The Mississippi River was lined with duck hunters for the opening of hunting season over the weekend, but a real battle may be shaping up over the duck blinds they use for the hunt. Some have been set up by the same families for years. When the Department of Natural Resources recently started having hunters register their duck blinds, some hunters complained all the good sites were claimed. D-N-R wildlife bureau chief Richard Bishop has heard calls for a biannual drawing that would let new hunters have a chance at prime spots. He says there are two sides to the story, tradition versus the people who don’t feel they have an opportunity, but he says they’re a minority and most people on the river would side with the people who already have the blinds. The Army Corps of Engineers made the decision to require hunters to register the homemade shelters they put up along the river. Richard Beames (BEE’-muss) is a hunter from Burlington who says there’s no place for him to take his grandson hunting. He tells of one blind that nobody used for two-thirds of the hunting season but when he tried to use it he says he was threatened, and says it’s not fair to let people “inherit” spots on public land. Beames favors a lottery system, like the one Illinois uses to assign hunting spots for two years at a time. He says it’d give everyone equal opportunity to use public land. But hunter David Vanden Boom of Bonaparte says he grew up in Illinois and hated that state’s lottery system which left him unable to hunt some years when he didn’t draw the right number for a duck blind. Most people don’t build a duck blind big enough to hide two boats, so he’d arrive at a shelter and not be able to hunt and he began crossing over to Iowa to buy a license and take advantage of the “squatter’s rights.” Vanden Boom says with a lottery system, people would spend time and money building sturdier duck blinds that won’t wash away. He says people won’t take care of it, the water will be “trashy” and people won’t take care of duck blinds that aren’t theirs. That concern over upkeep is one reason the D-N-R’s decided against a lottery for hunting blind spots. The D-N-R’s Richard Bishop says his advice for hunters without their own hunting blind is to ask if they can get invited to shoot from one of the established locations. Though this dry year is expected to hurt the hunting season, Bishop says in years when ducks are plentiful, hunters are more willing to share the spots.
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