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Duck openers set for Sept. 24, Oct. 1

Exterior goose could go 92 days

By Tim EiseleCorrespondent

Spooner, Wis. — It will be 60 days and six ducks for
Wisconsin’s duck hunters in 2005.

The Natural Resources Board, at its Aug. 17 meeting in
Spooner, approved a duck season that will run for 60 days and allow
hunters a daily bag limit of up to six ducks.

There are, however, restrictions on ducks allowed in the
daily bag.

“I think we’ll have a fair duck season, with a lot
depending on the weather and hunters’ advance scouting,” said Kent
Van Horn, DNR waterfowl ecologist. “Goose hunting this year should
be fairly good. Usually the first migrating geese arrive about the
third week of September.”

The duck season will open at noon on Saturday, Sept. 24 in
the Northern Zone and run continuously through Nov. 22.

The zone boundary between the north and south remains
unchanged from last year (in general, the southern zone includes
the Door County peninsula, the area south of Hwy. 10 across the
central counties, and the area south of Hwy. 77 in the northwest).
That line may change in future seasons.

In the Southern Zone, the season will open at noon on
Saturday, Oct. 1 and continue through Oct. 9. The season will close
for five days, then reopen on Oct. 15 and continue through Dec.

The daily bag limit is six ducks, including no more than
four mallards (of which only one may be a hen), one black duck, one
pintail, one canvasback (open only from Oct. 15 through Nov. 13
statewide), two wood ducks, two redheads, and two scaup (also known
as bluebills).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reduced the bag limit
on bluebills from three last year to two this year because of low
numbers. The USFWS also will allow states to include two hen
mallards in the daily bag limit, but Wisconsin traditionally
recommends one hen in order to protect local breeding hens, which
tend to return and breed in the same areas each year.

Last year, the pintail season was only open for a limited
time within the full season, but this year pintails will be open
throughout the entire season. Canvasbacks, however, have a “season
within a season,” from Oct. 15 to Nov. 13.

The Canada goose season includes an Exterior Zone that
opens Sept. 17, with a one-goose bag limit per day from Sept. 17
through Oct. 2, and two birds per day from Oct. 3 through Dec. 17
(Dec. 14 in the Mississippi River Subzone), or until the quota is
reached. The DNR started the Exterior Zone season with a one-goose
bag limit to increase the chances the season might extend its full
92-day maximum length.

The Exterior Zone season has the usual modifications for
opening day of the duck season, where it closes in the north at the
end of shooting hours Sept. 23 and doesn’t reopen until noon on
Sept. 24. Similarly, in the south the season closes at the end of
shooting hours Sept. 30 and reopens at noon on Oct. 1.

The Horicon Zone goose season’s first of four periods
opens Sept. 16, and applicants for the Horicon Zone will probably
receive four tags. The daily limit is two Canada geese.

The Collins Zone will have three periods, with the first
opening Sept. 16, and a daily limit of two Canada geese.

The Mississippi River subzone opens at noon Oct. 1 and
closes Oct. 9, reopening Oct. 15 and closing on Dec. 14.

A youth-only waterfowl hunting weekend will run Sept.
17-18, allowing 12- to 15-year-olds to hunt Canada geese and ducks.
Youths must be accompanied by an adult guardian, and the adult
cannot hunt ducks during that time, but can hunt geese where

Van Horn said public hearings showed there was some
concern about opening shooting hours at noon on opening day. Some
hunters would like the shooting hours to open one-half hour before
sunrise, as they do the rest of the season. The DNR will review the
tradition of a noon opener and may recommend changes to opening-day
hours next year.

Some of the issues the DNR considered when setting
seasons, and were mentioned at public hearings on waterfowl
regulations, include the two opening dates for duck seasons in the
north and south. Van Horn said hunters in the north near the
dividing line between the two zones see hunters from the south
coming in to hunt the northern opener. They don’t like the extra
pressure and would prefer one statewide opener.

Opening-day shooting hours are drawing attention, as the
state normally opens at noon because of congestion and potential
problems at landings on public hunting areas, but some hunters say
they’re losing hunting time and would like a standard opening of
one-half hour before sunrise.

