For ’15, a duck season opener before dawn

Horicon, Wis. — Wisconsin duck hunters will get one of the most liberal hunting seasons ever with not only 60 days and two canvasbacks per day, but also opening-day shooting hours that will begin 30 minutes before sunrise.

The Natural Resources Board approved a 2015 duck and goose season that includes opening-morning shooting hours that will begin one-half hour before sunrise, a six-duck daily bag limit including two canvasbacks per day, and a 60-day season.

In previous years, opening-morning shooting hours began at 9 a.m. and the canvasback limit was one bird daily.

In addition, the Canada goose season limit in the Horicon Zone is increased from six to 12 geese.

“Overall, the fall flight is looking very good for the state of Wisconsin,” Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory bird specialist, told the board.

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

The season will open Sept. 26 in the North Zone, Oct. 3 in the South Zone, and Oct. 3 in the Mississippi River Zone.

The North Zone closes Nov. 24.

The South Zone will run Oct. 3-11, then close for five days. It will reopen Oct. 17 and run through Dec. 6.

The Mississippi River Zone season will run from Oct. 3-9, then close for seven days. It will reopen Oct. 17 and run through Dec. 8.

Van Horn said the state began the new Mississippi River Zone in 2011 and has tried to set seasons based on hunter preferences. Some hunters prefer more opportunities earlier in the season, while others like to hunt later into the fall.

Based on survey results and recent public input, Mississippi River hunters do not favor the early opening date or a long split period, Van Horn said. As a result, the DNR proposed a change this year, opening later and having only a seven-day closure. In the past, the split season for the Mississippi included a 12-day closure.

The DNR also proposed the earlier starting time for opening day because public sentiment was moving away from a 9 a.m. start.

In June, the board approved the early teal season, which will run Sept. 1-7, with a bag limit of six blue-winged or green-winged teal. But the board’s season approval in August will allow the teal season again in 2016.

The youth waterfowl season will take place on the weekend of Sept. 19-20. Youth hunters may harvest Canada geese in all zones, but the bag limit or tag applies for each zone.

The Canada goose season in the Exterior Zone will be 92 days, with a daily bag limit of two geese.

The North Zone for Canada geese runs Sept. 16 through Dec. 16; the South Zone from Sept. 16 through Oct. 11 and Oct. 17 to Dec. 21; and the Mississippi River subzone from Oct. 3-9 and Oct. 17 through Jan. 9.

Horicon Zone Canada goose hunting is divided into two time and tag periods: Sept. 16 through Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 through Dec. 16. The daily bag limit is two, with a season limit of 12 birds.

Horicon Zone hunters must report their harvest within 48 hours, similar to the Exterior Zone requirement.

Other goose seasons run the same as the Canada goose season, with a daily limit of one brant, one white-fronted, and 20 snow, blue, or Ross’s geese.

Hunter comments

Al Shook, chairman of the Conservation Congress Migratory Committee, said the committee agreed with the season proposal without exception.

Shook, who noted that he has hunted ducks for 45 years, said the congress presented a question to the public about beginning opening-day shooting hours before sunrise and it received 1,934 votes in favor and 1,463 votes against.

Shook noted that some of the modern hunters have never known a duck season shorter than 60 days, but as dry years come, there will be shorter seasons in the future.

Don Kirby, executive director of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, supported the season, and complimented DNR staff for responding to requests from stakeholders.

The most avid waterfowlers, Kirby said, have favored eliminating the delay in opening-morning shooting hours.

George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, also complimented the DNR on the public input process involving the waterfowl seasons throughout the year.

Meyer said he supports the season, but the one issue, which had been raised earlier by new NRB member Dr. Fred Prehn, of Wausau, was the Mississippi River Zone split that ends hunting on Friday, Oct. 9.

Meyer pointed out that if they only closed the season for five days, it would provide an additional weekend of hunting in October while the current seven-day split only provides extra hunting on the last two days, which are a Monday and Tuesday in December when the river could be frozen.

He suggested the DNR consider that next year.

Population status

Surveys of waterfowl breeding grounds by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed increased populations of ducks.

The USFWS survey revealed a continental breeding estimate of 49.5 million – the highest in the 60 years of the survey.

The mallard estimate for Canada, U.S. prairies, and the Great Lakes is 11.7 million birds, similar to last year and 51 percent above the long-term average.

Wisconsin surveys, which are important because most of the harvest here is that of ducks raised locally and in nearby states, showed local populations are not as strong.

Breeding birds were 16 percent below the long-term average, but rainfall after the survey ended gave hope that production would be close to average.

The Canada geese that migrate through Wisconsin are composed of two populations – the locally nesting giant Canada geese and the Mississippi Valley Population, which breed on James Bay in Ontario. 

The MVP population was down 30 percent from last year, although good production is expected. The locally nesting goose population was about average.

Categories: Hunting News, Waterfowl

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