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Lets give duck hunters a break

The question of "how do we save duck hunting in Minnesota" is on the minds of a lot of people these days.

It's not bad enough that the ducks do not appear to like our cloudy sloughs that lack food, now we are starting to lack hunters.

The state has lost around 40,000 duck hunters since 2000. It would be easy to surmise that these hunters have opted for a North or South Dakota hunting license. They have taken a look at what Minnesota is offering them in the way of duck hunting opportunities and decided to make trips out of the state. It's not exactly rocket science -- if you want to shoot ducks you have to go where they are.

A lot of people base the effort they put into something on what kind of reward they expect to reap. Here is the essential problem with duck hunting in Minnesota. The cost right now is higher than the reward. To heck with liberalizing bag limits, liberalize hunting regulations.

Minnesota has a lot of public water but the Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources have made sure in many cases that they are not easily reached. Private vehicles are not allowed on these public wildlife areas, even during the fall hunting season, so you end up dragging your boat, your decoys and your gun to a slough. That might be fine if you are hunting in a big party but what if you are hunting solo? Why not give hunters the green light to pull down to these sloughs and unload their boats and gear? As long as they don't leave a pile of litter behind when they leave it would not hurt the resource.

There is a lot of concern that younger people are not joining the hunting ranks. No one is arguing that the future of duck hunting lies in the hands of the younger set. We need them to ensure the sport has a future.

Duck experts worry that it is the low number of ducks that might be turning kids off when it comes to hunting. They are only half right. It is also opportunity. Let's face it, most kids today are surrounded by technology, not cattails. The kids might be into sports but most of them are not into the shooting sports. It is easy and fun to play a computer game -- some of which do not even require them to sit up. So where does duck hunting figure in this 21st Century Utopia we have built? It certainly is not going to make the Top 10 list for most kids.

It is interesting that a lot of hunters, who cry "habitat, habitat" do not seem to understand what it really is. Sure, it is a place to be, but it is also a place you want to be. You want to live there because there are opportunities for you. This is as true for hunters as it is for ducks.

If you throw enough road blocks in a person's way they are going to turn around and head in another direction. Tear down the road blocks and you are going to see more hunters out there.

Give young hunters a longer grace period before requiring them to buy their first licenses and stamps. Offer firearms safety training in a school setting. Kids today can not buy a hunting license until they have taken firearms safety training. One of the biggest reasons kids do not take firearms safety training is because their friends are not taking it. If more kids took the training, whether they hunted or not, they would know how to handle a gun safely.

Even if these measures were all adopted you might not add too many kids from the big metro areas, but it could have a favorable impact. There are still a lot of kids in outstate Minnesota that can enjoy the jet engine sound of a flock of bluebills over the decoys or a greenhead mallard jumping out of the cattails.