“We are recommending the noon opener this year, but we
will review the concerns about high-density areas and take a look
and see if we can adjust that or make changes next year,” Van Horn

The Canada goose bag limit of one in the early part of the
Exterior Zone is offered to improve the chances the season will
extend its full length. Some hunters would rather take two birds at
the beginning of the season, while others want the season to go
later into December. The compromise is for one bird during the
first 16 days, allowing early pressure on locally nesting giant
Canada geese, and a two-goose limit on Oct. 3.

During public appearances, Dick Koerner, of Neenah, told
the board the Conservation Congress supports the season
recommendations, but would like to see shooting hours on opening
day begin one-half hour before sunrise.

Ben Neimann, of Hayward, concurred with the proposed
regulations, saying he would prefer a longer season and is willing
to have fewer birds in the bag in order to have more hunting

Peter Peshek, of Madison, encouraged the DNR to provide
opportunities for hunters who enjoy late-season hunting on Lake

“The real agenda now is to look ahead to the 2006 to 2010
seasons,” Peshek said. “Waterfowl hunting ought to be physically
demanding, intellectually challenging, and spiritually rewarding.
With the technology available, we ought to seriously consider
having a late-season Lake Michigan-Green Bay Zone, and the board
should find a way to not have to decide between Lake Michigan
hunters and Mississippi River hunters for the late-season

Peshek also forwarded concerns from some youth hunters
regarding the overlap of the youth hunt with the opening of
goose-hunting season.

Donald Smith, of La Crescent, Minn., supported the duck
regulations and DNR efforts to designate additional waterfowl
hunting zones in the state.

In response to a question from Jonathan Ela, board member
from Madison, about the inability of the state to create more zones
this year, Van Horn explained that the USFWS is concerned that more
flexibility will cloud the impact of other decisions they make on
duck seasons. Too many changes could make it more difficult to see
the result of regulation changes.

“We think they (USFWS) should allow states to make these
changes,” Van Horn added.

Christine Thomas, board member from Stevens Point, asked
about the reason for taking hunting time away from hunters with the
noon opener on opening day. Van Horn said Wisconsin has the fourth
highest number of duck hunters in the nation and a concern is the
high density of hunters on popular public hunting areas, especially
at boat landings, as hunters try to load gear and dogs and launch
boats before daylight.

“We are concerned from a safety standpoint, but we’d like
to look at that for next year,” Van Horn said.

Other facts Van Horn presented on the waterfowl seasons

  • Wisconsin has about 75,000 waterfowlers, fourth highest
    in the U.S. in terms of duck hunter numbers, and is second highest
    in the number of goose hunters.

  • Spring surveys saw average to dry conditions on the
    prairies, though additional moisture came later and production is
    expected to be about average. The mid-continent mallard population,
    used in setting seasons, was 10 percent below the long-term
    average, although pond numbers in Canada were above average.

  • The percentage of birds in Wisconsin’s harvest includes
    39 percent mallards, 16 percent wood ducks, 11 percent green-winged
    teal, and 8 percent blue-winged teal. All but greenwings are major
    nesters in Wisconsin.

  • The Canada goose harvest in Wisconsin continues to shift
    toward local giant Canada geese and away from the migrating
    Mississippi Valley Population of Canada geese, which the state
    considers to be a good trend. It puts additional pressure on the
    local nesting “problem” geese and allows the state a larger MVP
    goose quota.

  • In the future, the DNR will consider options with the
    Horicon Intensive Zone, and may eliminate it. There no longer are
    high concentrations of goose hunters that originally necessitated
    the zone, but the DNR is concerned that if the zone is eliminated
    the harvest will increase, forcing the agency to reduce the number
    of goose tags hunters receive for the Horicon Zone, or it could
    reduce the number of geese that can be harvested in the Exterior

  • The DNR would like to change the zone boundary between
    the north and south zones, but the USFWS won’t allow changes to be
    made until 2006. Hunters are interested in a change to the zone
    which runs through Burnett County. Also, hunters on the Mississippi
    River and Lake Michigan have asked for consideration for later
    gunning opportunities there.

The USFWS is now taking public comment on proposed zone
changes for 2006, and comments may be made until the end of August.
The Natural Resources Board has asked the Wisconsin Congressional
delegation to help secure changes in boundaries for

The DNR intends to have a question about the north/south
zone boundary on the spring hearing agenda next April.

People may comment and request more zone options for
Wisconsin in 2006 and later seasons.

Comments should be sent to: Mathew Hogan, acting director,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Main Interior Building, 1849 C
Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240. Comments must be received by
Aug. 30, 2005.

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