Duck hunters get 60 days, three woodies

DNR, Staff Reports

Columbus – While breeding surveys of waterfowl proved to be
about average this year, the hope is that Ohio’s duck hunting
season is a bit above.

The spring pond index for the Prairie Pothole region of North
America (Kansas to central Saskatchewan) and breeding duck surveys
indicate an average reproduction year for most duck species. Ponds
are housing above average numbers and good production has been
noted from most of the primary breeding range.

Closer to home, the Upper Great Lakes states showed above
average conditions and good production of mallards this year. The
Upper Great Lakes are the primary breeding range for mallards
harvested in Ohio. Mallards are Ohio’s number one harvested duck
and can be found throughout the state.

Wood ducks, the second most important duck to Ohio hunters and
the state’s number one breeding duck, appear to have had a fair
production year. Late summer dry conditions may concentrate birds,
but a variety of hunting locations should be available for Ohio
hunters.

Duck season in both the north and south zones in Ohio opened
Oct. 18. The north zone closes Dec. 7 and then reopens Dec. 20-28.
In the south zone, the season closes on Nov. 2 and then reopens
Dec. 6 and runs through Jan. 18. The daily bag limit for ducks is
six, which may not include more than four mallards (no more than
one may be female), one black duck, one pintail, three wood ducks,
two redheads, and three mottled ducks.

The good news for Ohio waterfowl hunters is that there is one
more wood duck in the bag this year. States in the Atlantic Flyway
were a bit uncomfortable with the third wood duck in the bag, said
Dave Risley, the DNR Division of Wildlife’s administrator in charge
of waterfowl management, but the USFWS agreed to the bag limit
without labeling it as an experimental regulation. It’s on the
books.

Ohio has worked hard on wood duck research, banding about 1,200
birds for the past 30 years to track the species’ movement. It has
been one of the more aggressive states in terms of wood duck
research, said Risley.

“We have put a very serious effort into banding wood ducks and
putting up wood duck boxes,” Risley said. “It’s something that’s
very tangible for our staff to see. If you put up a wood duck box,
it gets used and you can see it. It’s very gratifying.”

Potentially as soon as 2010, early season waterfowl hunters who
have been relegated to teal and Canada geese could see a wood duck
in the bag, according to Risley. As it stands now, Florida,
Kentucky and Tennessee all allow wood duck hunting in the early
season but theirs is a modified framework. In exchange for allowing
wood ducks in the early season bag, those states have just five
days for a combined teal and wood duck season. That compares to 16
days allowed for early teal in Ohio.

“That’s a pretty high price to pay,” said Risley of the
reduction in hunting days in exchange for early wood ducks. “But,
we’re always looking to expand opportunity.”

Canada geese are the most harvested waterfowl in Ohio and can be
found in good numbers everywhere. Locally raised giant Canada geese
had the third highest population estimate this spring and all
indications are there was fair to good production across Ohio.
Migrant interior populations (Southern James Bay and Mississippi
Valley) of Canada geese have also had good production. With proper
weather, the hunting outlook is good, according to the Division of
Wildlife.

Pintails showed a slight decrease in population, but will permit
a full season.

The success of Ohio waterfowl hunters has more to do with
weather conditions and choice of hunting location than available
ducks.

“I think that serendipity and weather have more to do with
waterfowl harvest than some of our seasons,” Risley said. “I think
we could be a bit more liberal in some of our seasons.”

Heavy rains early in the summer followed by an extended drought
permitted considerable growth in moist-soil plants in many
traditional wetlands. A flooding of those areas by early fall rains
should provide additional habitat. Hunters should not only check
out their traditional spots, but also more marginal haunts for food
production and water quantity.

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