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

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Duck hunters get 60 days, but not cans

Platteville, Wis. – State hunters will get a 2008 duck-hunting
season with a liberal format, just like last year, but with new
restrictions on scaup and canvasbacks.

The Natural Resources Board adopted DNR recommendations for a
60-day duck season with a daily bag limit of six ducks, to include
not more than four mallards (only one may be a hen), one black
duck, two redheads, three wood ducks, one pintail, and one scaup.
For 20 days during the season, the bag limit will increase to two
scaup daily.

The season on canvasback ducks is closed this year, based on a
decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, despite arguments
from the Mississippi Flyway Council and its member states,
including Wisconsin.

The duck season in the Northern Zone will open at 9 a.m. on
Saturday, Sept. 27 and close on Nov. 25. The two-bird bag limit on
scaup will begin Oct. 18 and end Nov. 6.

The season in the Southern Zone will open on Saturday, Oct. 4 at
9 a.m. and close at the end of shooting hours on Sunday, Oct. 12.
The season closes for five week days, and reopens Saturday, Oct. 18
and closes on Dec. 7. The two-bird bag limit on scaup in the South
Zone will begin Nov. 1 and end Nov. 20.

Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, told the board
there are always interesting twists in setting the duck season each
year. This year’s issues involve the closure of the season on
canvasbacks, which met with Van Horn’s disapproval.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service breeding waterfowl survey showed
canvasback numbers dropped 44 percent, but every waterfowl
biologist knows we didn’t lose 44 percent of the population in a
single year,” Van Horn said.

“There is no way we shot 400,000 canvasbacks last year, and they
didn’t just disappear.”

The second issue is the bag reduction for scaup, commonly known
as bluebills, to one daily, except during a 20-day period during
the season.

Van Horn pointed out that the scaup population is estimated to
be almost 4 million birds, which is the third most abundant duck
species. He said hunting is not the reason for the decline of scaup
populations, which had been around 7 million in the 1970s, and
there are other species that have lower populations and yet their
bag limit is six birds daily.

Hunters also could experience duck ID problems, as the
ring-necked duck looks similar to the bluebill; the ringneck limit
is six ducks.

In addition, confusion could result as hunters will begin with a
bag limit of one scaup daily, which increases to two daily during
the season, and then returns to one daily in both zones.

Conversely, the bag limit on wood ducks, which has been two
daily for many years, will increase to three this year. Banding
data have shown that these populations can withstand additional
harvest.

Dick Koerner, chairman of the Conservation Congress Migratory
Bird Committee, said the 27-member committee supported the DNR’s
season recommendations.

“But, we will send a letter of protest to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service in opposition to the closed canvasback season and
one-scaup daily bag limit,” Koerner said. “The estimated harvest of
canvasbacks in 2007 was 125,000 nationwide, which was only
one-third of what could safely be harvested.

“A decrease of the canvasback breeding population to a level
requiring a closed season is not biologically possible.”

He also disagreed with the reduction of scaup to one bird for
most of the season.

“We felt that one scaup per day for 40 days of the season was
unfair to the big-water hunter, and a back-and-forth season of one
in the bag, then two in the bag, and again one in the bag, will be
confusing to hunters,” Koerner said.

Waterfowler Peter Peshek made a plea for later duck-hunting
seasons, though acknowledging the federal framework does not allow
the flexibility for late-season, big-water hunting.

“One of the most exciting seasons would be a sea duck season, or
creating a third or fourth zone of Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and
the Mississippi River,” Peshek said.

He asked for a 12-day closure during the split season in the
South Zone, which would extend the end of that season to Dec.
14.

“You need to understand the spirituality of lying on those
ice-covered rock piles or sand bars in our harbors and rivers,
being in a snowstorm; that is what this is about,” Peshek said.

Gary Rohde, board member from River Falls, asked if the 20-day
two-scaup limit would go away next year. Van Horn said he hoped the
“feds” would hear the unhappiness of hunters, and not repeat this
next year.

NRB chair Christine Thomas, of Stevens Point, said she could
understand the USFWS’s position if the population is not stable
enough, ponds are drying up, and there is a concern about chemicals
affecting nesting success.

“How will we know when we get to the place where we should put
on the brakes to the harvest ” she asked.

Van Horn said small changes in the bag limit may make people
feel good, but what is needed is more banding data on scaup.

Also included in the season adoption is an additional 10 days in
dove-hunting season

The youth waterfowl hunt will run Sept. 20-21, and the Canada
goose season is unchanged from last year, except that Horicon Zone
hunters will receive tags for one of two longer hunting
periods.

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