State duck season to open Sept. 29
Wisconsin's 2001 duck hunting season will open at noon on Saturday, Sept. 29, and the Canada goose hunting season will open in the Exterior Zone on Oct. 6.
Horicon and Collins Canada goose zones open Sept. 17.
This could be a frustrating year for some goose hunters.
They're likely to see many geese, although regs won't allow hunters to shoot many birds.
"Following the early September special Canada goose season, hunters are likely to see lots of Canada geese but they won't be able to shoot them," said Jon Bergquist, waterfowl ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The reason is that Canada geese that migrate through Wisconsin from Hudson Bay, known as the Mississippi Valley Population (MVP), decreased by 56 percent from last year. The spring population was 48 percent below the population goal of 900,000 birds, and the number of nests decreased 5 percent.
This resulted in a decrease in the MVP quota given to Wisconsin, and dropped the number of tags issued. Although the tag numbers won't be known until the week of Aug. 27, the DNR estimates that Collins Zone hunters will receive two tags each and most Horicon Zone hunters will receive one tag each, with maybe as many as one-third of the hunters receiving two tags.
"I cautioned people last year that the survey results were possibly a little high, as the surveys were conducted a little later and probably picked up a large number of migrating unsuccessful breeders heading north to molt," Bergquist said.
"Last year reproduction was not good and fewer geese returned to the breeding grounds this spring. However, this year there was a good number of goslings and hunters should see a high percentage of young-of-the-year birds in the flocks."
That means hunters could see many geese working their decoys, but the quotas will restrict the harvest.
This year's statewide maximum harvest of Canada geese is 41,500, a 45 percent reduction from last year.
The Collins Zone will be open for 66 days, from Sept. 17 through Nov. 30, with a bag limit of one Canada goose per permit holder. The Horizon Zone will be open for 94 days, from Sept. 17 through Dec. 19, with a bag limit of one Canada goose per permit holder.
The Exterior Zone could be open for 70 days for Canada geese, with an opening one-half hour before sunrise on Oct. 6, through Dec. 14. If the maximum harvest is reached during the season, which Bergquist expects, the season will be closed. Within the Exterior Zone, there are three subzones for Canada geese with slightly different seasons. The Mississippi River Subzone will be open from Oct. 13 through Dec. 21; the Rock Prairie and Brown County zones from Oct. 6 through Dec. 14. The daily bag limit in these three subzones is one Canada goose per day (two in possession).
Wisconsin's giant Canada goose population, those birds that breed and spend the summer in the state, numbered 73,700 birds, decreasing 35 percent from last year. Giants are now breeding in all counties of the state and production was good to excellent, except in portions of northwestern Wisconsin and the Mississippi River where flooding in late April probably reduced nesting success.
Bergquist said that, based on band recoveries from 1997 to 1999, the MVP Committee of the Mississippi Flyway Council has revised the origins of Canada geese harvested in Wisconsin. That formula now indicates that 74 percent (previously 80 percent) of the Canada geese harvested in the state during the regular season are MVP geese, 24 percent (previously 19 percent) are giants (mostly produced within the state), 2 percent (previously 1 percent) from the Eastern Prairie Population (out of Manitoba), and 1 percent from the Tall Grass Prairie Population of Canada (near the Arctic Circle).
The 2001 duck season, approved by the Natural Resources Board Aug. 15, is 60 days in length (the same as last year), begins statewide Sept. 29, and closes on Nov. 27.
The daily bag limit is six ducks, including no more than four mallards (of which only one may be a hen), three scaup, two redheads, two wood ducks, one black duck, and one pintail.
One canvasback may be shot as part of the six-duck daily bag limit, but the canvasback season will only be open from Oct. 20 through Nov. 8.
Bergquist explained that he checked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists for the harvest and migration patterns of canvasbacks into Wisconsin. Drake canvasbacks are normally the first to migrate into the state and significant numbers normally arrive between Oct. 17-20. The DNR opened the 20-day season on "cans" at a time that drakes should be in the area and before the bulk of the hens arrive.
"The adult males leave the females once they start incubating and the males then molt with the non-breeding females and unsuccessful nesting females," Bergquist said. "The males then migrate first and the successful female breeding cans and young-of-the-year come through later. Opening the season on canvasbacks on Oct. 20 should focus hunting when adult males are present and before successful breeders are here."
Shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, the same as last year. The new season includes a youth hunt Sept. 15-16.
Bergquist said the state's total breeding duck population decreased 35 percent from last year, but was 31 percent above the long-term average.
The statewide estimate of breeding mallards was 164,000 birds, or a 60 percent decrease from last year. Bergquist said that a lot of rain the state received in May during the past two years may have hurt nesting attempts and lowered production. The FWS surveys of prairie Canada and the north central U.S. showed breeding duck populations 14 percent below last year, though 9 percent above the long-term average.
The FWS estimate of mallard populations was 17 percent below last year's estimate, but similar to the long-term average. Numbers of blue-winged teal declined 23 percent, wigeon declined 9 percent and canvasback decreased 18 percent from last year.
"Of course, the weather is a big factor in how the season progresses, but I expect hunters to have a good waterfowl season," Bergquist said.