OUTDOORS ROUNDUP: Continental duck numbers hold steady

Continental duck numbers remain higher than the 1955 to 2016 long-term average, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday in releasing its 2017 "Trends in Duck Breeding Populations" report.

The Department of Natural Resources' exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair draws about 500,000 visitors annually. The fair begins Aug. 24 and continues through Sept. 4. (Photo/ Deborah Rose, Minnesota DNR)
The Department of Natural Resources' exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair draws about 500,000 visitors annually. The fair begins Aug. 24 and continues through Sept. 4. (Photo/ Deborah Rose, Minnesota DNR)

Continental duck numbers remain higher than the 1955 to 2016 long-term average, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday in releasing its 2017 "Trends in Duck Breeding Populations" report.

Total populations were estimated at 47.3 million breeding ducks in the traditional U.S.-Canadian survey area, which is similar to last year's estimate of 48.4 million and 34 percent above the long-term average. The projected mallard fall flight index is 12.9 million birds, similar to the 2016 estimate of 13.5 million.

The 2017 survey marks the highest estimate ever recorded for gadwalls, which increased 13 percent to 4.18 million, 111 percent above the long-term average. Blue-winged teal populations grew by 18 percent to 7.89 million, 57 percent above the long-term average. Northern shovelers climbed 10 percent to 4.35 million, 69 percent above the long-term average.

Following five years of declines, pintails have increased 10 percent to 2.89 million but remain 27 percent below the long-term average.

The estimates are based on surveys conducted in May and early June by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Overall duck numbers in the survey area remain high, the report indicated. The two agencies have conducted the survey since 1955.


Wetland and upland habitat conditions during the survey generally were similar to last year with a few exceptions. The total pond estimate for the U.S. and Canada combined was 6.1 million, which is 22 percent above the 2016 estimate of 5.0 million and 17 percent above the long-term average of 5.2 million.

Pond counts in prairie and parkland Canada, which covers Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, increased 24 percent, which is 23 percent above the long-term average. Pond counts in the north-central U.S., which covers Montana and the Dakotas, are up 22 percent from last year and 17 percent above the long-term average.

For the Dakotas, at least, pond counts have to be kept in perspective. Wetland conditions across the U.S. prairies have deteriorated since the survey because of drought conditions. That stands to have a negative impact on duck production, said Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl.

"I think the pond count is a little misleading, because wetlands in the Dakotas and parts of the southern Canadian prairies dried out quickly and dramatically following the surveys," Rohwer said. "Renesting and brood survival are going to be far lower this year. I don't expect the production we've seen in recent years."

That's important for hunters, who shoot the fall flight, not the breeding population.

"We will see a lot of birds flying south, but it'll be more challenging for hunters because the flight will have a higher percentage of adult ducks," Rohwer said.

The news comes on the heels of a report the North Dakota Game and Fish Department issued last week saying North Dakota's fall duck flight is expected to be down 8 percent from last year. The state's brood index was 3.68 broods per square mile, down 5 percent from last year but higher than the long-term average since 1955 of 2.59 broods per square mile.

North Dakota's water index was down 38 percent from last year.


In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources in July reported variable results for several duck species that breed in the state. The DNR estimated a mallard breeding population of 214,000, down 15 percent from last year and 6 percent below the long-term average since 1968. Blue-winged teal numbers also were reported down-159,000 this year, down 51 percent from last year and 25 percent below the long-term average.

The DNR estimated total duck abundance of all species except scaup at 636,000, down 19 percent from last year but 3 percent higher than the long-term average.

-- Herald staff reports

Game and Fish summarizes upland bird seasons

Hunters in North Dakota shot fewer pheasants, sharptails and Hungarian partridge last year, and the number of hunters who went afield also declined, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said. A closer look:

• More than 76,600 pheasant hunters (down 10 percent) shot 501,100 roosters (down 15 percent), compared to 85,500 hunters and 590,700 roosters in 2015, Game and Fish said in a news release. Counties with the highest percentage of pheasants taken by resident hunters in 2016 were Hettinger, 8.7; Morton, 5.8; Burleigh, 5.5; Stark, 5.4; and Williams, 5.3. Top counties for nonresident hunters were Hettinger, 21.1 percent; Bowman, 10; Adams, 7.1; Divide, 5; and Emmons, 4.4.

• In 2016, nearly 18,900 grouse hunters (down 18 percent) bagged 65,500 sharp-tailed grouse (down 21 percent). In 2015, 23,100 hunters took 83,000 sharptails.

• Last year, 16,900 hunters (down 9 percent) shot 54,200 Hungarian partridge (down 9 percent). In 2015, 18,600 hunters harvested 59,600 Huns.


-- North Dakota Game and Fish Department

Three for Srnsky

Make it three for Zach Srnsky-on paper, at least. The Grand Forks fisherman, who won the Scheels Boundary Battle catfish tournament in late June and the Cats Incredible catfish tournament at the end of July, notched another tournament victory last weekend by winning the I-29 Catfish Classic with partner Trevor Rodd.

Rodd also was Srnsky's partner for the Scheels Boundary Battle tournament.

