Woodie bag limit up to 3 this season

Arlington, Va. – New York waterfowl hunters will see more
liberal bag limits for wood ducks this fall, as well as a
two-tiered season for scaup in light of a decline in bluebill
numbers.

Seasons proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Search earlier
this month call for a 60-day duck-hunting season in the Atlantic
flyway, which includes New York.

The Atlantic flyway was one of three to see a closed canvasback
season due to low populations, as well as a restricted scaup
harvest in light of long-term population declines.

But increases in wood duck numbers have led to an extra woodie
in the daily bag limit, which will be three for the 2008-09 season
in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways.

“All the information on the status of waterfowl populations and
habitat conditions is now in and has been carefully analyzed by our
biologists,” said USFWS Director H. Dale Hall. “Though pond and
duck numbers are down from the last few years on the breeding
grounds, they remain above the thresholds necessary for a liberal
season, and that is what we are proposing this year.”

DEC Chief Wildlife Biologist John Major said the Atlantic flyway
seasons are “the liberal package that the task forces were working
with. The additional wood duck in the day bag limit is a boost, and
the closed canvasback and the hybrid scaup seasons were pretty much
expected.”

Under the USFWS proposal, the Atlantic flyway – New York and 16
other states – will see a duck season of not more than 60 days
between Sept. 27, 2008, and Jan. 25, 2009.

The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than
four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two
hooded mergansers, one black duck, one pintail, one mottled duck,
one fulvous whistling duck, and four scoters.

In addition to canvasbacks, he season on harlequin ducks is also
closed.

Under the “hybrid” regulation for scaup, the USFWS has proposed
a two-bird daily bag limit for “any 20 consecutive hunting days”
and one scaup per day for the remainder of the season.

For light geese, states would be able to select a 107-day season
between Oct. 1, 2008, and March 10, 2009, with a daily bag limit of
15 birds and no possession limit. Seasons for Canada geese would
vary in length among states and areas, depending on the populations
of birds that occur in those areas. The daily bag limit would be
five birds in hunt zones established for resident populations of
Canada geese. In zones established for migratory populations, bag
limits would be three or fewer and would vary among states and
areas.

For Atlantic brant, the season length may be 60 days, with a
daily bag limit of three.

DEC Assistant Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources
Doug Stang said the department has crafted emergency rules for
waterfowl seasons because of the federal framework for setting
seasons within the flyways.

“It comes to us too late every year to go through the normal
rulemaking process,” Stang said. “So we’ll set the emergency rules
as proposed (by USFWS).”

Hall said the USFWS “has taken steps to conserve scaup and
canvasback populations. Following our recently adopted scaup
harvest strategy, the USFWS is reducing hunting pressure on scaup
to ensure a harvest we believe the population can support.
Unfortunately, canvasback numbers were below the level that would
permit a nationwide harvest.”

States select their seasons from within the USFWS frameworks,
which establish the outer limits of season length, bag limits and
season beginning and ending date.

After a record canvasback population estimate last year,
followed by this year’s low estimate, USFWS staff reviewed survey
methods, data and analytical procedures and found nothing unusual.
Declines in canvasbacks counted were widespread, occurring in the
same areas that experienced increases last year.

“Based on the harvest estimate from last year’s seasons, it is
clear that harvest alone is not responsible for the drop,” the
USFWS said in a prepared statement. “Canvasback estimates typically
have higher variation than for many other species. Although it’s
possible the large change in the population estimate is simply the
result of normal sampling variation, the Service has no data to
suggest this year’s population estimate is not accurate. Using this
estimate and the approved Canvasback Harvest Strategy, the
allowable harvest this year did not permit a nationwide canvasback
season.”

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