Let’s face it…if you’ve been a waterfowler in Minnesota and not willing to do some traveling to partake in your hunting exploits…you’ve likely fallen on hard times in recent years. Seriously, I’ve heard of and seen more ads for people selling off their duck boats and related equipment during the last few years than perhaps ever before. Instead of seeing hope on the horizon, some sportsmen are disgustingly selling off their waterfowling assets to…who knows…invest in a new bass boat, for instance.
I think most all Minnesota waterfowlers will agree with the statement that duck hunting sure isn’t what it used to be. That’s not to say that every morning during the fall hunting season is a bust…but seeing the endless flocks of northern ducks wingin’ southward just isn’t a common sight anymore.
So what’s happening? I suppose it would be fair to say there’s a combination of factors that need to be considered. Loss of wetlands — both for nesting and staging areas, declining populations with certain species, even shifting migration patterns have been attributed to the overall decline in the quality of the hunt. No doubt about it…addressing the problem will require a complex set of solutions requiring the expertise and cooperation of many different conservation organizations and agencies.
Last spring efforts to jump-start the action took place on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol where 100’s of sportsmen and dozens of conservation organizations pledged their combined support to begin making some changes. This year, on February 4th in fact, will be the First Annual Wetlands Summit spearheaded by the Minnesota Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, but co-sponsored by the Minnesota DNR plus numerous other conservation groups.
Summits are good…they help with the exchange of ideas and facilitating the cooperation of different agencies. But whether they call it a roundtable, a summit or however else you care to term it…the goals of the meeting are only successful when talk eventually turns into action. That’s why I’m skeptical about such meetings. In most cases, at the end of the day participants will often walk out with that feel-good sense that life will soon be better. Yet, like a bunch of politicians who’ll listen to your comments and then tell you what you want to hear…that doesn’t always mean life will improve just because of the interaction.
Don’t get me wrong…I do think gathering to discuss any problem in the outdoors is a good thing. My frustration, however, stems from when no positive developments will eventually materialize after the discussions have ended. I suspect this is not only a problem isolated in Minnesota…but it occurs in every other state irregardless of what the particular outdoor issue might be.
I certainly have my hopes that the summit planned for next Saturday proves to be a success. I hope the biologists, the conservation policy makers and the inevitable legislators who will make their appearance will all eventually pledge solidarity to make a noticeable difference in our waterfowling future. Policies and ideas aside…the next level occurs when implementation replaces discussion. Yet, the telltale sign of a successful summit will someday be judged by the return of our quality waterfowling hunting heritage.
Ducks aren’t necessarily doomed in Minnesota per se, but when the legions of people who care most about them start seeing attrition within their hunting ranks…it’s bound to effect the ducks, too. When once dedicated hunters start liquidating their waterfowl hunting equipment and giving up on the sport…it has a far-reaching impact that could mean the loss of future generations of waterfowl hunters. After all, when a father willingly sells off his waterfowl equipment the chances of his children developing those future interests are similarly reduced. Perhaps the emphasis of the summit next weekend might want to focus on saving the waterfowl hunter (and his/her interest in the sport) and not just on saving the wetlands or the ducks those wetlands might produce.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.