Minnesota DNR…Stop Messing With My Traditions!!

I hate change…and the older I get the more disdain I have for the Minnesota DNR when they go and change one of my hunting or fishing seasons in some manner. Call me a traditionalist, but I like my outdoor experiences to feel much the same from year to year.

Today marks the opening of the Minnesota duck hunting season in our great state and, of course, there is a change. I believe for the first time ever the shooting begins promptly at 9am. for opening morning. What’s with that? A 9am start? The only hunting season that is supposed to begin at 9am is for pheasants…and now opening morning for the waterfowl season has moved from noon to a 9am opener. Was this really necessary?

You see, for years and years the opening day of the Minnesota duck season commenced promptly at noon on the first day of the season only (the duration of the season would open each day at one-half hour before sunrise). The reasoning here was that a later start on the first day would give the local ducks a better chance to get used to all the commotion of hunters, dogs and their boats that were suddenly invading the marshlands. It was purely an effort to give ducks a fair chance to get used to these new disruptions…and hunters, well, shall we say a chance to get all of the kinks out of their rusty hunting techniques…and to do so in daylight. Certainly it was far better for hunters to set up their spread and get ready during daylight hours on opening day than in the darkness of pre-dawn surrounded by potentially deadly water.

But of course, the DNR succumbed to the pressure of a group of hunters who thought they have a better way. Biologically speaking, it probably makes no difference when the first gun fires on the opener. What it comes down to is a tradition broken only for the sake of doing something new.

I’m still frustrated about when the waterfowl season opens on the calendar. It used to be that waterfowl season ALWAYS opened on the first Saturday of October in Minnesota. Then goose populations got out of control and there was early goose seasons…and, I guess, the next logical step was to creep the duck season earlier, too. I understand the DNR works within framework established by the Feds. And I understand that when you are given “extra” days for your season it makes more sense to allocate them early…rather than later in the fall when cold temps might have pushed most ducks south. But there’s just something that seems wrong to me about hunting ducks in September. Hell, the leaves haven’t even turned color yet and the corn fields are still standing mostly sporting their summer green colors. Duck hunting is a fall activity and it ought to look like fall when you are out wearing your brown marshland camo.

Indeed, traditions no longer seem to be a sacred cow with the powers to be at the Minnesota DNR. And don’t even get me started on how they have messed up my traditions when it comes to deer hunting. Sure, the wildlife managers play with their population models and must continually come up with new systems in an effort to reach desired harvest levels. But I will save this rant for another month when the eve of the deer opener is much closer.

I view the activity of hunting to be a pure experience rich in tradition. When I go out on opening morning…I want that same feel that my father and uncles might have experienced 40 years ago. But each time change takes place it somehow deteriorates the experience in my mind. Tradition is what reaches across the generations and makes the outdoors such a wonderful place to connect with the past. Oh sure, I understand that at times there may be good reasons to make changes…whether it be for safety…or even a newly recognized wildlife management purpose.

Still, I contend that every time there’s a change in some hunting or fishing tradition that action should not be taken lightly by us sportsmen. Change should only occur when it has a fundamental purpose paramount to the outdoor tradition it attempts to destroy.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.