Small game license sales were down about four percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources annual small game survey.
Results for 2017 include, by species:
Ducks – 63,426 hunters, representing a six percent decrease from 2016. Despite slightly fewer hunters, duck harvest increased 12 percent with 688,225 ducks harvested. Successful duck hunters averaged more ducks bagged for the season (12.5 ducks compared to 10.9 ducks in 2016).
Canada goose – 44,678 hunters, an eight percent increase from the previous year. Estimated Canada goose harvest was 267,192 geese, a 23 percent increase. The increase in harvest was due to the increase in goose hunters as successful hunters bagged an average of 7.4 geese each, which was similar to the previous season.
Ring-necked pheasant – 45,263 hunters, a 32 percent decrease compared to 2016. Pheasant harvest declined from 196,141 roosters to 171,883, a 14 percent decline. Successful hunters harvested an average of 5.5 roosters each, a slight increase from the five roosters per hunter average in the previous year.
Ruffed grouse – 80,654 hunters, similar to the previous year.
Harvest was 285,180 compared to 308,955 grouse in 2016.
Estimated take per successful ruffed grouse hunter dropped slightly from an average of 5.3 grouse per hunter to 4.8 grouse per hunter.
Small game license sales have been declining over time, and this year’s results continue that trend; however, the annual survey does not ask hunters the reasons why they did or did not hunt.
“Given the long-term trends for small game hunting, none of the results are surprising for us,” said James Burnham, hunting and angling recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) coordinator. “Declines in small game hunter numbers show the importance of introducing folks to hunting, and small game hunting offers a tremendous opportunity to show safe and fun hunting practices.”
The DNR aims to increase participation rates in small game hunting by working with conservation partners to show the appeal that small game hunting can have for young adults who already spend time in the outdoors. Efforts will center on serial events that connect new hunters to mentors and get folks out to enjoy the tremendous resources that Minnesota offers. Additionally, the DNR has recently formed a 21-member R3 citizen council to help grow hunting and angling participation and awareness.
More about the DNR’s efforts to increase the numbers of hunters can be found at mndnr.gov/R3.
The DNR annually surveys small game hunters to make estimates of both hunter numbers and harvest trends. For the 2017 season, 7,000 small game license buyers were surveyed of which 4,163 surveys were returned and usable.