Why, then, did Minnesota put 140,000 duck hunters in the field in the 1970s when ducks here were relatively plentiful and now is lucky to suit up 80,000 as participation hovers at all-time lows?
"They're busy with other things," Cordts said.
The DNR is also proposing this fall to end the 4 p.m. closure in the early part of the duck season, a restriction whose intent since the 1970s has been to hold birds in the state longer by providing them resting time.
In recent years, the DNR has made multiple duck-hunting regulation changes with a goal of increasing the duck harvest and/or hunter participation and satisfaction. Yet every year, a few thousand more Minnesotans quit duck hunting â€” or at least stop duck hunting in Minnesota.
Dave Rave thinks he knows why.
"There are no ducks," Rave said. "Or not many ducks."
Similar comments have been made for years by many Minnesota waterfowlers. But Rave's opinion perhaps carries more weight: Recently retired after nearly 30 years with the DNR, he served more than 24 years with the agency's waterfowl research group in Bemidji and later was the Bemidji area wildlife supervisor. He was a longtime member of the DNR Waterfowl Committee.
He has an undergraduate waterfowl-management degree from Michigan State University and a master's degree from Auburn University.
"The DNR's strategy, and it's been this way for some years, is to offer every hunting opportunity that the Fish and Wildlife Service allows," Rave said. "In my opinion, this isn't good for our local ducks. I'm very concerned about wood ducks, for example, since the DNR went to a three-bird limit from two. And teal? I think their numbers are pretty low."
In Rave's opinion, habitat development should be stressed by the DNR, not regulation changes. He also thinks the regular duck opener should be moved back to the Saturday nearest Oct. 1, where it was for years. He also wouldn't expand over-water September goose hunting; he'd nix the proposed September teal season; and he'd find a different time or way to introduce kids to waterfowling.