The Department of Natural resources recently release its annual survey of small game hunting activity. Fewer small game hunters took to the field in 2016 as compared to the previous season. By species, grouse hunters were up slightly, but duck, goose and pheasant hunters were down slightly, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ annual small game survey.
There were 67,301 duck hunters in 2016, fewer than the previous year, which led to a decline in the duck harvest from 663,811 in 2015 to 606,458 but the take per active hunter was up slightly in 2016 (9.0 ducks per hunter compared to 8.7 ducks per hunter in 2015). Canada goose harvest edged up slightly to an estimated 204,825 geese harvested despite the decline in hunters from 45,938 in 2015 to 40,950 in 2016. Estimated take per hunter increased from 5.7 to 7.1 geese per successful hunters. An estimated 59,965 pheasant hunters went afield in 2016, down slightly from 2015. Estimated ring-necked pheasant harvest declined from 243,176 roosters to 196,141, similar to 2011 levels.
A wet fall and standing corn throughout much of the pheasant range likely contributed to some of the reduced harvest. In 2016, the number of grouse hunters was 82,348, representing an increase of 4 percent from 2015. Ruffed grouse harvest increased slightly from 267,997 grouse in 2015 to 308,955 in 2016. The DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends. For the 2016 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed of which 3,371 surveys were returned and usable.