The I-29 Classic was sort of a "tournament on paper" for anglers who fished both the Red River Valley Catfish League's year-end tournament on Saturday, Aug. 12 and the Drayton Rod and Reel Rally Catfish Tournament on Sunday, Aug. 13. Anglers who fished both events and paid an additional $50 fee could enter the I-29 classic, which was based on their accumulated weights from the two tournaments.

Srnsky and Rodd won the I-29 tournament with an accumulated weight of 50.2 pounds. Teams could weigh in two cats larger than 24 inches and one "slot fish" smaller than 24 inches for each of the tournaments.

Nine teams entered the I-29 Classic and fished both events. Srnsky and Rodd landed $225 for their I-29 win.

The team of Philip Hartwig and Cason Weber won the catfish league's year-end tournament with a weight of 33.4 pounds. They landed $1,300 for winning the event.


Brandon Patterson and Andrew Nord of Drayton landed top honors in the Rod and Reel Rally tournament with a 21-pound catfish.

-- Brad Dokken

Program accepts goose meat

With North Dakota's early goose season underway, the state's Sportsmen Against Hunger program again is accepting donations of goose meat. In addition, the program will accept Canada and light goose-snow, blue and Ross's geese-donations when the regular waterfowl season begins.

Similar to last year, hunters can bring goose meat to participating processors after removing the breast meat. Hunters also can deliver geese directly from the field to a processor, but identification such as the wing or head must remain attached until the processor takes possession of the bird.

For a list of participating processors in North Dakota, visit the North Dakota Community Action website at .

Breast meat brought from home without a wing or head attached to the meat must be accompanied by written information that includes the hunter's name, address, signature, hunting license number, date taken and species and number taken. Information forms also are available on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at

Hunters will fill out a brief form so processors can keep a record of donated goose meat, the same as is required for processing any other type of wild game.


Since no goose carcasses or feathers are allowed inside processing facilities, hunters must be able to ensure proper disposal and cleanup of carcasses.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Twins, DNR partner on hat promotion

The Minnesota Twins and the DNR are partnering to offer free camo-and-blaze orange Twins logo caps to anyone with a 2017 Minnesota fishing or hunting license who buys a reserved game ticket for three upcoming Twins games.

The first game in the promotion is set for 1:10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. The hats also will be available to hunting and fishing license holders attending the Saturday, Sept. 2 game vs. the Kansas City Royals and the Saturday, Sept. 30 game against the Detroit Tigers.

Ticket prices vary by game, and seat locations are either in the Field Box or Home Run Porch sections. All ticket holders under this partnership will pick up their cap at the game. Instructions for buying tickets are available at

-- Minnesota DNR

DNR highlights state fair exhibit


FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn.-The iconic DNR Building once again stands to be a big attraction at the Minnesota State Fair, which begins Aug. 24 and continues through Sept. 4.

The building and adjacent outdoor site offer a wide range of educational displays, exhibits and presentations, along with music and entertainment.

"The DNR building and surrounding park area serves as a landmark, a meeting place and a must-visit educational and entertainment destination," said Dawn Flinn, who helps coordinate the DNR exhibit. "It's where generations of fairgoers have created lifelong memories."

About 500,000 people visit the DNR's building and exhibit area during the fair.

This year's DNR State Fair theme is "Wonderful Water." Here's a look at some of what's new for this year's DNR exhibit.

• Step inside a giant hiking boot surrounded by huge leaves for a unique Minnesota photo. Just imagine what it is like to experience a real Minnesota forest.

• Wonderful Water Day, booths and presentations related to water (Sept. 1).

• Explore a life-sized white pine tree, complete with roots a person can walk on and learn how forests create clean water.

• Gaze upon a wall of tree cookies 11 feet tall-all native, Minnesota trees.

• A kayak and paddleboard simulator to experience two of fastest growing paddle sports.

• Explore interactive displays to learn how to prevent spread of invasive species.

The always popular outdoor fish pond and indoor fish tanks give visitors a chance learn about the different fish that call Minnesota home. This year's exhibit features about three dozen fish species.

The DNR's State Fair building and surrounding park area are located at the corner of Carnes Avenue and Nelson Street in Falcon Heights. It will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily during the fair For a full schedule of events, go to .

-- Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

• Henry Duray, manager of Grahams Island State Park on Devils Lake, is retiring after 42 years with the state Parks and Recreation Department. Duray, who has been at Grahams Island the past 10 years, previously was manager at Icelandic State Park near Cavalier, N.D. His last day is Sept. 15.

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking comment through Sept. 16 on a draft environmental assessment outlining potential alternatives for the future of hunting at Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County. Ultimately, the chosen alternative will be developed into a Refuge Hunt Plan, and any new regulations will go into effect for the 2018 hunting season. The draft is available online at Comments can be provided by mail, email or phone to refuge manager Gregg Knutsen, Glacial Ridge NWR, 17788 349th St. SE, Erskine, MN 56535; ; or (218) 687-2229 ext. 16.

• Women who want to learn outdoor skills with other women still have time to sign up for a three-day workshop set for Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Deep Portage Learning Center in central Minnesota. The weekend workshop, offered by the DNR's Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, includes classes on shooting, archery, bowhunting and more. Info:

-- compiled by Brad Dokken

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