The Pennsylvania Game Commission has made its selections for the 2013-14 migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits.
Annual waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Game Commission selections were made after reviewing last year’s season results, waterfowl survey data, and input gathered from waterfowl hunters and the public. Final approval from the USFWS is expected by late September.
The agency has posted the annual waterfowl and migratory bird season brochure and zone maps on its website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), making it convenient for hunters to access the information they need.
Game Commission waterfowl biologist Kevin Jacobs said the outlook is mixed for waterfowl populations important to Pennsylvania.
“Banding studies indicate most of Pennsylvania’s mallard, wood duck, and Canada goose harvests are derived from birds breeding in Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” Jacobs said. “These populations are monitored through the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey. At the state level, the estimated number of indicated mallard breeding pairs (69,400) was 24 percent below the 1993-2012 long-term average of 91,000 pairs. Other surveys also indicate that mallard populations in the northeastern U.S. have declined from levels observed in the 1990s. The 59,600 wood duck breeding pairs estimated in Pennsylvania in 2013 is similar to the long-term statewide average of 52,000 pairs.”
“Trends in wood duck abundance have indicated stable to slightly increasing populations across all years of the survey for both Pennsylvania and the northeastern U.S.,” Jacobs said. “The 2013 statewide estimate for American black ducks is 2,137 pairs. Black ducks have been observed at very low and declining densities since the survey was initiated in 1989. However, black duck populations in eastern Canada remain healthy and support open hunting seasons on this historically important species in eastern North America. American black ducks continue to account for about 5 percent of Pennsylvania’s total duck harvest.”
The Pennsylvania estimates of total blue-winged teal (11,100) and total green-winged teal (6,300) are above average in 2013.
“We don’t believe these estimates are indicative of true breeding populations of teal in Pennsylvania as many migrating teal are encountered during the survey period,” Jacobs said. “Estimates of total hooded mergansers (10,700) and common mergansers (28,000) are above average. The trends for both breeding merganser species have increased since 1993.”
Jacobs noted that Pennsylvania’s spring 2013 resident Canada goose population is estimated at 279,000 birds.
“The resident goose population appears to have declined over the past nine years following highly significant population expansion from 1990 to 2004, but it remains well above the Resident Population management plan goal of 150,000 spring birds,” Jacobs said. “We continue efforts to achieve the management plan goal primarily by reducing populations in southeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania.
“Observations during statewide June Canada goose banding indicated gosling recruitment was near average. Hunters should expect an average fall flight of resident geese. For migratory Canada goose populations important to Pennsylvania, the fall flight of Atlantic Population geese is expected to be similar to or slightly below last year, while the Southern James Bay Population is below average and a reduced fall flight from SJBP range is expected. Populations of greater snow geese are generally similar to recent averages. Conditions are favorable for reproduction and a fall flight similar to 2012, but with more juveniles, is expected.”
Jacobs noted that spring population estimates and fall flight forecasts are obtained at large geographic scales, and therefore are not reliable predictors of waterfowl numbers that can be expected during hunting seasons.
“At the local or regional level, hunting pressure, habitat and weather variables most often dictate waterfowl movements, staging and wintering numbers through the hunting seasons.”
In the Atlantic Population Goose Zone, the regular light goose season will be Oct. 1 to Jan. 25, with a light goose conservation season to run from Jan. 27 to April 25. In the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, the regular light goose season will be Oct. 1 to Jan. 24, with a light goose conservation season to run from Jan. 25 to April 25. The Resident Population Goose Zone regular light goose season will run Oct. 28 to Feb. 28, and the light goose conservation season will run March 1 to April 25.
Young Pennsylvania hunters will have two special days of waterfowl hunting, on Saturday, Sept. 14, and Saturday, Sept. 21. The Junior Waterfowl Days will be open to those 12-15 years old who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the juniors in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During these two special hunts, juniors can harvest Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens. The daily bag limit for juniors participating in the Junior Waterfowl Days is the same as for the regular season daily limit in the area being hunted. The only exception is when September Canada goose daily bag limits exceed the regular season limit for the area being hunted; juniors then can take the September daily limit.
Waterfowl hunters are reminded that on the junior waterfowl hunting days, Sept. 14 and 21, hunting hours for all waterfowl species closes at sunset. For the remainder of the Sept. 2-25 Canada goose season, hunting hours close at one-half hour after sunset.
The Game Commission again will hold a special junior-only waterfowl hunting day at the controlled hunting blinds at both Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. The junior day for Middle Creek is Nov. 16; and for Pymatuning it’s, Nov. 30. A special drawing of applications submitted by junior license holders will be held immediately before the regular drawing for goose blinds. Interested juniors should use the same application on page 28 of the 2013-14 Digest. Only one application will be accepted per junior hunter.
In addition to a regular Pennsylvania hunting license, persons 16 and older must have a Federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp, commonly referred to as a “Duck Stamp,” signed in ink across its face. All waterfowl hunters, regardless of age, must have a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License to hunt waterfowl and other migratory birds, including doves, woodcock, coots, moorhens, rails and snipe. All migratory game bird hunters in the United States are required to complete a Harvest Information Program survey when they purchase a state migratory game bird license. The survey information is then forwarded to the USFWS.
