2008-09 Migratory Game Bird Seasons and Bag Limits Selected in Pennsylvania
“Waterfowl and migratory game bird hunters will see some changes, including modifications to the Canada goose zone boundaries and expanded opportunities for wood ducks, Atlantic brant and doves,” Roe said. “However, the season for canvasbacks has been closed for 2008-09, and bag limits for scaup have been modified.”
Annual waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Game Commission selections were made after reviewing last year’s season results, waterfowl survey data, and input gathered from waterfowl hunters and the public. Final approval from the USFWS is expected by late September.
In addition to releasing waterfowl seasons, Roe also noted that the Game Commission again has posted the waterfowl seasons brochure and maps on its website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). The agency currently is mass-producing brochures to be distributed to U.S. Post Offices within the next two weeks.
“Many hunters already have purchased their hunting licenses and federal waterfowl stamps in anticipation of the season,” Roe said. “For their convenience, in addition to being able to pick up the waterfowl brochure and maps at post offices and license issuing agents, hunters can obtain this important information from the Game Commission’s website.”
John Dunn, Game Commission Game Bird Section supervisor, said the federal frameworks are again allowing for a 60-day season with a six-duck daily bag limit, with the usual species restrictions and bag limits, except for wood ducks, canvasbacks and scaup. Wood duck limits have been increased to three daily and six in possession. While the season for canvasbacks has been closed, bag limits for scaup have been modified to a two-bird daily bag limit for a portion of the season and a one-bird daily limit for the remainder of the season.
“Recent analysis of wood duck harvest rates and populations by the USFWS suggests wood ducks can tolerate more hunting pressure than currently exists,” Dunn said. “An increase in the wood duck daily bag limit will provide more opportunity on this plentiful duck species. Wood ducks are the second most abundant duck in Pennsylvania’s waterfowl harvest. Monitoring tools such as banding and breeding population surveys are presently in place to measure any impacts caused by the bag limit change on wood ducks. Information gained from this bag limit change will help the USFWS and flyway councils develop a wood duck harvest strategy to help better manage this important duck species.”
Dunn noted that a decline in the canvasback breeding population and poor habitat conditions in their prairie nesting habitats have made it necessary to close the season this year, since the predicted harvest with a restrictive season would exceed the allowable harvest specified in the Canvasback Harvest Strategy.
Dunn added that scaup also are undergoing hard times.
“Waterfowl managers continue to be concerned about the status of scaup,” Dunn noted. “This year’s breeding population estimate for scaup was 27 percent below the long-term average. The USFWS is seeking a 25 percent reduction in scaup harvest commensurate with the status of this duck species. To maintain the diving duck hunting tradition on important scaup harvest areas, such as Lake Erie, we were allowed to implement a hybrid scaup season composed of a two-bird bag for 20 consecutive days during the 60-day duck season.”
Once again, young Pennsylvania hunters will be provided with a special day of waterfowl hunting on Saturday, Sept. 20. The Youth Waterfowl Day will be open to those 12-15 years of age who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During this special day-long hunt, youth can harvest ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens, as well as Canada geese, depending upon the zones that they are hunting in. Youth Waterfowl Day bag limits for ducks, mergansers and coots will be consistent with the limit for the regular season.
Also, this agency again will hold a special youth-only waterfowl hunting day at the controlled hunting blinds at both Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. The youth day for Middle Creek is Nov. 15, for Pymatuning, Nov. 29. A special drawing of applications submitted by junior license holders will be held immediately before the regular drawing for goose blinds. Interested youth should use the same application on page 29 of the 2008-09 Digest. Only one application will be accepted per junior hunter.
Dunn noted that there have been modifications to the other migratory game bird seasons that previously were announced. All changes are reflected in the 2008-09 brochure. The seasons, including adjustments, are:
– There will be only three zones for managing Canada geese this year: the Southern James Bay Population, the Atlantic Population and Resident Population. For boundary zone descriptions, as well as season dates and bag limits for the early, regular and late Canada goose seasons, please see the listing at the end of this news release;
– Dove season dates are: Sept. 1-27, when hunting will start at noon and continue through sunset daily; and Oct. 25-Nov. 29, and Dec. 26-Jan. 1, with hunting hours a half-hour before sunrise until sunset. In all three seasons, the daily bag limit is 15, and the possession limit after opening day is 30;
– Pennsylvania’s woodcock season will open Oct. 18, and continue through Nov. 15. The daily limit is three, and the possession limit is six;
– A season for common snipe will run from Oct. 18 to Nov. 29. The daily limit is 8, and the possession limit is 16;
– Virginia and sora rail hunting will run Sept. 1-Nov. 8. Bag limits, which can be one species or combined, are 3 daily or 6 in possession. The season for king and clapper rails is closed; and
– Hunting for moorhen and gallinules will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 8, and the bag limits are three daily and six in possession.
In addition to a regular Pennsylvania hunting license, persons 16 and older must have a Federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp, commonly referred to as a “Duck Stamp,” signed in ink across its face. All waterfowl hunters, regardless of age, must have a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License to hunt waterfowl and other migratory birds, including doves, woodcock, coots, moorhens, rails and snipe. All migratory game bird hunters in the United States are required to complete a Harvest Information Program survey when they purchase a state migratory game bird license. The survey information is then forwarded to the USFWS.
“By answering the questions on the survey card, hunters will improve survey efficiency and the quality of information used to track the harvest of migratory birds for management purposes,” Dunn said.
Hunters must use non-toxic shot while hunting ducks, geese or coots in Pennsylvania. The use of decoys powered or operated by batteries or any other source of electricity is unlawful in Pennsylvania. Also, the use of any sort of artificial substance or product as bait or an attractant is prohibited.
Dunn noted that, although hunting hours have been extended to one-half hour after sunset for big game (except spring gobbler), as well as small game and furbearers, federal regulations prevail for waterfowl and migratory game birds and shooting hours for these species will continue to close at sunset. The only exception to this is during the early September Canada goose season, in which the USFWS has permitted states to extend the hunting hours to one-half hour after sunset, and the first part of the dove season (Sept. 1-27), when hunting hours are from noon through sunset.