Minnesota would have its first-ever early September teal season and shooting hours would go to sunset for the entire duck hunting season under changes proposed Monday by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR released its waterfowl hunting proposals that will be the topic of a virtual public town hall meeting April 1.

The changes also include a five-bird limit on Canada geese for the entire fall season and allowing hunters to shoot geese over water statewide — not just on land — for the early September goose season.

Comments on the proposed changes will be accepted through April 11 and the new rules are expected to be in effect for the 2021 season.

The DNR has been looking for ways to retain existing hunters and recruit new and former waterfowl hunters back into the sport as numbers have declined rapidly in recent decades. Officials hope the changes will increase hunter opportunities without adversely impacting the resource.

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The DNR also proposes changing its waterfowl seasons by zone, including:

  • North zone: Keeping a 60-day season with no split. The 2021 season dates would be Saturday, Sept. 25, to Tuesday, Nov. 23.

  • Central zone: Keeping a 60-day season with a five-day split. The 2021 season dates would be Saturday, Sept. 25, to Sunday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Nov. 28.

  • South zone: Implementing a 60-day season with a five-day split rather than the 12-day split implemented the past nine years. The 2021 season dates would be Saturday, Sept. 25, to Sunday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Nov. 28.

The early teal-only season would run statewide from Sep. 4-8.

Ideas the DNR floated in recent months but decided not to do after hunter input included allowing motorized decoys all season when they are currently banned in early days of the season as well as allowing electric trolling motors on waterfowl lakes currently designated as motorless. Another idea the DNR dropped was allowing hunters to shoot three ducks of any legal type daily with no restriction on subspecies or sex — a so-called splash-duck bag limit, ostensibly to make it easier for novice duck hunters who find it hard to identify ducks on the wing.

Just under 80,000 state waterfowl hunting stamps were sold in 2019, half of the more than 160,000 sold in the '70s and among the lowest, if not the lowest ever, for Minnesota. That total blipped up some in 2020 under the pandemic, but it’s not clear if that trend will hold. Hunters harvested an estimated 445,000 ducks in 2019 in Minnesota, again among the lowest totals ever and down from 483,000 in 2018. In the 1970s Minnesota hunters annually bagged more than 1 million ducks.

For information on how to participate in the online virtual meeting, or to make written comments, or to learn more about the proposed changes, go to DNR’s waterfowl management page. Comments may be submitted by completing an online comment form at dnr.state.mn.us/wildlife/waterfowl/waterfowl-public-input.html through April 11.

The DNR said it developed the waterfowl regulation proposals after public engagement efforts during the past few months, which included an online questionnaire, direct staff outreach and a survey of hunters.