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Don't be blind about blinds during the waterfowl opener

WORTHINGTON -- Tomorrow is the waterfowl opener in Minnesota. This tradition is one I used to participate in with a passion.

My duck-hunting interests have declined over the years as the duck hunting in farm country has also declined. I visited with the area wildlife manager a few days ago and was informed that if you want to see ducks you should probably consider Murray County. They do some driving around to count waterfowl, and these results have confirmed my suspicions.

In areas where duck-hunter numbers are much higher it only makes sense that the number of problems between hunters is more frequent.

One of the issues that crops up from time to time is just who gets to use the duck blind that was constructed on public waters. Public water is a unique territory. You can spend three weeks building a duck blind in public water, and you have no more ownership rights to it than the next door neighbor lady.

It is first-come, first-served when it comes to structures in public waters. If a hunter chooses to go out the night before and sleep in a duck blind, he will have it to use until he/she leaves. This results in having to get to the choice spots really early to stake out place to hunt. We don't have much of this going on in southwest Minnesota, as we do not have any expansive bodies of high quality duck hunting water.

This first-come, first-served rule results in very little effort expended in building duck blinds in public water, because somebody else is always willing to get up earlier than you. The last time I went all out on duck opener, there were as many hunters on the body of water I hunted as there were ducks. I did have some great conservation with the other hunters at the launch site though. There were no blind controversies this day.

I have seen instances where individuals will build very large and elaborate stands or blinds on public property in order it try to preempt others from using the area. Most hunters really try to respect other hunter's space and will shy away from encroaching on another hunters' spot, but this intimidation of trying to display ownership of a public property is just a sign of poor sportsmanship.

The rules regarding blinds and stands have recently received more teeth as a result of the actions of a very small number of so-called hunters. When on private land the sky is almost the limit. I have no problem with that, but on public land the rules exist for the benefit of all hunters -- no matter their economic status.

Saturday is supposed to be a great Indian summer day, which should result in the ducks flying high. Remember that decoys cannot be placed more than one half hour before the legal shooting time and that a life jacket is required for each person in your boat.

Have a great duck opener and remember to try to shoot drakes if you can. This will help maintain the limited duck hunting we have. Be safe, shoot straight, and always display the highest level of sportsmanship and hunter ethics.