full 92 days of hunting in the Exterior Zone with a three-bird daily bag limit.
Exterior Zone Canada goose season structure is as follows:
* Northern Zone - Sept. 16 to Dec. 16.
* Southern Zone - Sept. 16 to Oct. 6 and Oct. 12 to Dec. 1 and Dec. 16- Jan. 4, 2020.
* Mississippi River Subzone - Sept. 28- Oct. 4 and Oct. 12 to Jan. 4, 2020.
While afield, hunters must carry proof of their Canada goose harvest permit. Acceptable methods of proof include a paper copy, Go Wild-generated PDF displayed on a mobile device, an authenticated Wisconsin driver's license or Go Wild Conservation Card. As a reminder to Canada goose hunters, registration of Canada geese and in-field validation of the Canada goose hunting permit is no longer required.
State licenses and stamps, permits and HIP registration are also available through Go Wild. For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "waterfowl."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Waterfowl hunters must stop spread of aquatic invasive species

MADISON, WI - Wisconsin hunters will be able to hit the waters soon for the 2019 waterfowl hunting season. Opening weekend for wild ducks, Sept. 28-29, also begins the fourth year of aquatic invasive species outreach to waterfowl hunters.
That weekend, teams made up of staff from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, statewide partners and volunteers will meet hunters at access points in the Mead Wildlife Area, Big Muskego, Horicon Marsh, in multiple counties, and along the Mississippi River to talk about the impact of aquatic invasive species and what they can do to help stop the spread.
Modeled after the successful "Clean Boats, Clean Waters" (CBCW) program that reaches boaters throughout summer, boat inspectors/educators conduct a hunting version of the CBCW survey and talk with them about specific aspects of duck hunting that risk moving aquatic invasives. Mud, for example, can hide seeds, the bulbils of starry stonewort, and the eggs or larvae of tiny invaders, such as spiny water fleas.
Of particular concern to hunters is the Faucet snail. These snails carry intestinal flukes that can kill ducks if they eat them.
DNR staff and coordinators for the AIS Partnership are often available to provide presentations and other outreach at hunt club meetings and events. People can find a regional coordinator by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Aquatic Invasive Species Contacts."
Just a few minutes of preventative action can protect our hunting tradition for generations to come. Before launching into and leaving a water body, hunters should:
* Inspect waders, boats, trailers, motors and hunting equipment, including boots, blinds and dogs.
* Remove all plants, animals and mud.
* Drainvall water from decoys, boats, motors, live wells and other hunting equipment.
* Never move plants or live fish away from a water body.
A special consideration for waterfowl hunters is to remove all seed heads and roots when using vegetation for duck blinds. It is important to note that it is illegal to use phragmites in counties where the plant is listed as prohibited by NR40. In general, these counties include the western half of Wisconsin.
For more information about aquatic invasive species, including where they are prohibited and restricted in Wisconsin, search dnr.wi.gov for keyword "invasives."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Teach a kid to hunt small game during Take a Kid Hunting Weekend

Getting youth outdoors in pursuit of squirrels, rabbits and other small game is the focus of Take a Kid Hunting Weekend this Saturday, Sept. 21, and Sunday, Sept. 22.
During the weekend, adult Minnesota residents accompanied by a youth younger than age 16 can hunt small game without a license, but must comply with open seasons, limits and other regulations.
“Small game hunting helps teach the basics and goes a long way toward getting ready for hunting bigger game like turkey or deer,” said James Burnham, recruitment, retention and reactivation coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Not to mention that squirrels and rabbits can provide delicious, local food.”
Hunting small game provides a lower stress environment when kids are learning how to search for game sign, proper firearms handling and accessing hunting properties. It can be more active than some types of hunting that involve lengthier periods of time sitting still and being quiet.
“Plus, you get to get in a good walk and have a decent conversation, so it’s less time just sitting and waiting for something to happen,” Burnham said.  
After small game hunting, youth can bring the skills they have gained to the youth deer season, Thursday, Oct. 17, through Sunday, Oct. 20. That season coincides with statewide teacher workshops, so many Minnesota students don’t have school during the youth season’s first two days.
For more information on small game hunting and hunting regulations, visit the small game hunting page.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Minnesota expects good waterfowl opener

Duck hunting is expected to be good when Minnesota’s regular waterfowl season opens a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, Sept. 21.
“We’re continuing to see favorable counts of breeding ducks in Minnesota and North America, so we hope hunters enjoy what’s shaping up to be a great season,” said Steve Cordts, Department of Natural Resources waterfowl specialist.
This past spring, biologists estimated the total breeding duck population in Minnesota at 14 percent above the long-term average and nearly identical to last year’s estimate of 693,000 ducks.
The estimated number of wetlands was 19 percent higher than last year and 23 percent above the long-term average, reflecting the wet year. Wetland numbers can vary greatly based on annual precipitation.
The spring estimate for Canada geese was 110,000 birds, down 32 percent from last year’s estimate. However, reproduction during the spring and summer affects how many birds hunters see in the fall. Reproduction was good this year, so there are still plenty of geese around for hunters.

Duck seasons and limits
The duck season structure is similar to recent years. The waterfowl seasons are based on a federal framework that applies to all states in the Mississippi Flyway. Waterfowl hunting regulations are available wherever DNR licenses are sold and available online.
Duck season will be open for 60 days in each of the three waterfowl zones:
* In the north zone, duck season is Sept. 21 through Tuesday, Nov. 19.
* In the central zone, duck season is Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 29, closes for five days, then reopens Saturday, Oct. 5, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 24.
* In the south zone, duck season is Sept. 21 through Sept. 29, closes for 12 days, then reopens Saturday, Oct. 12, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 1.
The daily duck bag limit is six per day. The mallard bag limit is four per day, including no more than two hen mallards. The daily bag limits are three for wood duck and three for scaup; two for redheads, two for canvasbacks, two for black ducks and one for pintail.
The DNR will post a weekly waterfowl migration report each week during the duck season. The reports are typically posted on Thursday afternoon on the waterfowl hunting page.

Goose and sandhill crane seasons
Minnesota’s goose season will reopen in conjunction with the duck season statewide on Sept. 21, with a bag limit of three dark geese per day the entire season. Dark geese include Canada geese, white-fronted geese and brant geese. The daily bag limit for light geese is 20. Light geese include snow, blue and Ross’s geese.
The season for sandhill cranes opened Sept. 14, and remains open through Sunday, Oct. 20, in the northwest goose and sandhill crane zone only. The daily bag limit is one sandhill crane per day. A $3 sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license.
More information on duck, goose, sandhill crane and other migratory bird hunting is available in the 2019 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations booklet from license vendors and online on the waterfowl hunting page.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR