State waterfowlers get another 60-day season
Escanaba, Mich. – Michigan waterfowl hunters will have two separate openers for duck seasons, with the North and Middle zones sharing the same opening day. The Middle and South zones will have split seasons, and the North Zone will run a straight 60 days.
Regular goose season will open the same day as duck seasons in the Lower Peninsula and two weeks prior to the duck opener in the Upper Peninsula.
State waterfowl regulations were approved by the Natural Resources Commission at its Aug. 12 meeting in Escanaba.
The federal framework allowed Michigan to set a liberal duck season of 60 days between the Saturday nearest Sept. 24 and the last Sunday in January.
The youth waterfowl season is Sept. 18-19. Bag limits for ducks and geese are the same as during regular duck and goose season. The hunt is open to youths 10 to 15 years old with a junior small-game license.
The U.P. opener has been pushed back a week. It will run Oct. 2 through Nov. 30. Last year the U.P. had a split season so hunters could have a chance at local ducks before they headed south, but still hunt during Thanksgiving weekend.
According to Munising resident Doug Scheuneman, a member of the Citizens Waterfowl Advisory Committee, a sampling of hunters showed that 45 percent wanted the early opener again while 25 percent wanted Oct. 2 and 20 percent wanted the following Saturday. Some hunters in the U.P. believe the late start to the season limits opportunity because local ducks often are gone before October and inland lakes freeze well before the closing date.
"Teal are gone before October up here and any cold weather, which is common, will push the wood ducks down too," duck hunter Terry Huffman said.
The season in the Middle Zone also will open on Oct. 2. It will run through Nov. 28. The second season will be Dec. 4-5.
The season in the South Zone will run Oct. 9 through Dec. 5 and reopen Jan. 1-2.
Bag limits will take advantage of the maximum allowed under the federal framework with the exception of hen mallards. Hunters may take six ducks combined with a maximum of four drake mallards, three wood ducks, two pintails and redheads, and one black duck and canvasback. Although federal guidelines allow for a daily limit of two hen mallards, Michigan hunters will be limited to one.
According to DNRE waterfowl specialist Barb Avers, the liberal season was the result of the USFWS mid-continent population estimate that showed mallard numbers similar to last year.
The news for Michigan ducks and geese is even better, she points out.
"The population estimate for Michigan mallards is up 31 percent from last year," Avers said. "And our Canada geese numbers are way up with over 300,000 birds in the state, our second highest population on record."
Early goose season will be Sept. 1-10 in the North Zone and Saginaw, Tuscola, and Huron counties. In the Lower Peninsula, the early goose season will be Sept. 1-15 in all but the three counties listed above. The daily bag limit is five birds.
The U.P. will see the regular goose season run Sept. 16 through Oct. 30. The Middle Zone will have a split season, Oct. 2 through Nov. 8 and Nov. 25 through Dec. 1. In the South Zone, the season will run Oct. 9 through Nov. 14 and Dec. 4-11. The bag limit during the regular goose season is two geese per day.
Tuscola and Saginaw county goose management units will have three seasons, Oct. 9-14; Dec. 4-11; and Jan. 1-30. Muskegon County Wastewater GMU will hold hunts Oct. 14-Nov. 14 and Dec. 2-14. Hunts will be held at the Allegan County GMU Dec. 14-23 and Dec. 30-Jan. 23.
The South Zone will hold a late goose season Jan. 1-30 with a daily bag limits of five birds.