More small game hunters out in 2012; pheasant, duck harvests up

More small game hunters ventured into Minnesota’s fields and forests in 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) annual small game survey.

The number of pheasant and duck hunters increased 8 percent and corresponded with a slight increase in pheasant and duck stamps sales. In 2012, an estimated 84,000 people hunted pheasants and 90,400 hunted ducks.

Although ruffed grouse are on the downward side of their 10-year population cycle, the number of grouse hunters increased 6 percent in 2012 to 97,200.

Statewide estimates show that hunters harvested 264,000 pheasants, 835,000 ducks and 355,000 ruffed grouse.

Harvest of ducks and pheasants in 2012 was comparable to 2011, with individuals taking an average of 9.2 ducks and 3.1 pheasants per hunter. Harvest averages from 2011 showed the average hunter took 8.8 ducks and 2.6 pheasants.

Hunter harvest of pheasants and ducks likely was higher because an unusually mild winter in 2011-2012 followed by a warm spring allowed for above average winter survival and favorable reproductive conditions.

The harvest rate for ruffed grouse dropped from 4 birds per hunter in 2011 to 2.6 birds in 2012. That decline is consistent with the current downward phase of the grouse population cycle.

DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends. For the 2012 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed of which 3,520 surveys were returned and usable.

The complete report is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/publications/wildlife.

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