Waterfowl Hunters Look Forward to a Good Season on Refuges
Practice those duck calls, and check your decoys. Waterfowl hunting season is almost here, and signs point to a good year on national wildlife refuges.
The preliminary 2011 North American waterfowl survey, released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in late July, totaled 45.5 million, up 12 percent from last year’s 40.8 million. These counts are based on aerial surveys of breeding waterfowl conducted annually since 1955, and each year the information helps determine the hunting regulations on season length, dates and bag limits.
Several hundred of the country’s 553 national wildlife refuges welcome waterfowl hunting as a traditional recreational use and wildlife management tool under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. Many hunters name refuges such as Edwin B. Forsythe in New Jersey, Anahuac in Texas and Lower Klamath in California among their favorite waterfowl hunting destinations.
At scenic Lower Klamath Refuge, established as the nation’s first waterfowl refuge in 1908, hunt program coordinator Stacy Freitas says it’s easy to see the refuge’s appeal to hunters. “We are one of the first stops in the Pacific Flyway when birds return in the fall from nesting areas in Canada,” says the biological science technician. Ducks and geese flock to the refuge’s marshes and grain fields located in the shadow of 14,000-foot Mt. Shasta. Some hunters take aim from refuge pit blinds and free-roam areas; Freitas and her husband prefer to shoot from a layout boat. “For most hunters, it’s not just about shooting birds,” she says. “It’s about watching the sunrise, listening to nature, the whole experience. You kind of feel one with nature, but hopefully you get dinner out of the process.”
At Anahuac Refuge in Texas, huntable species include blue- and green-winged teal, mottled ducks, gadwalls, pintails and shovelers, as well as snow geese, greater white-fronted geese, Ross’s geese and Canada geese. American coots are also fair game. Hunting areas can be reached by foot or by boat. An accessible hunt blind is available for hunters with a disability.
All waterfowl hunters, 16 years of age and older, must buy a $15 federal duck stamp each year; the proceeds support wetland conservation. Hunters also need a current state license and, in some cases, a refuge hunting permit. Hunters must use non-toxic, lead-free shot.
Your Guide to Hunting on National Wildlife Refuges can help you find a hunt location and the conditions you want. Many refuges, such as Parker River Refuge in Massachusetts, hold special youth hunts each year to teach conservation, shooting skills and safety to beginning hunters. Some refuges, such as Bombay Hook Refuge in Delaware, designate special hunt days for hunters with disabilities. Others, such as Sherburne Refuge in Minnesota, have special blinds for people with disabilities. The hunting guide also includes wetland management districts open to waterfowl hunting in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Montana.
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, MN, WI, IA, IL
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