Waterfowl hunters will have extra time in the field to pursue Canada geese this season with a 78-day season and an increased bag limit. In fact, hunters can get into action this weekend for the special early Canada goose season, which runs Sept. 1-15.
The daily bag limit on Canada geese has been raised to three birds per hunter, while the daily bag limit on white-fronted geese (speckle bellies) remains at two. In a change from last year, the possession limit is now twice the daily bag limit for Canadas and speckle bellies. A Canada goose-only season is scheduled for Sept. 22 through Oct. 9.
"This was an effort by the Fish and Wildlife Service to help states deal with their resident populations of geese," said David Hayden, waterfowl specialist with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. "The bag limit was increased to three birds, and the season was lengthened from 70 days to 78 days."
For duck hunters, the fall flight survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) indicated an overall abundance of waterfowl in North America. The overall population estimate increased 7 percent from last year to 48.6 million birds. The all-important mallard count was up considerably to 10.6 million birds, a 15-percent increase over 2011 and 40 percent above the long-term average. The scaup (bluebills) estimate was up also at 5.2 million, which is 21 percent above the 2011 estimate and similar to the long-term average. Those numbers prompted the USFWS to increase the daily bag limit on scaup from two to four birds per hunter.
A special early teal season is set from Sept. 8-23. A special snow and blue goose season is set for Oct. 27 through Nov. 11 in Escambia and Monroe counties only. The special youth waterfowl days are Feb. 9-10.
The regular waterfowl season in the Mississippi Flyway is 60 days. Alabama's seasons are set for Nov. 23-24 and Dec. 1 through Jan. 27. The daily bag limit is again six ducks with no more than four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, one mottled duck, two redheads, four scaup, two pintails, one black duck and one canvasback. The daily bag limit of mergansers is five, only two of which may be hooded mergansers.
Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset each day with the exception of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. In the area north of Battleship Parkway, west of Alabama Highway 225, south of CSX Railroad tracks, and east of the west bank of the Mobile River, shooting hours for Monday through Thursday are one-half hour before sunrise to noon, while Friday through Sunday shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Hunters must possess a valid hunting license, signed federal duck stamp, state duck stamp or electronic privilege, as well as a free HIP (Harvest Information Program) electronic privilege. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/licenses for more information.