New regulations for goose hunters
Middle Creek area will be limited to one bird per day
By P.j. Reilly, Woods And Water
Published: Jul 20, 2006 9:03 AM EST
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - The way it's been raining lately, you've probably heard more than once the expression, "Only a duck could love this weather."
Well, in recognition of that sentiment, I thought I'd dedicate today's column to news involving waterfowl.
Let's start out by talking about the new "special regulations area" officially established this week by Carl Roe, executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, around Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area on the Lancaster/Lebanon county line.
Those of you who hunt Canada geese in this area probably knew this time was coming.
By Roe's order, waterfowlers hunting geese in a specific area around Middle Creek will be limited to taking one bird per day during the September 1-25 season, even though the statewide daily bag limit is eight geese.
That area is bounded by the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the south; Route 501 to the west; and Route 419 to the north from Route 501, east to the Berks County line. The eastern boundary is the Berks line from Route 419 south to Peartown Road in West Cocalico Township. The line follows Peartown Road south to Greenville Road, which it then follows south to the Turnpike.
Everything inside that box is subject to the special regulations, except Middle Creek and State Game Lands (SGL) 46, which will remain closed to September goose hunting.
The idea for creating this special zone has been floating around for more than a year.
Game Commission officials have been concerned for the past several years about the dwindling number of resident Canada geese at Middle Creek.
Since the Game Commission maintains a number of pit blinds on the Middle Creek property and is interested in offering a quality hunting experience for waterfowlers who win access to those blinds by lottery drawing during the regular fall season, officials want to see a decent number of geese on the project's main lake and outlying ponds.
Though the Middle Creek blinds and the SGL 46 acreage are closed during the September season, many of the resident geese at the project fly off the property each day to feed in surrounding fields on private farms.
Geese are heavily hunted on these farms, many of which are leased for big money exclusively for waterfowl hunting.
According to the Game Commission, hunters on those farms have pounded the birds with liberal bag limits of five and eight geese per day in recent years.
Ten years ago, it was estimated that Middle Creek harbored 3,500 Canadas. Currently, there are fewer than 1,000.
Last year, the agency distributed a brochure explaining the situation at Middle Creek and sought public input on the proposal to expand the special regulations area beyond the Middle Creek and adjacent SGL 46 properties.
Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Game Commission, said the agency received virtually no comments opposing the idea.
Those of you who hunt inside this zone who might have been thinking about going to the annual Waterfowl Symposium Aug. 4, you might want to make sure you're free that day.
Right now, the special regulations only apply to the September season.
Whether or not the restricted bag limit is extended to the regular fall season will be decided by the Game Commission following the symposium, where waterfowlers from all over the state get to offer their input on shaping the state's duck and goose hunting seasons and bag limits for the coming year.
The daily bag limit for Canada geese in Lancaster, Lebanon and other southeast counties during the regular fall season last year was three birds, except on the Middle Creek and SGL 46 properties, where it was one bird.
If you think the bag limit should be one goose or three inside the special regulations area for the fall season, the time to speak up is Aug. 4.
The meeting will be held at the Game Commission building on Haldeman Island, which is directly across from the Ranch House restaurant on Routes 11/15 in Perry County.
Also at that meeting, the Game Commission will solicit input on whether or not the bag limit for geese during the September season should be hiked to 15 birds per day beginning in 2007.
According to John Dunn, the agency's chief waterfowl biologist, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which governs the hunting of all migratory birds in the country, this year is allowing Eastern states to hike the September daily limit to 15.
Dunn said the Game Commission has chosen not to increase that limit for this year so that input on that idea can be solicited at the Aug. 4 symposium.
Dunn said a 15-bird limit likely would increase Pennsylvania's annual goose harvest by only 1.2 percent, since very few hunters would be expected to bag that many geese in a day.
Pennsylvania goose hunters in 2005 bagged an estimated 71,200 Canadas during the September season.
Personally, I can't imagine a more unpleasant job than cleaning 15 geese on a hot, muggy September day.
Oh, I'd enjoy the hunting, but the cleaning would be a real drag. I imagine I'd be pulling pinfeathers out of my clothes for months afterward.