Input sought on proposed hunting rule changes, including non-toxic shot on WMAs

Small-game hunters and others can give input starting Tuesday, Oct. 13, on proposed rules that include requiring the use of non-toxic shot on wildlife management areas (WMAs) in Minnesota’s farmland zone.
“The non-toxic shot rule would apply to hunters using shotguns with shot, not to hunters using single-projectile ammunition, such as rifles or shotguns with slugs,” said Jason Abraham, furbearer and regulations specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We’re trying to reduce the amount of lead deposited on public land, especially wetlands.”

The non-toxic shot proposal is one of several proposed rule changes, which also include hunting game on certain refuges, use of non-toxic shot for rails and snipe statewide, and adjustments to small game possession limits.

The non-toxic shot requirement would affect hunters using shotguns to hunt wild turkey, pheasants and other small game species on WMAs in the farmland zone. Hunters currently need to use non-toxic shot for hunting waterfowl. It would not affect private land, state forest and county forest land. The farmland zone includes the far western and southern portion of the state. The forest zone makes up the northeastern part of the state and would not be affected by this proposed rule change.

“Requiring non-toxic shot on farmland zone WMAs will reduce the amount of lead deposited in or near wetlands on public lands. These are places with heavy hunting pressure,” Abraham said. “Also, federal lands already have this requirement, so our proposal makes the regulations simpler for hunters in WMAs, which are often bordered by federal land.”

The proposal would allow steel or other alternatives to lead that are approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other proposals
“Many of the rule changes included in this package have been discussed and supported at past public input meetings and are currently in effect as temporary rules,” Abraham said. “Other proposals have not been in effect and we’re encouraging hunters to learn more about the rule proposals and provide input.”
Specifically, provisions being proposed in this rule package include:

  • Require non-toxic shot on wildlife management areas in the farmland zone, beginning in 2018.
  • Make minimum archery draw weight requirements for hunting big game and wild turkey consistent with statute by no longer requiring a draw weight of 40 pounds or more.
  • During the youth deer season, allow youth to harvest a deer of either sex.
  • Clarify requirements for registering and identifying bear bait stations.
  • Make the possession limit for migratory waterfowl, coots, gallinules, rails and snipe consistent with federal regulations for migratory game bird species by making the possession limit three times the daily limit instead of two times the limit.
  • Increase the ruffed and spruce grouse possession limit from 10 to 15.
  • Increase the sharp-tailed grouse possession limit from six to nine.
  • Increase the gray partridge possession limit from 10 to 15.
  • Increase the cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare possession limit from 20 to 30.
  • Decrease the jack rabbit possession limit from 20 to three, with not more than one jack rabbit taken per day.
  • Increase the combined gray and fox squirrel possession limit from 14 to 21.
  • Modify the prairie chicken season to improve hunting opportunity by making the season nine days instead of five and moving the season to the last Saturday in September.
  • Modify the opening-day shooting hours for waterfowl hunting by removing the requirement that shooting hours begin at 9 a.m. Instead, shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise, to sunset.
  • Allow open water hunting for migratory waterfowl, coots, gallinules, rails and snipe in limited areas in the state.
  • Require non-toxic shot when hunting snipe or rails.
  • Increase the dove season by 10 days for consistency with federal regulations.
  • Standardize common crow hunting dates by making the dates March1-31; Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, and Dec. 15 to Jan. 15.

More information about specific rules proposed and the rules process is available online on the wildlife rules input page. The DNR will accept written comments about the proposed rule changes for at least 60 days beginning Oct. 13. Comments may be submitted to DNR Wildlife, Box 20 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020 or by email at jason.abraham@dnr.state.mn.us.