Officials propose 'liberal' waterfowl season package
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service again this year is proposing the "liberal" package of frameworks for this fall's late waterfowl seasons across the country.
As part of the liberal regulations package, states in the Central Flyway could offer 74-day duck seasons, with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas, while the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways could offer 60-day seasons and the Pacific Flyway could offer a 107-day season.
North Dakota is in the Central Flyway, and Minnesota is in the Mississippi Flyway.
In a news release, the Fish and Wildlife Service said population estimates for most duck species remained strong, while habitat conditions were similar to or slightly better than last year.
According to the service's 2013 "Waterfowl Population Status Report," this year's duck population in the traditional survey area was 45.6 million. That's down 6 percent from last year's estimate of 48.6 million but still 33 percent higher than the long-term average from 1955. The survey area includes the north-central United States, south-central and northern Canada and Alaska.
Pond numbers in the United States, at 2.3 million, were 41 percent higher than last year, buoyed by late-spring rains that helped recharge wetlands to the benefit of late-nesting waterfowl.
Here's a look at the proposed regulations for the Central and Mississippi flyways:
(Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin)
Ducks: A hunting season is proposed of not more than 60 days between Sept. 21 and Jan. 26, 2014. The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, one mottled duck, two redheads, three scaup, two pintails, one black duck and two canvasbacks. The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is five, only two of which may be hooded mergansers. In states that include mergansers in the duck bag limit, the daily limit is the same as the duck bag limit, only two which may be hooded mergansers.
Geese: Generally, seasons for Canada geese would be held between Sept. 21 and Jan. 31, 2014, and vary in length among states and areas. States would be able to select seasons for light geese not to exceed 107 days, with 20 geese daily between Sept. 21 and March 10, 2014; for white-fronted geese, the proposed season would not exceed 74 days with a two-bird daily bag limit or 88 days with a one-bird daily bag limit between Sept. 21 and Feb. 16, 2014; and for brant, it would not exceed 70 days with a two-bird daily bag limit or 107 days with a one-bird daily bag limit between Sept. 21 and Jan. 31, 2014.
(Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming)
Ducks: Duck season frameworks call for a 74-day season between Sept. 21 and Jan. 26. The daily bag limit is six ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: five mallards, no more than two of which may be females; three wood ducks, three scaup, two pintails, two redheads, two canvasbacks and one mottled duck. Mottled ducks may not be harvested during the first five days after the beginning of the regular season in Texas. In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit (roughly west of the 100th Meridian), a 97-day season is proposed, and the last 23 days can start no earlier than Dec. 7.
Geese: States may select seasons between Sept. 21 and Feb. 16 for dark geese and between Sept. 21 and March 10 for light geese. East-tier states are able to select a 107-day season for Canada geese with a daily bag limit of eight. For white-fronted geese, east-tier states will be able to select either a 74-day season with a daily bag limit of two birds or an 88-day season with a daily bag limit of one bird. In the west tier, states may select a 107-day dark goose season with a daily bag limit of five birds. For light geese, all states would be able to select a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 50.
On the Web:
Status of Waterfowl report: fws.gov/migratorybirds
Status of Waterfowl video: http://flyways.us/status-of-waterfowl/video-report
N.D. sets August Canada goose hunt
North Dakota's early Canada goose season will open Aug. 15 and continue through Sept. 15, except in the Missouri River Zone, where the season ends Sept. 7. This year, states can offer a possession limit of three times the daily bag limit for most migratory birds, and North Dakota's early Canada goose season has a limit of 15 daily and 45 in possession.
The early hunting season is intended to reduce local Canada goose numbers. Despite liberalized regulations the past several years, with longer seasons, large bag limits and expanded shooting hours, the statewide population remains high, and goose numbers remain well above population goals.
Limits and shooting hours for the early season are different from the regular season. Shooting hours during the early season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.
A new state law requires hunters to purchase an early Canada goose season license. Residents need a $5 early Canada goose license and a general game and habitat license. Also, residents age 16 and older need a small game license. Nonresidents need only a $50 early Canada goose license, and the license is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license.
A federal duck stamp for hunters age 16 and older, and Harvest Information Program certification, is required beginning Sept. 1.
The new early Canada goose season licenses only are available electronically, either online through the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, the instant licensing number at (800) 406-6409 or at license vendors in counties that are linked to the department's online licensing system. In counties that are not on the Game and Fish system, the licenses are not available with the paper general hunting licenses.
Counties linked to the Game and Fish electronic licensing system are Adams, Benson, Bottineau, Bowman, Burleigh, Cass, Dickey, Grand Forks, Grant, McIntosh, Mercer, Morton, Ramsey, Rolette, Sargent, Stark, Steele, Stutsman, Walsh, Ward and Williams.
Minnesota goose hunt
Minnesota also is offering an August "management action" for Canada geese in an intensive harvest zone of west-central Minnesota. Set for Aug. 10-25, the season will have a daily bag limit of 10 Canada geese with no possession limit.
The Department of Natural Resources will announce details of its traditional September Canada goose season and fall waterfowl seasons in the next few days.