In what was little more than a formality, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has given its thumbs up to a liberal framework package of waterfowl hunting regulations for the 2014-15 duck and goose hunting seasons across the country.
The move by the Feds to allow for a liberal regulations package was anticipated by most waterfowl hunters and observers since the spring duck breeding population across the "Duck Factory" of the northern U.S. and Canadian prairie pothole region was historically high this year.
Those numbers, the highest breeding index in modern history at 49.2 million ducks, led the USFWS to propose liberal hunting season lengths and bag limits for the upcoming 2014-2015 waterfowl seasons.
Specifically, the Fish & Wildlife Service's website (www.flyways.us) indicates that duck hunting season lengths of 60 days were proposed for the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways. In the Central Flyway, a total of 74 days was proposed along with an additional 23 days in the High Plains area of the flyway. And in the Pacific Flyway, the Feds proposed a total of 107 days (the maximum season length allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act).
Delta Waterfowl associate editor Tyler Shoberg reports on his organization's website (www.deltawaterfowl.org) that duck hunting season dates may begin as early as Sept. 27, 2014, and end as late as Jan. 25, 2015, depending on the flyway and state.
From that federal framework for late waterfowl hunting seasons, individual states will now go to work to select their own particular season dates and bag limits over the next few weeks.
“With record numbers of ducks returning to a prairie landscape covered in water, production likely was high (this year),” said Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl.
Meanwhile, Delta reports that the maximum daily bag limit is six ducks for each of North America's flyways with the lone exception being the Pacific Flyway. In the Pacific, hunters may take up to seven ducks each day.
Specifically, daily bag limits for hunters in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways may include up to four mallards while hunters in the Central Flyway can bag up to five mallards. In the Pacific Flyway, a hunter's entire bag limit of seven birds can consist of greenheads. In all of the flyways, however, no more than two mallards in the daily bag can be hens.
According to Delta, other daily bag limit restrictions include: two redhead and northern pintails (all flyways); one canvasback (all flyways); three scaup (lesser and greater) in the Mississippi, Central and Pacific flyways; only two scaup (lesser and greater) in the Atlantic Flyway; three wood ducks in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central Flyways; and one black duck or mottled duck in all flyways.
Like the news above for duck hunters, the regulation package news for the nation's goose hunters is also good. According to Delta, the breeding numbers for most goose species across the continent are good and biologists say that average to above-average fall flights are anticipated in most areas for Canada geese, light-geese (snows, blues and Ross geese), white-fronted geese and brant.
Because of that breeding news, Delta reports that the regulation framework for goose hunting is also a liberal package from which states can select their particular hunting season dates and bag limits.
The organization reports that the goose hunting framework for this upcoming season includes the following:
•Atlantic Flyway states will be allowed light goose daily bag limits of 25 with no possession limit. Canada goose seasons will vary depending on specific populations. Atlantic brant seasons can be 30 days long with a daily limit of two.•Mississippi Flyway states will have light-goose daily bag limits of 20 birds. White-fronted geese here can be hunted either 74 days with a two-bird limit or 88 days with a one-bird limit. The brant limit remains at one daily. Seasons for Canada goose seasons will vary depending on the state.
•Central Flyway hunters chasing Canada geese will find seasons that can last up to 107 days in length with a daily bag of eight in eastern-tier states or five in western-tier states. The exception is in Texas’ Western Goose Zone where the state could choose to select a 95-day season with a daily dark goose limit of five including no more than one whitefront. The daily bag limit on light geese is 50.
•Pacific Flyway states can select a season up to 107days in length for all species except brant. Proposed daily bag limits are 20 birds for light geese species, 10 white-fronted geese, and four Canada geese. For brant, the proposed season lengths are 16 days in Oregon and Washington and 30 days in California with a two-bird daily limit in all three states.
While it remains to be seen exactly what each state will do in terms of specific goose season dates and bag limits, the overall news is good for goose hunters, meaning that there should be ample opportunity for wingshooters as plenty of geese wing their way south this fall.
“Goose numbers continue to be (strong)," said Rohwer. "With liberalized seasons and a healthy fall flight heading their way, hunters will have ample opportunity to chase their favorite target species in the coming months.”
So what's the bottom line to all of this regulation talk? Simply this: if you like to chase ducks and geese, there should be plenty of reason to set the alarm, pack the decoys and scattergun, and head for your nearest marsh. Because this fall should be nothing short of amazing for America's waterfowlers.
With some of the highest modern numbers of ducks and geese ever observed in North America, make plans now to get out and see for yourself.