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New waterfowl hunting zones go into effect

The first changes in Indiana's waterfowl hunting zones in more than 25 years will be in effect for the start of the regular waterfowl seasons this fall.

There still will be three zones, but they will be renamed as North, Central and South. The South Zone will represent a significant geographic expansion and replace the previous Ohio River Zone.

Changes to the zone boundaries are designed to improve hunting opportunities by better relating duck migration, and therefore season timing, to the geography of the state, said DNR waterfowl biologist Adam Phelps.

The North Zone boundary is essentially unchanged, with the exception of moving Roush Fish & Wildlife Area into the North. The North Zone boundary segregates the natural lakes and wetlands part of the state into its own zone.

The North Zone boundary follows a line extending east from the Illinois border along State Road 18 to U.S. 31; north along U.S. 31 to U.S. 24; east along U.S. 24 to Huntington; southeast along U.S. 224; south along S.R. 5; and east along S.R. 124 to the Ohio border.

The Central Zone is that part of Indiana south of the North Zone boundary and north of the South Zone boundary.

The South Zone boundary follows a line extending east from the Illinois border along U.S. 40; south along U.S. 41; east along S.R.58; south along S.R. 37 to Bedford; and east along U.S. 50 to the Ohio border.

The South Zone extends north to Terre Haute and includes all or parts of 29 counties. It takes in DNR-managed properties such as Fairbanks Landing, Glendale, Sugar Ridge and Wabashiki FWAs; and Hardy and Patoka lakes.

"Changing zone lines in southern Indiana will allow us to capture a fundamental geographic split by bunching the lower Wabash River, as well as much of the White and Muscatatuck rivers, with the Ohio River in the southernmost zone," Phelps said.

The new zones were derived by looking at not only geography, but also at climate patterns and, most importantly, long-term waterfowl migration data.

These new zones will be in effect for regular duck, coot and merganser seasons, as well as regular goose seasons.

Regular-season 2012 waterfowl season dates

The regular-season waterfowl dates, as proposed to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by the Indiana DNR, are listed below. The dates are not final until approved by the USFWS in mid-to late September. Look for another announcement around that time that will either confirm or amend these dates. Historically, they have been accepted as proposed.

The DNR's recommended dates for ducks, coots and mergansers are:

• North Zone: Oct. 20 to Dec. 9 and Dec. 22-30
• Central Zone: Nov. 3 to Dec. 25 and Jan. 14-20
• South Zone: Nov. 3-4 and Nov. 24 to Jan. 20

The daily bag limit for ducks in all zones is six, including no more than four mallards (of which no more than two can be hens), four scaup, three wood ducks, two pintails, two redheads, one canvasback, one black duck, and one mottled duck. The daily bag limit for coots is 15. The daily bag limit for mergansers, separate from ducks, is five, of which no more than two can be hooded mergansers. The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

Though the prairies are drier than last year, the estimate of the total duck population is the highest since the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat survey began in 1955 (48.6 million ducks). Green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, gadwall, and redheads are all at or near record population levels, and mallards and canvasbacks are well above their long-term average. Scaup populations are at the long-term average for the first time in several years, and have increased 60 percent since 2006.

For Canada geese, white-fronted geese, and brant, the proposed dates are:

• North Zone: Oct. 20 to Nov. 11, Nov. 22 to Jan. 6, and Jan. 19-23
• Central Zone: Nov. 3 to Dec. 25 and Jan. 7-27
• South Zone: Nov. 3-11 and Nov. 24 to Jan. 27

The daily bag limit this year for Canada geese during the regular season has increased from two to three. The daily bag limit for white-fronted geese has increased from one to two. The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

"In addition, because of a change in the white-fronted goose management plan, we are able to align the seasons for white-fronts with the Canada goose season," Phelps said.

"Because brant are rarely taken in Indiana, we also aligned that season, so that all dark geese have the same season."

These changes simplify goose regulations in Indiana while adding opportunity in the form of higher bags for geese that regularly occur here.

The proposed late season for Canada geese is Feb. 1-15. The counties authorized for a late season are: Adams, Allen, Boone, Clay, DeKalb, Elkhart, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Huntington, Johnson, Kosciusko, LaPorte, LaGrange, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, Noble, Parke, St. Joseph, Shelby, Steuben, Starke, Sullivan, Vermillion, Vigo, Wells and Whitley.

A permit is no longer required to participate in the late season for Canada geese. Geese harvested during this season no longer need to be taken to a check station. The daily bag limit during this season is five Canada geese, with a possession limit of 10.

The proposed statewide season for light geese is Oct. 20 to Jan. 31. The daily bag limit for light geese is 20 (snow and/or Ross' geese in aggregate). There is no possession limit on light geese.

The proposed light goose conservation order is Feb. 1 to March 31, statewide, except for those counties that have a late season on Canada geese. For those counties with a late season on Canada geese, the proposed light goose conservation order season is Feb. 16 to March 31.

The light goose conservation order has no bag or possession limit. A free permit is required. Details will be available later in the winter.

The DNR's recommended dates for youth waterfowl season are:
• North Zone: Oct. 13-14
• Central Zone: Oct. 27-28
• South Zone: Oct. 27-28

Bag and possession limits are the same as the regular seasons. The youth waterfowl season is open to youths 15 and younger, accompanied by an adult.

DNR's recommended dates for extended falconry season for ducks, coots and mergansers are:

• North Zone: Sept. 27-30 and Feb. 14 to March 10
• Central Zone: Oct. 27 to Nov. 2 and Feb. 17 to March 10
• South Zone: Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2012 and Feb. 17-March 10, 2013

For more information: Adam Phelps, DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife, at (812) 334-1137, or [email protected].
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