Also, to participate in the light goose conservation hunts, hunters will need to obtain a free conservation hunt permit, in addition to their other required licenses, and file a mandatory report of harvest/participation. In late 2013, the Light Goose Conservation Hunt website will be available on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) so that hunters can apply for and print out the free conservation permit.
Hunters must use non-toxic shot while hunting ducks, geese or coots in Pennsylvania. The use of decoys powered or operated by batteries or any other source of electricity is unlawful in Pennsylvania, except during the light goose conservation seasons. Also, the use of any sort of artificial substance or product as bait or an attractant is prohibited.
For complete early Canada goose season information, as well as webless migratory game bird seasons, please see News Release #057-13, which the agency issued on Aug. 1.
Hunters encouraged to report banded birds
Migratory game bird hunters are encouraged to report banded ducks, geese, doves and woodcock they harvest online at www.reportband.gov, or by using the toll-free number (1-800-327-2263). Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species of migratory birds were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory birds.
Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist, also stressed that reporting leg-bands helps the Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learn more about migratory bird movements, and survival and harvest rates, which are critical to population management and setting of hunting regulations. Each year, nearly 380,000 ducks and geese and 30,000 mourning doves are banded across the United States and Canada.
2013-14 Waterfowl seasons and bag limits
North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 12-Nov. 30, and Dec. 24-Jan. 11.
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 19-26, and Nov. 15-Jan. 15.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 12-Dec. 14, and Dec. 27-Jan. 1.
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 28-Jan. 4.
Total Duck Bag Limits: 6 daily, 18 in possession of any species, except for the following restrictions: daily limit may not include more than 4 mallards including 2 hen mallards, 2 scaup, 1 black duck, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 2 canvasbacks, 2 pintails, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck and 4 scoters. Possession limits are three times the daily limits.
Mergansers: 5 daily, 15 in possession (not more than 2 hooded mergansers daily, 6 hooded in possession).
Coots: 15 daily, 45 in possession.
REGULAR CANADA GOOSE SEASON & BAG LIMITS (including WHITE-FRONTED GEESE): All of Pennsylvania will have a regular Canada goose season, however, season lengths and bag limits will vary by area as follows:
Resident Population Goose Zone (RP)
All of Pennsylvania except for the Southern James Bay Population and the Atlantic Population zone. The season is Oct. 26-Nov. 30, Dec. 18-Jan. 15, and Feb. 1-28, with a five-goose daily bag limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone (SJBP)
The area north of I-80 and west of I-79 including in the city of Erie west of Bay Front Parkway to and including the Lake Erie Duck zone (Lake Erie, Presque Isle and the area within 150 yards of Lake Erie Shoreline). The season is Oct. 12-Nov. 30, Dec. 16-Jan. 24, with a three-goose daily limit.
Atlantic Population Zone (AP)
The area east of route SR 97 from Maryland State Line to the intersection of SR 194, east of SR 194 to intersection of US Route 30, south of US Route 30 to SR 441, east of SR 441 to SR 743, east of SR 743 to intersection of I-81, east of I-81 to intersection of I-80, south of I-80 to New Jersey state line. The season is Nov. 15-30 and Dec. 16-Jan. 25, with a three-goose daily limit.
Exception: The controlled hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon-Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Lands 46 (Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area), has a daily bag limit of one, and possession limit of three during the regular Canada goose season.
BRANT (All Zones): Oct. 12-Nov. 15, 2 daily, 6 in possession.
LIGHT GEESE (Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese):
Atlantic Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 1-Jan. 25, 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Jan. 27 – April 25; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 1-Jan. 24; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Jan. 25 – April 25; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Resident Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 28-Feb. 28; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: March 1 – April 25; 25 daily, no possession limit.
HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWANS: No open season.
Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area: Shooting days at Pymatuning are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, one-half hour before sunrise to 12:30 p.m. Ducks: Oct. 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28 and 30; Nov. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, and 30; and Dec. 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 27, 28 and 30. Geese: Oct. 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, and 30; Nov. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, and 30 (junior-only day); Dec. 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 27, 28, and 30; and Jan. 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22, and 24.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area: shooting days at Middle Creek are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to 1:30 p.m. Geese only: Jan. 16, 18, 21, 23, and 25. Geese and ducks: Nov. 16 (junior-only day), 19, 21, 23, 26, 28 and 30; Dec. 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 28, and 31; and Jan. 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, and 14.
JUNIOR WATERFOWL HUNTING DAYS (Statewide): Saturday, Sept. 14 and 21. Open to licensed junior hunters ages 12-15, when properly accompanied, for ducks, mergansers, moorhens and coots, and Canada goose as permitted. Same daily bag limits as regular season. Hunting hours to close at sunset.
JUNIOR-ONLY DAY AT CONTROLLED HUNTING AREAS: Middle Creek is Nov. 16, and Pymatuning is Nov. 30.