Waterfowl Regulation Process Complicated; 2003-04 Orders Now Available
GREEN RIVER -- Two words sum up migratory game bird hunting: a blast. However, one word sums up the process of setting the migratory game bird seasons: complex.
Wyoming has two migratory game bird seasons: early and late. During the early season (typically a Sept. 1 opening) limited quota sandhill crane and Canada geese, plus mourning dove, snipe and rail seasons kick off. During the late season (generally late September or early October) ducks, mergansers, coots and Canada geese may be legally hunted.
Wyoming’s Late Migratory Game Bird Regulations are now available at license agents and G&F offices.
When it comes to waterfowl management in Wyoming, waterfowl hunters might be interested to know that, although state biologists have some input, it isn’t a Game and Fish Department waterfowl biologist that sets the seasons.
There are four flyway councils consisting of representatives from state and provincial wildlife agencies. The councils review waterfowl biological information and develop regulatory proposals for consideration by federal governments. Federal harvest guidelines are then established and hunting regulations are then promulgated on a state or provincial basis. Hunting regulations typically specify season dates, daily bag limits and legal methods of take.
Even when waterfowl seasons are finally set conditions such as drought or other limiting factors may result in a last minute “emergency ruling” to protect the birds.
G&F Waterfowl Biologist Larry Roberts explains there is always a potential for changes in the harvest management each year.
“We had originally proposed a split season in the Pacific Flyway because we thought we might be in the restrictive Adaptive Harvest Management duck hunting package,” Roberts said. “That package has a much shorter season length than the liberal package we are in now. In an attempt to satisfy the groups of hunters who want to hunt ducks early, mid-season and late season, if we were to be in the restrictive package, we would have split the season. We can open the duck season on the Saturday closest to Sept. 24; Sept. 27 in 2003, Sept. 21 back in 2002 and Sept. 25 in 2004.”
G&F Staff Wildlife Biologist Joe Bohne says there are a number of hunting days allocated to each species for the early and late migratory game bird seasons.
“In the late hunt, the goose season ends eight days earlier than the duck season, since eight days out of the 107 allocated for geese were during the early migratory game bird hunt,” he said.
Bohne says the duck season is based on the liberal package due to good nesting and production in the mid-continent mallard population and is 107 days long with a seven-bird bag.
“However, pintails and canvasbacks are well below the goals set in the North American Waterfowl Plan and merit only a short season within a season and a one-bird bag,” Bohne said.
In addition, the number of birds harvested in the early season was reduced in some hunt areas.
“Wyoming has an early eight-day Canada goose and, in some areas, sandhill crane season by permit only, in specific areas, to deal with ‘damage’ problems. Since crane numbers are declining in Star Valley and the Bear River area, and in the Rocky Mountain population as a whole, the number of permits for both geese and cranes has declined in these areas,” he said.
Migratory game bird hunters must have a valid early sandhill crane and goose permit, Wyoming game bird license, nontoxic shot (steel, tungsten or bismuth) and the federal Harvest Information Program or “HIP” stamp. The Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (“duck stamp”) is required to hunt geese, mergansers and ducks for hunters 16 years of age and older. A duck stamp is not required to take mourning doves, sandhill cranes, coots, snipe, rails or crows.
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