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Drought affecting local prospects for waterfowl opener today; opportunity better for hunters heading north and west

NEW LONDON — Today’s waterfowl opener is expected to be a story of “haves” and “have-nots” in the Willmar area, where drought has dried up some wetlands.

Opportunities for success look to be distributed more equitably to the west and north, where wildlife managers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are reporting good numbers of local ducks.

This year’s opener is one day earlier than last year’s, and for the record, the earliest in Minnesota since 1945. The early start is intended to give hunters an opportunity to harvest more local ducks. Blue-winged teal, wood ducks and mallards will be harvested.

In the Willmar area, the number of local ducks seems to be down, according to the waterfowl report by Jeff Miller, assistant wildlife manager with the DNR’s New London office at Sibley State Park. He’s expecting the opening day success to be down, but not for all. The drought conditions have served to concentrate ducks, and those hunting these areas should see plenty of action.

Scouting ahead of time is critical, as there is no magic formula on where to find the birds. Cory Netland, wildlife manager in New London, noted that some wetlands that had been dry last autumn are holding water this year, and vice versa. Decent numbers of blue-winged teal were seen on the Florida sloughs earlier this week, while last year there were few to be seen.

There are good numbers of teal and wood ducks in the Lac qui Parle area, where a recent influx of geese should also give hunters lots of opportunity, according to Curt Vacek, wildlife manager with the DNR.

Vacek said he expects a good opener, but also advises that scouting is important. His office has been fielding the usual number of inquiries from waterfowl hunters on where to scout. He anticipates that like last year, the opening weekend will be busy with lots of hunters.

The DNR is reporting good numbers of teal and mallards in the Glenwood area, where drought conditions are not as big a factor. Water levels are high enough to provide good access and allow hunters to spread out.

Like last year, the state is again offering a 60-day, split season in the central and south zones. Daily bag limits are six ducks, with possession of up to three days’ of birds (18) allowed. The liberalized bag limits allow four mallards, including two hens, and three wood ducks.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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