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MINNESOTA: DNR sets hunting, trapping seasons

New regulations from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offer hunters more opportunities to shoot deer, a longer upland bird season and expanded youth hunts.

DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam highlighted the provisions last week when he announced the 2005 hunting and trapping seasons.

Several youth deer hunts that pair young hunters with mentors in controlled areas again will be held this fall. Take-a-Kid hunting weekend is set for Sept. 24-25, Youth Waterfowl Day tentatively is Sept. 17, and Oct. 29-30 will be Future Pheasant Hunters Weekend.

More details about youth hunting opportunities are available in the 2005 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, available online at and where hunting licenses are sold.

Here's a closer look at the fall hunting and trapping seasons.

Deer season changes

This fall, hunters will have more opportunity to shoot deer, thanks to regulation changes that include the option to tag deer with both a firearm and archery license, an early antlerless season, zone realignments and the creation of a metro deer-hunting zone.

The new regulations, announced earlier this summer, were discussed at 15 public meetings held across the state. The DNR considered more than 800 comments in finalizing the regulations. Details about the regulations are available in the 2005 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.

"We hope to increase deer harvest in areas with high deer populations," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "To do this, we're offering hunters more flexibility with deer licenses and more hunting opportunities."

The changes take effect with the Sept. 17 opening of archery deer hunting. Firearms deer hunting begins statewide Nov. 5, and the muzzleloader season starts Nov. 26.

Upland game

There will be additional pheasant, grouse and Hungarian partridge hunting opportunities this year as the DNR has extended the season one day, through Jan. 1.

"This extension will allow families and friends to hunt during the New Year's holiday weekend, and it will not harm pheasant numbers," Merriam said.

Populations of ruffed grouse remain near the low of their 10-year cycle. Many hunters were hoping this year's count would be higher, indicating an upswing in the grouse population, which tends to rise and fall in an approximate 10-year cycle. Counts have been at the low end of the scale for the last five years. At the peak, Minnesota hunters often shoot more than 1.2 million birds. The average annual take is 600,000 birds.

This also will be the second hunting season for mourning dove, the most widely dispersed and abundant upland game bird in North America. Last year, an estimated 15,000 hunters bagged 100,0000 birds.

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, usually around the middle of September.

Populations of sharp-tailed grouse continue to be relatively low in their remaining range in northwestern and east-central Minnesota.


Minnesota's breeding waterfowl populations were down 37 percent, while pond numbers were up 22 percent in the May annual breeding duck survey. Duck numbers are very close to the state's long-term average since surveys began in 1968. However, a look at the last 10 years shows that duck abundance is down 24 percent from the 10-year average, with duck numbers at the lowest since the drought of the late 1980s.

Continental duck counts are down 1 percent, according to preliminary estimates. Fall hunting success in Minnesota will depend on water conditions to the west and north of the state 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 Minnesota's share of the Mississippi Flyway duck harvest to historic levels.

Giant Canada geese that breed locally in Minnesota remain abundant and, along with migrant geese, provide Minnesota waterfowl hunters with excellent goose hunting opportunities. Minnesota hunters shoot more Canada geese than any other state.

Liberal September goose hunting regulations will continue in many areas of the state in order to shoot as many local geese as possible before the migrant population begins arriving.

The DNR will announce more details before the Oct. 1 regular waterfowl opener.


Moose populations in northwestern Minnesota are still very low, and the season remains closed in that area. However, the northeast Minnesota moose population is stable, and the DNR offered 284 moose licenses this year, up from 246 licenses in 2004, when state licensed hunters killed 127 bulls and 24 cows, for a party success rate of 62 percent.


The DNR is offering a limited season, with five permits in the Grygla, Minn., area, and the deadline for applications has passed.

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