Duck Season in South Dakota Set with Third Year of Hunter’s Choice Experiment

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Duck Season in South Dakota Set with Third Year of Hunter’s Choice ExperimentFORT SISSETON HISTORIC STATE PARK, S.D.–As it enters its third and final year, the Hunter’s Choice experiment for duck hunters seems to be achieving its desired effects. That’s what Game, Fish and Parks Commissioners heard prior to finalizing the state duck hunting season at their August meeting at Fort Sisseton Historic State Park.

“We’re saving a lot of hen mallards with Hunter’s Choice,” GFP Senior Waterfowl Biologist Spencer Vaa told commissioners. Hunter’s Choice uses an aggregate bag of one hen mallard or one pintail or one canvasback. This limits the harvest of species that need protection while maintaining a full hunting opportunity on more abundant species. Prior to the implementation of Hunter’s Choice, South Dakota’s duck season used a season-within-a-season for the taking of pintails and canvasbacks.

“In two years of Hunter’s Choice, it looks like it’s doing what we wanted it to,” said Wildlife Division Assistant Director George Vandel, “limiting harvest without limiting hunting opportunity.”

Vandel reminded commissioners that federal regulations govern the taking of migratory birds. “You have to work with the other states in the Central Flyway,” Vandel said. “As a state, you just can’t do what you want.”

The original proposal before commissioners offered a limit of three wood ducks. Taking its direction from the Central Flyway, that limit was reduced to two wood ducks in the finalized season. For South Dakota, the daily duck bag limit is five comprised of no more than two scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one hen mallard or one pintail or one canvasback.

“Canvasbacks took a pretty good hit,” Vandel said. Of the four flyways, the states in the Central Flyway are the only ones eligible to hunt canvasbacks this year. That season is closed in the other three flyways.

In South Dakota there will also be a daily limit of 15 coot and five mergansers with the merganser bag limited to no more than two hooded mergansers. Possession limits are twice the daily bag limit.

Season dates are Oct. 4 through Jan. 8, 2009, in the High Plains; Sept. 27 through Dec. 9 in the Low Plains North and Low Plains Middle; and Oct. 11 through Dec. 23 in the Low Plains South.

As the Hunter’s Choice experiment comes to an end, Vandel said the next step will be an evaluation of the results. “We’ll study how to incorporate Hunter’s Choice into our season or if hunters even want Hunter’s Choice.” According to Vandel, part of the evaluation will include a survey of waterfowl hunters.