Reduced mallard, goose limits among Pennsylvania’s waterfowl season changes
With Pennsylvania’s 2019-20 migratory game bird seasons officially being announced this week, some changes are worth mentioning.
First, by mandate from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the daily mallard bag limit has been reduced for the Atlantic Flyway from four (no more than two hens) to two (no more than one hen). This regulation comes as a result of declining mallard numbers.
“Mallards throughout the northeastern United States have experienced a slow, steady population decline for the past 20 years,” commission waterfowl biologist Jeremy Stempka explained in an agency news release. These changes were made in an effort to reverse that decline, and in similar fashion, Northern pintail bag limits were reduced to one daily.
Also under federal guidance, Canada goose seasons and bag limits have been reduced in the Atlantic Population Hunting Zone. These numbers have dropped abruptly over the past two years as a result of harsh winter weather.
“AP Canada geese experienced a near-total reproductive failure in 2018, due to an extremely late spring on their northern Quebec breeding grounds,” Stempka explained. “The best available data indicate recent harvest levels for these species were not sustainable.”
In AP hunting zones – including southeastern Pennsylvania – the length of the regular season has been decreased from 50 to 30 days and daily bag limits have been reduced from three to two geese per day.
The Game Commission initiated the third major change in response to public comments. A North Zone duck season with fewer days in late October and early November and more days in late November and early December was established this year, reverting back to the way things were prior to 2012.
“In 2012, we shifted days in the North Zone from late November and early December to late October and early November based on data from the Game Commission’s 2011 waterfowl hunter survey, showing a preference for more hunting days in the early fall,” explained Game Management Division Chief Ian Gregg in the release.
“However, we’ve heard from an increasing number of hunters at the annual Waterfowl Symposium and through other public comments that in recent warm autumns, the North Zone season dates have not aligned with greatest availability of migrating ducks.
“Preliminary analysis of available data on waterfowl migration patterns appears to confirm that on average, more ducks are available in the North Zone later in the fall. Therefore, while recognizing there is no way to guarantee the season dates will fit the weather patterns in any given year, we can up the odds for good hunting conditions by making this season change for 2019-20.”
Other migratory game bird seasons are similar to those in recent years. However, some starting and ending dates are about a week later than in 2018-19 to ensure seasons align with holidays and hunting seasons for other game. Please refer to the PGC website at www.pgc.pa.gov for a complete overview of waterfowl regulations.