Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Harvests of ducks and geese increase in ’03

Associate Editor

Fort Snelling, Minn. The harvest of ducks and geese increased
last year in Wisconsin, according to preliminary data released by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Surveys indicate the total state duck harvest rose about 28
percent, from a harvest of about 530,000 in 2002 to 677,000 in
’03.

The goose harvest composed mainly of Canada geese rose more than
40 percent, from about 106,000 in ’02 to about 151,000 last
year.

Federal officials use the harvest data, along with several other
pieces of information, to determine season frameworks for the
upcoming season.

Flyway Council members met in Duluth, Minn., last week. A
framework recommendation was expected there. After that, the
Wisconsin DNR will host a series of meetings to determine which
season dates will be most favorable for Wisconsin hunters.

An increased population of Mississippi Valley Population (MVP)
of Canada geese likely added to the Wisconsin goose kill last year.
The September season, that targets resident giant Canada geese,
also has added to the harvest, not only in Wisconsin, but several
other Mississippi Flyway States.

Hunters in Minnesota again had an impressive goose kill; the
286,800 harvested there made up nearly 20 percent of the entire
flyway goose harvest. Louisiana hunters killed about 172,000 geese,
while those in Arkansas harvested about 163,000.

“The thing that really jumps out at me is the Canada goose
harvest and how important it’s become in some states,” said Steve
Wilds, USFWS Region 3 Division of Migratory Birds chief at Fort
Snelling, Minn.

“There are many states that didn’t really have much of a goose
harvest before, but are harvesting a lot of them now.”

Wisconsin officials say state goose hunters should take
advantage of the early September hunt this year. Poor production of
MVP geese on their Canadian breeding grounds is setting the stage
for a limited “regular” goose season this year.

Keith VanHorn, DNR waterfowl ecologist, predicted a much lower
quota from the USFWS for MVP geese this fall.

Ducks

Initial reports from flyway officials on whether the duck season
would continue a decade-long series of liberal seasons (60 days,
six ducks) was questionable early last week, but Wisconsin
Conservation chairman Steve Oestreicher said he received enough
inside information to lead him to believe a 60-day season was
likely. If the USFWS does not offer a 60-day duck hunt, it would be
because breeding conditions were mixed across Canada and the Upper
Midwest this spring. Needed rains came to many areas, but
biologists weren’t sure if they came in time to aid in duck
production.

“I’m hearing that we will get a 60-day season,” Oestreicher
said. “If that comes about, then the next question would be whether
we would want to open on Saturday, Sept. 25.”

Oestreicher said northern zone hunters might want a Sept. 25
opener, while southern zone hunters might opt for an Oct. 2 or Oct.
9 opener.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi Flyway duck harvest was up about 13
percent last year, to about 6.8 million ducks. Louisiana hunters
rebounded from a poor 2002-03 duck hunting season by killing 1.3
million ducks, tops in the Mississippi Flyway. Arkansas hunters
took about 1.1 million ducks, while Minnesota came in third in the
flyway with about 844,000 ducks harvested.

Wilds said while the harvest numbers are preliminary, “they’re
pretty close.” This is the second year when federal officials count
solely on Harvest Information Program surveys to estimate the
harvest.

“HIP gives us a much better sampling scheme and a much better
sampling base,” Wilds said.

In Wisconsin, mallards accounted for about 37 percent of the
total duck harvest. They were followed by wood ducks (18 percent),
green-winged teal (11 percent), bufflehead (5.6 percent), and
blue-winged teal (4.8 percent).

Same boundaries

The USFWS recently rejected a request from the Wisconsin DNR to
re-establish northern and southern ducking hunting zone boundaries
in the state. The USFWS allows such changes to occur every five
years. Jim Kelley, a wildlife biologist with the USFWS, said
allowing a premature change by Wisconsin could’ve set in motion
several other requests for changes in other states.

VanHorn has appealed that decision, but said he does not yet
know whether the USFWS will change its stance.

If not, Wisconsin hunters will have to wait until 2006 to
request changes in a boundary system that sometimes “freezes out”
northern hunters (in the southern zone) during the latter part of
the duck season.

This week, the USFWS recommended a liberal, 60-day season. The
Flyway Council, made up of all states in flyway, must approve, and
then a couple other approvals are needed.

Public meetings

Meeting dates for Wisconsin hunters are as follows:

July 30, Waupaca: Wisconsin Conservation Congress Migratory
Committee will convene at 7 p.m. at the Comfort Suites Foxfire to
review north and south boundary zones. For information, contact
AnnMarie Kutzke at (608) 266-2952.

July 31, Waupaca: The DNR will hold a meeting at which
representatives of state groups will meet to discuss waterfowl
season dates and bag limits. DNR staff will present information on
proposed 2004 waterfowl season framework discussed at the flyway
council. The meeting will be from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the
Comfort Suites Foxfire, 205 Foxfire Drive.

The DNR will hold public hearings Aug. 2-5:

Aug. 2, La Crosse: Basement auditorium, Administrative Center,
400 4th St. North.

Aug. 3, Spooner: University of Wisconsin Experimental Farm,
W6646 Hwy. 70.

Aug. 4, Green Bay: Room 310, Green Bay City Hall, 100 N.
Jefferson St.

August 5, Pewaukee: Comfort Suites, N14 W24121 Tower Place (Hwy.
J and I-94).

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