U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
August 1, 2008
Liberal Season on Tap for Upcoming Late Waterfowl Season
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Nicholas Throckmorton, 703/358-2235
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed continuation of liberal hunting season lengths for the upcoming 2008-2009 late waterfowl seasons. Duck hunting season lengths would be 60 days in both the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway, and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway. However, in three flyways, the Service Regulations Committee recommends closing the canvasback season due to low populations and restricting scaup harvest due to long-term population declines. Given increasing wood duck populations, the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways would get an extra wood duck in the daily bag limit.
"All the information on the status of waterfowl populations and habitat conditions is now in and has been carefully analyzed by our biologists," said Service Director H. Dale Hall. "Though pond and duck numbers are down from the last few years on the breeding grounds, they remain above the thresholds necessary for a liberal season, and that is what we are proposing this year."
"We have taken steps to conserve scaup and canvasback populations," continued Hall. "Following our recently adopted scaup harvest strategy, the Service is reducing hunting pressure on scaup to ensure a harvest we believe the population can support. Unfortunately, canvasback numbers were below the level that would permit a nationwide harvest."
States select their season from within the frameworks which establish the outer limits of season length, bag limits and season beginning and ending date.
Brief highlights of the proposed nationwide frameworks are below:
Due to the ongoing "Hunters' Choice" experiment in the Central Flyway, that flyway would continue with regulations similar to last year. Canvasback and scaup seasons would be unchanged. The Hunter's Choice bag limit is an aggregate bag intended to reduce the harvest of species with lower abundance. For example, hunters are allowed only one pintail, canvasback or mottled duck in the bag while maintaining full hunting opportunity on abundant species such as drake mallards.
The Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways would be allowed an increase from two to three wood ducks in the bag limit.
A full season on pintails with a one bird daily bag limit would be offered nation-wide, similar to last year.
After a record canvasback population estimate last year, followed by this year's low estimate, Service staff reviewed survey methods, data and analytical procedures and found nothing unusual. Declines in canvasbacks counted were widespread, occurring in the same areas that experienced increases last year. Based on the harvest estimate from last year's seasons, it is clear that harvest alone is not responsible for the drop. Canvasback estimates typically have higher variation than for many other species. Although it is possible that the large change in the population estimate is simply the result of normal sampling variation, the Service has no data to suggest this year's population estimate is not accurate. Using this estimate and the approved Canvasback Harvest Strategy, the allowable harvest this year did not permit a nationwide canvasback season. There was sufficient allowable harvest to permit the Central Flyway to continue their Hunter's Choice experiment, and all Flyways recommended they be allowed to do so.
The proposed late season waterfowl frameworks will appear in a mid-August edition of the Federal Register for public comment and on http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/fedreg/MGBHR.HTML. To see the "Status of Waterfowl" report and video as well as last year's harvest figures, please see www.flyways.us.
Flyway specific highlights of the proposed late-season frameworks are below:
Atlantic Flyway (Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia):
Ducks: A hunting season is proposed of not more than 60 days between September 27, 2008, and January 25, 2009. The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two hooded mergansers, one black duck, one pintail, one mottled duck, one fulvous whistling duck, and four scoters. The season on harlequin ducks and canvasbacks is closed. A hybrid regulation for scaup would be allowed, consisting of a two-bird bag limit for any 20 consecutive hunting days and one scaup per day for the remainder of the season.
Geese: For light geese, states would be able to select a 107-day season between October 1, 2008, and March 10, 2009, with a daily bag limit of 15 birds and no possession limit. Seasons for Canada geese would vary in length among states and areas depending on the populations of birds that occur in those areas. The daily bag limit would be five birds in hunt zones established for resident populations of Canada geese. In hunt zones established for migratory populations, bag limits would be three or fewer and would vary among states and areas. For Atlantic brant, the season length may be 60 days with a daily bag limit of three.
Mississippi Flyway (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 September 27, 2008, and January 25, 2009. The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three mottled ducks, three wood ducks, two redheads, one black duck and one pintail. There is no open season for canvasbacks. A hybrid season would be allowed for scaup during which the daily bag limit would be two for no more than 20 consecutive days and one bird for the remaining 40 days. The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is five, only two of which may be hooded mergansers.
Geese: Generally, seasons for Canada geese would be held between September 27, 2008, and January 31, 2009, and vary in length among States and areas, with daily bag limits varying from one to three. States would be able to select seasons for light geese not to exceed 107 days with 20 geese daily between September 27, 2008, and March 10, 2009; for white-fronted geese this proposed season would not exceed 72 days with a two-bird daily bag limit or 86 days with a one-bird daily bag limit between September 27, 2008, and February 15, 2009; 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 September 27, 2008, and January 31, 2009. There would be no possession limit for light geese.
Central Flyway (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming):
Ducks: Duck seasons are proposed to be held between September 27, 2008, and January 25, 2009. In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit (roughly west of the 100th Meridian), a 97-day season is proposed. The last 23 days would be able to start no earlier than December 13, 2008. A 74-day season is proposed for the remainder of the Central Flyway. This is the third and final year of the 3-year evaluation of the Hunter's Choice duck bag limit in the Central Flyway.
The Hunter's Choice bag limit is an aggregate bag, of which only one duck from the following may be taken: hen mallard, canvasback, pintail, or mottled duck. Five States (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, and Texas) have been randomly assigned to have Hunter's Choice regulations and the remaining five States (Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico) will serve as controls (season within a season regulations for canvasbacks and pintails) as the evaluation proceeds.
In Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, the daily bag limit would be 6 ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: mallard -- five, no more than two of which may be females; redhead, scaup, wood duck -- two; pintail, mottled duck, canvasback -- one. For pintails and canvasbacks, the season length would be 39 days, which may be split according to applicable zones/split duck hunting configurations approved for each state. The possession limit would be twice the daily bag limit. In North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, and Texas, the daily bag limit would be five ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: scaup, redhead and wood duck -- two; only one duck from the following group -- hen mallard, mottled duck, pintail, canvasback. The possession limit would be twice the daily bag.
Geese: Under the proposal, States may select seasons between September 27, 2008 and February 15, 2009 for dark geese and between September 27, 2008 and March 10, 2009 for light geese. East tier states would be able to select a 107-day season for Canada geese season with a daily bag limit of three. For white-fronted geese, states would be able to select either a 72-day season with a daily bag limit of two birds or an 86-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. In the Western Goose Zone of Texas, the State would be able to select a 95-day season with a daily bag limit of four dark geese (including no more than one white-fronted goose). Colorado would be able to select a 107-day season with an aggregate bag limit of four. For light geese, all states would be able to select a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 20 and no possession limit.
Pacific Flyway (Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming):
Ducks: Under the proposal, states are allowed a 107-day general duck season between September 27, 2008, and January 25, 2009. The proposed daily bag limit is seven ducks, including no more than two mallard hens, two redheads and one pintail. In addition, an 86 day season for scaup can be chosen with a daily bag limit of two. The canvasback season is closed.
Geese: 107-day seasons are proposed for the Pacific Flyway with outside dates between September 27, 2008, and March 10, 2009. Proposed basic daily bag limits are up to 10 light geese and four dark geese. There are exceptions to the basic bag limits and season structures for geese in many states, so consult State regulations for specific details. In California, Washington and Oregon, the dark goose limit does not include brant. For brant, the proposed season lengths are 16 days in Oregon and Washington and 30 days in California, with a two-bird daily limit. Washington and California would be able to choose seasons in each of the two zones.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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I hope this helps fellas! [/b]