OH: Third zone added to duck hunt
Columbus – A third duck hunting zone was indeed added to the northern Ohio landscape for this upcoming season.
The 2011-2012 waterfowl hunting season dates have been approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife.
Ohio duck hunters can now take advantage of three zones for hunting. Based on comments received from waterfowl hunters in recent years and recent survey results, there was a need to separate the Lake Erie marsh region from the rest of the North Zone so that season dates would better maximize hunting opportunities when waterfowl are most abundant in different regions of Ohio.
Also, the border between the North Zone and the South Zone has moved south to Interstate 70. This move attempts to maximize hunting opportunities.
The Division of Wildlife in a survey earlier this summer asked waterfowlers what their preference was as to the boundary.
"It was really close whether to move the line or keep it the same," said Jacob Gray, a waterfowl biologist for the Division of Wildlife. "But, the majority still said ‘move it to I-70.'"
Gray said the majority of comments came from waterfowlers on Indian Lake, Kaiser Lake, and Grand Lake St. Marys.
"The waterfowlers in that region said their bodies of water were frozen before much of the season had elapsed," in the past, Gray said. "Because they were in the south zone … This past winter was very cold, though, the fourth coldest on record."
Waterfowlers at Alum Creek and Delaware Lake also said they had missed out on duck hunting opportunities due to earlier freeze ups, Gray said.
Waterfowl zones, by federal regulation, may be changed every five years, so Ohio is locked in to its new zones and boundary for at least the next five seasons. Season dates can be modified from year to year.
"I appreciate the efforts of Division of Wildlife staff to solicit input from the hunting public with respect to their preferences for hunting waterfowl and then use that information to develop season proposals that reflect what the majority of hunters have indicated is most important to them," said Larry Mixon, chairman of Ohio Wildlife Council.
The newly created Lake Erie Marsh Zone encompasses portions of Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Erie counties. The duck hunting season in the Lake Erie Marsh Zone is Oc. 15-30 followed by a second segment that opens Nov. 12 through Dec. 25.
Gray said the plan is to survey waterfowl hunters again after three seasons to gauge how the changes are being accepted.
"We'll have to do it after three seasons so we can get the data back and get it analyzed by the time that fifth year rolls around and we have the opportunity to change we'll be in a position to do that."
The duck hunting season in the North Zone is Oct. 15-30, followed by a second segment that opens Nov. 19 through Jan. 1. In the South Zone, duck season is open Oct. 22 through Nov. 6, followed by a second segment that opens Dec. 17 and runs through Jan. 29.
The daily bag limit for ducks is six, which may not include more than four mallards (no more than one may be female), three wood ducks, one black duck, two redheads, two scaup, one canvasback, two pintails, and one mottled duck. The daily bag limit for mergansers is five, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers. The daily bag limit for coots is 15. Possession limits after the first day are twice the daily bag limit.
In the Lake Erie Canada Goose Zone, the goose season is Oct. 15 through Oct. 30 followed by a second segment that opens Nov. 12 and runs through Jan. 8. The goose season for the remainder of the North Zone is Oct. 15 through Oct. 30, with a second segment that runs from Nov. 19 through Jan. 1 and a third segment from Jan. 9-22. In the South Zone, goose season is Oct. 22 through Nov. 20 followed by a second segment that opens Dec. 17 and runs through Jan. 29.
"We're allowed to have three segments in a Canada goose season," Gray said. "So, we basically have the goose season running with the duck season for the first two segments of the Canada goose season. Then, we take a break for a week and what that will do is let people hunt later and provide more days afield."
The daily bag limit for Canada geese is two. Light geese (snows, blues, Ross') have a daily bag limit of 10, white-fronted geese have a daily bag limit of two and brant have a daily bag limit of one. The possession limit for brant and geese is twice the daily bag limit after the first day.
"With goose hunting, typically the later you can go, the better the hunting is," said Gray.
Hunters 15 years of age and younger will have the opportunity to enjoy a special statewide waterfowl season October 1-2.
Licensed falconers may hunt in the Lake Erie Marsh, North, South and Lake Erie Canada Goose zones whenever these zones are open to waterfowl hunting; in addition properly licensed falconers may hunt ducks and coots statewide from Feb. 4 through March 3 and geese from Feb. 4 – 18.
Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification is required of all waterfowl hunters prior to hunting. New this year, migratory game bird hunters must call 1-877-HIPOHIO (447-6446) and answer a few survey questions to complete the HIP certification requirement. Once the survey has been completed, hunters will be provided a certification number to write on their Ohio hunting license. Waterfowl hunters age 18 and older will also need a state wetland habitat stamp which may be purchased at any hunting license agent or at wildohio.com. In addition, all waterfowl hunters age 16 and older must posses a signed federal duck stamp which can be purchased at most U.S. post offices.
Copies of this season's waterfowl hunting regulations will be available online at wildohio.com or by late September to hunters at all license agent outlets.
"It's impossible to give everyone what they want, but we're hoping to produce time periods where everyone will have good hunting opportunities," Gray said.