Six ducks and 60 days

Correspondent

Superior, Wis. The Natural Resources Board has approved a 60-day
duck hunting season with a Sept. 27 opener in the north and an Oct.
4 opener in the south.

Bag limits will be six ducks daily with a 30-day “season with a
season” for both pintails and canvasbacks.

The board also approved a goose hunting season that opens the
Horicon and Collins zones on Sept. 16 and the Exterior Zone on
Sept. 20 (the Mississippi River subzone opens Oct. 4). The season
includes an increased quota this year of 85,500 Canada geese.

Meeting here Aug. 13, the board endorsed a DNR framework that
will open the northern duck zone at noon Sept. 27 and run through
Nov. 25 without a break.

The southern zone will be split, opening at noon on Oct. 4 and
closing temporarily Oct. 12. The southern duck zone season will
then reopen on Oct. 18 and run through Dec. 7.

Shooting hours are one half-hour before sunrise to sunset, and
the six-duck daily bag limit can include not more than four
mallards (only one hen mallard), one black duck, two redheads,
three scaup, and two wood ducks. In addition, the bag can include
no more than one pintail, with the pintail season only open from
Sept. 27 through Oct. 26 in the north. In the southern zone,
pintail season is open from Oct. 4 to Oct. 12, and then from Oct.
18 to Nov. 7.

The daily bag can also include no more than one canvasback, with
the canvasback season open from Sept. 27 to Oct. 26 in the north.
In the southern zone, canvasbacks will be legal from Oct. 18
through Nov. 16.

In accepting the liberal season proposed by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (USFWS), the DNR noted that USFWS surveys of the
waterfowl breeding grounds showed the mallard population was up 6
percent from last year and the number of ponds used by breeding
waterfowl were up 35 percent from last year.

Kurt Thiede, DNR wildlife regulations specialist, told the board
the DNR was recommending keeping the daily bag limit at one hen
mallard to protect local breeders. Most waterfowl hunting groups
also supported keeping the bag at one hen mallard, and other states
(including Michigan and Ohio) plan to reduce their daily bag limit
on hen mallards.

Individual board members suggested three amendments which would
have: opened the northern and southern duck hunting zones
concurrently on Sept. 27; opened the Exterior Zone Canada goose
season on the same day as duck season; and allowed hunters to shoot
two hen mallards per day after Oct. 18.

Several board members expressed a desire to have a more liberal
season on hen mallards since it is allowed by the USFWS and most
other states take advantage of that. Several also wanted the same
opening date for goose and ducks, saying an earlier opening for
geese may encourage ducks to migrate earlier.

Each of the proposals failed to receive approval from a majority
of board members.

Several people representing waterfowl groups provided comments
on the proposed seasons. Peter Peshek, a waterfowler from Madison,
asked the board to consider ways to extend the hunt into the colder
months.

“It’s not about duck numbers in the bag,” he said. Rather, duck
hunting has to do with the weather, dogs, and enjoying time in the
marsh.

Steve Oestreicher, chairman of the Conservation Congress, said
last year large migrations of ducks passed through northern
Wisconsin while the season was closed during the split. Oestreicher
also made a pitch for the two-hen mallard limit later in the
season.

“I personally don’t see why we can’t go with a two hen mallards
later in the season you can’t stockpile ducks. By that time of the
year, the majority of the local hens are gone and we’d be
harvesting migrant birds,” Oestreicher said.

Dick Koerner, chairman of the Conservation Congress Migratory
Committee, supported most parts of the proposals, but said some
hunters wanted the same opener for the exterior goose zone and duck
season.

Matt Ruwaldt, wildlife ecologist with the Wisconsin Waterfowl
Association, said he was pleased with the 60-day season. He urged
the board to go along with the DNR on a one-hen mallard bag
limit.

“A survey showed that 83 percent of our members support the
one-hen mallard daily bag limit,” Ruwaldt said. “Our members are
conservation-minded, and know that letting hens go will always
result in more nests.”

Ruwaldt added that although some hunters are concerned about
shooting local hen mallards early, and willing to expand the bag
limit later in the season, local ducks and northern ducks all
produce offspring for future years and there should be concerned
about all ducks.

The reduced bag on hen mallards also sets a good example for
other states. Ruwaldt said that some other states, such as
Michigan, Ohio, and Arkansas, are beginning to become more
conservative in their limits on mallards.

The board approved the youth waterfowl hunt for kids ages 12 to
15 to be held statewide, Sept. 20-21. The daily bag limit will be
the same as the regular duck and goose season.

Goose season framework

The state received a Canada goose harvest quota of 85,500 for
the 2003 season, compared to 44,000 last year.

The first periods of both the Horicon and Collins zones will
open for Canada goose hunting on Sept. 16, with the Horicon Zone’s
fourth and final hunting period ending Dec. 17 and the Collins
Zone’s third and final hunting period ending Nov. 21.

The Exterior Zone will open in both the north and south zones on
Sept. 20. Specific portions of the Exterior Zone include the
Mississippi River Subzone opening Oct. 4 (at noon), the Rock County
Subzone opening Sept. 20, and the Brown County Subzone opening
Sept. 20.

The DNR told the board that public comments and waterfowl groups
clearly supported an Exterior Canada goose season that starts
concurrently with the duck season.

However, the DNR says the earlier goose opener is a matter of
population management and control. The local (or giant) Canada
goose population continues to soar above population goals, and the
DNR believes the earlier opening will allow hunters more chances to
harvest giant Canada geese.

Thiede told the board that Michigan was in a similar situation
and offered a late September goose season.

“They are now seeing a decline in the population of local geese,
and we hope that a similar season will focus on these local Canada
geese here,” Thiede said.

Thiede added that it will be in Wisconsin goose hunters’ favor
to increase the percentage of local Canada geese in the harvest. If
that occurs, Wisconsin will be allowed a higher percentage of
Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) Canada geese in future
quotas.

More work to be done

Board members told the DNR they were unhappy that the Crex
Meadows Wildlife Area is included in the southern zone. The board
requested the DNR look for ways, including through the state’s
congressional delegation, to request a change of that zone from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After the meeting, Oestreicher said he’s going to get the
Conservation Congress working with other state waterfowl groups to
iron out problems with the “split lines” and zone boundaries.

“We’ll put together an ad hoc committee of about 10 people from
the congress and other groups to work out those problems,” he said.
“Folks on Green Bay and the Mississippi River would like to hunt
the first of the year, if they could. We have to get the big-water
folks in the same zone. We will probably start meeting in
December.”

Oestreicher said the state has been told by the USFWS that no
such changes can be made until 2006.

“But we will make inquiries to the Mississippi Flyway Council
and the Fish and Wildlife Service to see if we can get that changed
earlier,” he said.

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