New hunting regulations announced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

Last week the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released their 2021 hunting regulation booklets online for both waterfowl, and Hunting and Trapping. “It will take a little bit of time to get those distributed to stores and various locations,” says Marshall area DNR Conservation Officer Matt Loftness. 

The DNR is offering a variety of hunting skills webinars for the upcoming hunting seasons.

One of the biggest changes for the 2021 hunting season can be found in the Waterfowl Hunting Regulations booklet. According to the DNR, southern states in the Mississippi Flyaway zone were allowed to hunt teal from the late 1960s to 2013. Federal regulations kept northern states from participating in teal hunting until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved an experimental teal season in four states in the upper midwest, including Minnesota in 2014. Since that decision was made, Minnesota has yet to open a teal season until this fall. The teal season will run from September 4th through the 8th with a six-teal bag limit. Hours for teal hunting will be different from any other type of duck hunting, Loftness says. 

“The main thing to remember for that early teal season is that the shooting hours for that are sunrise to sunset. It is not a half-hour before sunrise and sunset like the majority of what we have done for the duck hunt seasons. It is a different shooting season,” Loftness says.

The introduction of the new teal season was not without concerns from the public. “We are going to be conducting observations of hunting groups participating in the teal season,” says Loftness. “We are going to have people out there watching hunting parties, observing, checking to be sure people are only harvesting teal and not shooting wood ducks and mallards. People that have concerns - one of their concerns is the unintentional harvesting of other ducks. Wood ducks specifically. That was the biggest concern along with the possibility of pushing some of the teal out by having this early teal season.”

Outside of the new teal season, there are some changes in other waterfowl hunting regulations including 4 p.m. closures during the first couple of weeks of the regular duck hunting season. “For the first couple of weeks we used to have that closure at 4 p.m. and now we are going to sunset for the entire season,” says Loftness. Additionally, the Canadian Goose season will see some changes. “Our Canadian Goose limit with the September Canada Goose season has always had a limit of five during the early season, and then we go down to three in the regular season. We’ve now made it so that it will be a limit of five all of the time,” Loftness says. 

Split-season times in the southern half of the state will now also change. “With those split times, in the middle of the state, we ran for about a week and then closed for five days, then reopened. In the southern zone, we were open then closed for two weeks for the split,” Loftness says. “Now we will only be closed for five days in the southern zone so the split will now match up with the central zone, which is north of 212.” Motorized spinning wing decoys will also now be allowed. “We’ve never allowed them on our public hunting lands and we’ve always had a restriction where in the first part of the season you couldn’t use them,” says Loftness. “We got rid of that restriction so now from the beginning of the season all the way to the end, no matter where you’re at you can use motorized spinning wing decoys.”

For fishing, there have been some changes in the local area at the Lac qui Parle Game Refuge. “We extended the open water fishing opportunity in the closed area of Lac qui Parle Refuge, extending it out to November 1st,” Loftness says.

In the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, Loftness points out some of the biggest changes, noting that there have been some changes of the permit boundaries for hunting. “I would stress that two areas of concern locally are that if you are somebody that hunts by Granite Falls and to the East by Sacred Heart, there have been some boundary line changes East of Granite,” he says. “People are going to want to look at that, as well as hunters who travel just West of Slayton. They have looked at data for the deer harvest and boundary lines are for these permit areas and made the decision to move the boundaries to better affect the decision to issue permits.”

There are also some changes to the use of night vision equipment. “We have a law that allows people to hunt coyotes with night vision, thermal imaging, or infrared illuminator equipment. You’re allowed to do that now. You just cannot do that when you’re hunting other species outside of coyote or any time during the firearms deer season,” Loftness says. Additionally, youth with a firearm license will also now be allowed to use crossbows during deer hunting season, whereas the use of crossbows was only allowed for adults previously.

“A lot of these laws changes are trying to simplify things a little bit without having to negatively affect the harvest,” says Loftness. “A lot of what we’re doing to simplify is to make it easier for people to understand, including those who are first getting introduced to the sport. We’re trying to do our best to bring people into hunting and try to get more people involved.”

For a full list of the regulation changes, check out both booklets on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at dnr.state.mn.us.