The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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Outdoors

July 14, 2013

Cross column: Not your grandpa's duck season

Anyone who hasn’t hunted ducks during the last 30 years would be in for some big surprises if they climbed into a duck blind for the 2013 season.

For starters, how about an opening day fully a week earlier than it used to be?

Once upon a time, the season opener was locked in by state law as the Saturday closest to Oct. 1.

Bumping the opener up to a week earlier a few years ago made it more likely early migrants like blue-winged teal and wood ducks would still be hanging around for state hunters.

For years, legal shooting time was set at high noon on opening day. More recently, it was moved up to 9 a.m.

The opener was bumped up to that magical time of half-hour before sunrise for the 2011 season..

Though resident Canada goose populations were on the increase 30 years ago, they had not yet reached levels sufficient enough to be regarded as nuisances.

Indeed, bagging one — that was the daily limit in those days — was cause for some proud hunters to haul their prizes down to the local newspaper office to be photographed.

Nowadays, early September hunts for the big birds are essentially pest control measures held statewide with limits as high as five birds daily.

Thirty years ago, with notable exceptions for geese, opening and closing dates for waterfowl season were uniform from north to south.

For the last couple of years, however, the state has been divided into three zones with seasons tailored to maximize hunting opportunities as the southward waterfowl migration progressed.

It appears that waterfowlers can expect big changes again this fall.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a measure that will allow migratory bird hunters to possess three times their daily limit.

For decades, hunters have been allowed to possess only twice their daily bag limit.

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