Six ducks, 60 days

Baraboo, Wis. — Wisconsin duck hunters will get nearly a repeat of last year’s hunting regulations, based on rules adopted by the Natural Resources Board on Aug. 14.

It’s once again 60 days and six ducks. But new this year, the daily bag limit will include three scaup (lesser or greater scaup, also known as bluebills) and two canvasbacks.

In addition, the possession limit has been increased to three times the daily bag limit for all migratory birds. It used to be just two times the limit.

Also new this year, 10 more lakes will have open-water hunting 1,000 feet or more from shore. These are in addition to the Great Lakes, Big Green Lake, Petenwell Flowage, and Lake Winnebago.

The new open-water lakes include Beaver Dam (excluding Rakes and Trestle Works bays) in Dodge County; Castle Rock (south of railroad bridge and Hwy. G) in Adams and Juneau counties; Grindstone in Sawyer County; Fence, North Twin, and Trout in Vilas County; Puckaway in Marquette and Green Lake counties; Shawano in Shawano County; Wisconsin (north of railroad bridge) in Sauk and Columbia counties; and Wissota (south of Hwy. S and north of Hwy. X) in Chippewa County.

This year’s duck season will be open for 60 days: Sept. 21 to Nov. 19 in the North Zone; and Sept. 28 to Oct. 6, closing five days, and again Oct. 12 through Dec. 1 in the South Zone.

The Mississippi River Zone is open Sept. 21-29, then closes for 12 days, and then runs Oct. 12 through Dec. 1.

Opening day shooting hours begin at 9 a.m.

The daily bag limit is six ducks, with no more than four mallards (of which only one may be a hen), three wood ducks, two redheads, one black duck, two pintails, three scaup, and two canvasbacks.

The Canada goose season is 92 days with a daily limit of two geese. The Horicon and Exterior zones open Sept. 16; the Mississippi River opens Sept. 21.

Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory bird specialist, told the board that “the duck and goose populations, both continentally and in the state, are doing just fine, so the decisions (on regulations) relate to hunter preference.”

The continental duck estimate is the second highest in 58 years, and Wisconsin duck numbers are 19 percent above average.

Canada geese nesting in Ontario increased 16 percent from last year, and resident giant Canada geese are near the 10-year average.

Van Horn conducts hunter surveys and meets with waterfowl committees to obtain input. The DNR held four hearings on proposed rules.

Van Horn noted that the most season discussion involved hunters who prefer to hunt earlier in the season versus later in the fall. He said about two-thirds of hunters want to hunt early in October and about 25 percent want to hunt later.

This will be the third year with the Mississippi River Zone, and the recommended season included a 12-day split. Van Horn said if the split were lengthened to 19 days, as some hunters wanted, it would take hunting away when divers were building up on the Mississippi River. The longer split would have added those days to December, when populations were decreasing as birds migrated south.

The 10 new open-water lakes are the result of six years of meetings with the public.

Traditionally, Wisconsin has protected open waters as a way to hold ducks, but hunters asked for more hunting opportunities, and adding these 10 lakes was a compromise.
Board questions

Terry Hilgenberg asked for the rationale for not adding lakes Butte des Morts and Poygan for open-water hunting. Van Horn said the DNR honored the decisions of local citizens who voted it down at spring hearings.

Jane Wiley reminded the board that the Conservation Congress can revive the list at future hearings. Gary Zimmer asked if law enforcement was brought into the discussion, and learned it was involved.

Christine Thomas asked about the effect that energy development in North Dakota will have on duck populations. Van Horn said that if there were a decline in numbers, the season framework offered by the feds to the states would see changes. Also, most ducks shot in Wisconsin are locally grown, including 75 percent of the mallards, wood ducks, and teal.

Public comments

Al Shook, chair of the Conservation Congress Migratory Waterfowl Committee, said the committee agreed with the new regulations, except for the Mississippi River Zone. His committee wanted a 19-day closure so that it would reopen Oct. 19 and extend until Dec. 8.

Don Kirby, of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, emphasized the long time that open-water hunting has been studied and public input obtained. Though there is not absolute agreement, he said a majority supported it and it fits in the Public Trust Doctrine, where the waters of the state are open to the public to use.

Jim Ramos, of Barneveld, said he hunts the Mississippi’s Pool 9, and he is against open-water hunting. His area is not included in the new list, but he thinks the list eventually will expand, and open-water hunting will push birds out of the area.

Linn Duesterbeck, of the Lake Koshkonong Wetland Association, has hunted waterfowl for 55 years. He opposed the expansion of open-water hunting, saying it is a dramatic change that will negatively influence how the public views duck hunters.

“We are overwhelmingly against open-water hunting, except on Lake Winnebago and Green Bay. It makes no biological or political sense,” he said.

He said Wisconsin’s lakes are unique, shallow-water lakes that act as refuges, and open-water hunting will target lesser scaup that are declining in the continental population.

Dan Rudebeck, of the Lake Poygan Sportsmen’s Club, and Matthew Harp, of Greenville, supported the new list of open-water lakes because lakes Poygan and Butte des Morts are not on the new list. They did not want open-water hunting in their area because they believe ducks will be driven out.

Terrill Knaack, of Beaver Dam, said that open-water hunting on Beaver Dam Lake, where his family hunts, would cause problems for hunters using islands and interferes with the public’s enjoyment of the lake.

As the board considered the question, Greg Kazmierski asked Van Horn if it was possible to start open-water hunting later in the year since that is when most diving ducks arrive on the lakes. Van

Horn said that could be done, but he was concerned that would make the regulations more complicated.

The board approved the season as recommended by the DNR by a 7-0 vote. It also added a word of appreciation to Dick Koerner, who chaired the congress Migratory Waterfowl Committee for many years.

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