Attended the symposium yesterday and well it is informative and essential to our sport there were some shocking numbers to look at.First off it's no surprise that harvest numbers were way down both across the Atlantic Flyway (AF) and in Pa..Here is just a small sample of the dismal numbers: ( all numbers are based on the Long Term Average (LTA)
Mallards: AF 250,100 down 40%
Woodies: AF 314,900 down 14%
Scaup : AF 42,600 down 45%
Canada Goose: AF 488,600 down 28%
Mallards: 28,900 down 59%
Woodies: 18,100 down 47%
Scaup: 600 down 81%
Canada geese: 74,000 down 55%
and two additional numbers:
Pa. active duck hunters: 19,400 down 27%
Pa. active goose hunters: 22,600 down 40%
There was much discussion regarding how bag limits are set, and I took away from that, that we are going to be in trouble if mallard number continue to decline in the AF, The game commission stated that the mallard duck is the duck that all bag limit numbers are based on.They stated that if the current trends continue we can look forward to not only reduced bags, but reduced days afield. They said that for the next couple of years we will be in ok shape but into 2020 and beyond we might expect to see both decreased limits and reduced days and even CLOSED SEASONS may be the new reality. I am not talking about closed seasons on specific ducks, I am talking about NO DUCK HUNTING period based on the numbers of ducks available. Although they really don't want a closed season they reiterated it several times that it could be a reality. This is a first for floating this idea, and IMO would be the beginning of the end for duck hunting.Think about it. If we base all our bag limits on a declining resource, then the end may be closer than we think.
As far as season dates go the NWPADH Assn. proposed and will get basically the same season as last year for the LEZ. The same with the N and S zones. The most contentious zone remains the states smallest zone, the NW zone. There was only one guy in the room that voted to keep the dates basically the same. The remainder of the guys and organizations, including myself, all want an opener around Otc.7, run for a couple of weeks, then close until almost mid Nov and run as long as we can there after. Frankly, I think we have a real good shot at setting some new dates, but we will see. After all we are talking about the PGC.
Finally, as I have suspected all along, the SJBP of geese is almost non existent here in NW Pa. based on the PGC's OWN NUMBERS. They showed data from as far back as 1976 and even back then there were not huge numbers of SJBP geese that flew through NW Pa..Current Data shows that the few SJBP geese that fly this direction have shifted West of NW Pa.. Not just a few geese but virtually all of them. The bulk of SJBP geese are harvested in Canada and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. So I asked the question: Will we be able to do away with the SJBP restrictions as the geese don't come here and basically the answer was NO. Our harvest numbers here in the US are dependent on the harvest of birds in Canada. Why our harvest is based on Canadian numbers is ridiculous, but that's how the system works. The SJBP geese are now being rolled into what will be known as the "Mississippi Flyway Interior Population of geese which will include the Mississippi Valley and Eastern Prairie goose populations for monitoring purposes. If there is no more distinct SJBP how can we have a special SJBP zone? We will see what happens but I recommended the complete abolition of the SJBP zone and the NW zone, as zones that have outlived their usefullness, and more than one person agreed with me.
Lastly I want to touch on a proposal of the NWPADH Assn.. They are going to recommend the complete ban of layouts off of beach 11 as too many layouts are killing the blind hunting out there. I doubt that anything will happen this year, but it's coming. I am not sure how I feel about it but one thing is for sure; once something is gone at P.I., it will never come back.We have consolidated a lot of blinds out there, gotten rid of the old beach blinds out at beach 10, and now we are looking at restricting layouts off of beach 11. It won't be long before there will be restrictions on layouts across the park if we start down this path.Heck, who knows, in 10 years P.I. could be a place that only has twenty blinds and you have to draw for it, and maybe like other places that limit days and how many shells you can take in etc. etc.. Don't say it can't happen, because after all it is a state park and the state can do whatever it wants with it despite what we want. Stay tuned on this one because it is sure to be a bone of contention.
One final note, two years ago I asked about Swan permits and they told me that within 5 years they thought it would be a reality.I asked again yesterday and the answer was that we are no further now than they were 2 years ago. So the short answer on this issue is: If you want to kill a Swan go to NoDak, NC or Utah cuz it ain't ever gonna happen here....................Sorry this is so long.
P.S. For anyone that's interested in making the state duck stamp mandatory know this. the money generated by the stamp sale will go into the Pa. GENERAL FUND, so you know that none of that money will be allotted to the PGC. I for one will only be willing to buy the stamp if the PGC gets the dough.......................