The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has released its proposed hunting season lengths and bag limits for the upcoming 2012-13 late waterfowl seasons, and the most significant change is an increase in scaup bag limits—a move most waterfowl hunters believe is long overdue.
The number of scaup allowed in the daily bag limit will increase from two to four birds in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways; from two to six birds in the Central Flyway; and from three to seven birds in the Pacific Flyway.
The proposed frameworks also include a full season on pintails with a two-bird daily bag limit nationwide, and a full season on canvasbacks with a one-bird daily bag limit nationwide. The federal frameworks allow for duck seasons totaling 60 days in both the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway (with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas), and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway. The proposed late season waterfowl frameworks will appear in a mid-August edition of the Federal Register for public comment.
States select their individual waterfowl seasons from within the federal frameworks that establish the earliest beginning and latest ending dates and the maximum season length and bag limits, meaning individual states can choose to adopt seasons that are shorter and bag limits that are smaller than the federal guidelines.
Flyway-specific highlights of the proposed late-season frameworks are as follows:
Atlantic Flyway (Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia):
-- Ducks: A hunting season is proposed of not more than 60 days between Sept. 22, 2012, and Jan. 27, 2013. The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include no more than four mallards (two hens), four scoters, three wood ducks, two redheads, two hooded mergansers, four scaup, one black duck, two pintails, one canvasback, one mottled duck, and one fulvous whistling duck.
-- Geese: For light geese, states will be able to select a 107-day season between Oct. 1, 2012, and March 10, 2013, with a daily bag limit of 25 birds and no possession limit. Seasons for Canada geese would vary in length among states and areas depending on the populations of birds that occur in those areas. The daily bag limit will be five birds in hunt zones established for resident populations of Canada geese. In hunt zones established for migratory populations, bag limits will be five or fewer and vary among states and areas. For Atlantic brant, the season length may be 50 days with a daily bag limit of two.
Mississippi Flyway (Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin):
-- Ducks: A hunting season is proposed of not more than 60 days between Sept. 22, 2012, and Jan. 27, 2013. The proposed daily bag limit is six and may include 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 proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is five, only two of which may be hooded mergansers. In states that include mergansers in the duck bag limit, the daily limit is the same as the duck bag limit, only two which may be hooded mergansers.
-- Geese: Generally, seasons for Canada goose would be held between Sept. 22, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013, and vary in length among states and areas. States would be able to select seasons for light geese not to exceed 107 days with 20 geese daily between Sept. 22, 2012, and March 10, 2013; for white-fronted geese the proposed season would not exceed 74 days with a two-bird daily bag limit or 88 days with a one-bird daily bag limit between Sept. 22, 2012, and Feb. 17, 2013; and for brant it would not exceed 70 days with a two-bird daily bag limit or 107 days with a one-bird daily bag limit between Sept. 22, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2012. There is no possession limit for light geese.
Central Flyway (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming):
-- Ducks: Duck season frameworks are between Sept. 22, 2012, and Jan. 27, 2013. The daily bag limit would be six ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: five mallards (no more than two of which may be females), three wood duck, two pintails, two redheads, one mottled duck, and one canvasback. Mottled ducks may not be harvested during the first five days after the beginning of the regular season in Texas. The possession limit would be two times the daily bag limit. In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit (roughly west of the 100th Meridian), a 97-day season is proposed, and the last 23 days can start no earlier than Dec. 8, 2012. A 74-day season is proposed for the remainder of the Central Flyway.
-- Geese: States may select seasons between Sept. 22, 2012, and Feb. 17, 2013, for dark geese and between Sept. 22, 2012, and March 10, 2013, for light geese. East-tier states would be able to select a 107-day season for Canada geese with a daily bag limit of three. For white-fronted geese, East-tier states would be able to select either a 74-day season with a daily bag limit of two birds or an 88-day season with a daily bag limit of one bird. In the West-tier, states may select a 107-day dark goose season with a daily bag limit of five birds. In the Western Goose zone of Texas, the state would be able to select a 95-day season with a daily bag limit of five dark geese (including no more than one white-fronted goose). For light geese, all states would be able to select a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 20 and no possession limit.
Pacific Flyway (Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming):
-- Ducks: States are allowed a 107-day general duck season between Sept. 22, 2012, and Jan. 27, 2013. The proposed daily bag limit is seven ducks, including no more than two mallard hens, two redheads, two pintails, and one canvasback.
-- Geese: 107-day seasons are proposed for the Pacific Flyway between Sept. 29, 2012, and March 10, 2013. Proposed basic daily bag limits are up to 10 light geese and six dark geese. There are many exceptions to the basic bag limits and season structures for geese in many states, so consult state regulations for specific details. In California, Washington and Oregon, the dark goose limit does not include brant. For brant, the proposed season lengths are 16 days in Oregon and Washington and 30 days in California, with a two-bird daily limit. Washington and California are able to choose seasons in each of the two zones described in state regulations.
The USFWS’s 2012 Waterfowl Population Status Report summarizes information on the status of duck and goose populations and habitat conditions during spring of 2012. In the traditional survey area, which includes the north-central United States, south-central and northern Canada and Alaska, the 2012 total duck population estimate was 48.6 million birds, an increase of 7 percent over last year’s estimate. Despite poorer habitat conditions compared to 2011, population abundance estimates are good for this breeding season. The total pond estimate for prairie Canada and the U.S. combined was 5.5 million, which is down 32 percent from last year.
The annual survey results guide the USFWS’s waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Each year the USFWS works in partnership with states from the four flyways to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates, and bag limits. All of this information represents the largest data set on any wildlife species group in the world and helps provide hunting opportunities, while ensuring the long-term health of waterfowl populations.