NRC mulls 60-day duck, 45-day goose seasons

Lansing – The stage appeared to be set for a little simpler
waterfowl hunting season this year.

At press time, the Michigan Waterfowl Advisory Committee and the
DNR’s Wildlife Division had drawn up joint recommendations for the
Natural Resources Commission, which oversees DNR policies and
programs and sets regulations within frameworks established by the
federal government.

The commission typically accepts such joint recommendations, but
is not bound to. It was expected to act at its Aug. 14 meeting in
Lansing.

Highlights of the proposed regulations included a bigger bag
limit on wood ducks, and simpler rules for goose hunting.

Counter-weighing them somewhat is a closure on canvasback
hunting and some cutbacks in the scaup (bluebill) bag.

Barbara Avers, newly named waterfowl specialist in the DNR’s
Wildlife Division said the federal framework was designated a
“liberal” rules package within its adaptive management system. It
allows a 60-day duck season with a six-bird bag limit, lesser
numbers of some species within it.

The federal framework allows for four of those ducks to be
mallards, no more than two of them hens.

Avers said that Michigan, as in the past, likely will limit
hunters to a single hen mallard, reflecting continuing concern
about depressed mallard numbers. Hunting harvest is not believed to
be at fault, but Michigan managers and hunters have agreed to give
the birds a boost.

Even though mid-continent mallards fared pretty well, in
Michigan a mallard survey pegged breeding “down substantially, in
fact, the lowest on record,” Avers said.

Avers said spring weather may have hampered not just breeding,
but surveying as well. New observers were used, too. But, “We think
it is really tied to habitat conditions. The decline coincides
pretty well with the decline in pond numbers and the drop in Great
Lakes levels; we can’t test that theory, though, until water levels
and pond numbers come back up. But it does not appear to be a
result of harvest pressure.”

There is bright news: “A big change,” Avers said, “is that
hunters will (if the NRC concurs) be allowed three wood ducks
instead of two,” reflecting rising numbers of the birds.

Hunting for canvasbacks will be closed this year.

And scaup (bluebill) hunting will look different. Scaup numbers
remain similar to last year, Avers said, but still about 27 percent
below the long-term average.

The federal frameworks allow a two-scaup daily limit for 20
consecutive days of the duck season, a one-bird bag the other
40.

“We looked at our scaup harvest in five-day intervals for
several years and tried to correlate our two-bird portion of the
season with the peak,” Avers said.

Asked if that didn’t end-run the goal of limiting the harvest,
Avers noted that, “The feds feel the population can sustain this
kind of harvest,” and CWAC and the DNR sought to maximize hunting
potential within the frameworks the feds set.

The package to be presented for commission action was to
include:

€ North Zone (Upper Peninsula): A single duck season running
Oct. 4-Dec. 2. Scaup hunters could take two birds Oct. 11-30.

€ Middle Zone (Northern Lower Peninsula): Oct. 4-Nov. 30, and
Dec. 6-7; scaup, two-bird Oct. 18-Nov. 6.

€ South Zone (Southern Lower Peninsula): Oct. 11-Dec. 7, and
Jan. 3-4; two-bird scaup season Oct. 25-Nov. 13.

Bigger changes come in proposed goose-hunting rules.

Last year, Michigan asked the Flyway Council for the OK to
manage its goose hunting on the same zonal map as duck hunting.

Last year, because some states had not bought into the proposal,
the answer was no.

This year, the answer was yes. And, the state also got approval
for a 45-day goose season.

“At the flyway level we’re looking at more holistic management:
a Canada goose is a Canada goose is a Canada goose,” Avers said.
And so, no longer would Michigan goose hunts be based on zones of
Mississippi Flyway, southern James Bay, and local giant Canada
geese.

Regular goose-hunting seasons would be:

€ Northern Zone: Sept. 22-Nov. 5.

€ Middle Zone: Oct. 4-Nov. 10, and Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving
Day)-Dec. 3.

€ Southern Zone: Oct. 11-Nov. 13, and Nov. 27-Dec. 7.

The late goose season would run Jan. 3-Feb. 1, with a five-bird
bag.

In the Saginaw and Tuscola-Huron Goose Management Units, the
season would run the same as the regular goose season. Quotas will
be discontinued in all GMUs, and there’s a daily limit of two
birds. Those GMUs have a Jan. 3-Feb. 1 late season, with a two-bird
bag limit.

Goose hunting at Allegan GMU would run 45 days, Nov. 8-10 and
Dec. 10-Jan. 30, with a two-bird bag.

Muskegon Waste Water Management Unit would have a 45-day season
running Oct. 14-Nov. 13, and Dec. 2-15, with a limit of two
birds.

The Youth Hunt would be Sept. 20-21, statewide.

The early goose season, already commission-approved, includes a
bag limit expanded from three to five. In the Lower Peninsula
(except Saginaw, Huron, and Tuscola GMUs), it runs Sept. 1-15; in
the Upper Peninsula and those three GMUs, it’s Sept. 1-10.

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