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Minnesota man dies during opening weekend for duck hunt

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A sad bit of news marred the duck hunting opener in Minnesota over the weekend. Authorities say hunter Orrie Eugene Jirele, 73, of Albert Lea, died on Saturday morning on a hunt.

Jirele's body was found near a dam on Pickeral Lake by his family members, who say they went out looking for him after he did not return as expected from hunting, WCCO reports. Officials believe Jirele died of natural causes not related to hunting, the station reports.

The duck hunt officially opened Saturday in Minnesota. The season runs through Nov. 19 in the north zone. In the central zone, it runs through Saturday through Sept. 29 and resumes Oct. 5 through Nov. 24. In the south zone, the season runs Saturday through Sept. 29, and again Oct. 12 through Dec. 21.

The number of pheasant and duck hunters increased 8 percent in 2012, when an estimated 90,400 people hunted ducks, according to Minnesota DNR data. Statewide estimates show that hunters harvested 835,000 ducks.

This year the DNR is urging boat safety practices for hunters and stressing the use of life jackets. Brainerd Dispatch is carrying boating safety tips.

Since 2005, five people have died in boating-related duck hunting accidents, the DNR says.

Among those whose vessels capsized during the opener this year was Dave Orrick, outdoors writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, who writes that he and his hunting partner went into the marsh when their canoe tipped. Orrick also writes about how the group Ducks Unlimited and the DNR are trying to rescue Minnesota's duck lakes.

Meanwhile, Star Tribune outdoors writer Dennis Anderson argues that new DNR duck-hunting rules are hurting the state's duck population.

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About 80,000 hunters will be lurking among the reeds as waterfowl season gets under way in the state. This is the earliest opening since World War II. Dry conditions will force the birds to be more concentrated and should make for good hunting, the DNR says.