Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Service Proposes Waterfowl Hunting Season 2015 -2016 Frameworks,
Streamlines Process for Setting Game Bird Hunting Seasons

August 3, 2015

Contact:

Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220
Website: https://www.fws.gov/external-affairs/public-affairs/



As a result of steady or improving population numbers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposes continued liberal waterfowl hunting season lengths and bag limits for the 2015-16 late seasons. Each year, the Service works in partnership with states from the four Flyway Councils (Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic) to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits. States select their individual seasons from within the federal frameworks to establish their earliest beginning and latest ending dates, and bag limits.

Concurrent with this season’s frameworks announcement, the Service is also streamlining the process by which it sets annual migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits. Beginning with the 2016-17 hunting seasons, the current two-cycle regulatory practice will be compressed into a single annual process. Biological data from the past year will now be used to set hunting season dates and project appropriate harvest limits for each game species. The change will give biologists more time to analyze bird survey data that inform the Service’s regulatory decisions, and will give the public more time to weigh in on proposed rules. The change will also ensure that administrative procedures do not delay the opening of state hunting seasons.

The new regulatory process came out of a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement published by the Service in 2013 that was informed by public comment. For more details about the new process and its impacts, see http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/pdfs/FSEIS%20Issuance%20of%20Annual%20Regulations%20Permitting%20the%20Hunting%20of%20Migratory%20Birds.pdf.

The proposed federal frameworks 2015-16 late seasons include duck hunting season lengths of 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 frameworks include a full season on pintails with a two-bird daily bag limit nationwide, and a full season on canvasbacks with a two-bird daily bag limit nationwide. The proposed late-season waterfowl frameworks will appear in a mid-August edition of the Federal Register for public comment.

Flyway-specific highlights of the proposed late-season waterfowl hunting 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. 26, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016. The proposed daily bag limit is 6 and may include no more than 4 mallards (2 hens), 4 scoters, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 2 hooded mergansers, 2 scaup, 1 black duck, 2 pintails, 2 canvasbacks, 1 mottled duck, and 1 fulvous whistling duck. The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is 2, only 2 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 2 of which may be hooded mergansers.
     
  • Geese: For light geese, states will be able to select a 107-day season between Oct. 1, 2015, and March 10, 2016, 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 5 birds in most hunt zones established for resident populations of Canada geese. In hunt zones established for migratory populations, bag limits will be 5 or fewer and vary among states and areas. For Atlantic brant, the season length may be 30 days with a daily bag limit of 1.

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. 26, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016. The proposed daily bag limit is 6 and may include no more than 4 mallards (2 hens), 3 wood ducks, 1 mottled duck, 2 redheads, 3 scaup, 2 pintails, 1 black duck, and 2 canvasbacks. The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is 5, only 2 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 2 of which may be hooded mergansers.
  • Geese: Generally, seasons for Canada geese would be held between Sept. 26, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, 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. 26, 2015, and March 10, 2016; for white-fronted goose the proposed season in Alabama, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio  and Wisconsin would not exceed 107 days with a 5-bird daily bag limit, in aggregate with dark geese, and in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee the white-fronted goose season would be either 88 days and 2 birds per day daily, or 74 days and 3 birds per day daily, or 107 days and 1 bird per day daily between Sept. 26, 2015, and Feb. 14, 2016; and for brant it would not exceed 70 days with a 2-bird daily bag limit or 107 days with a 1-bird daily bag limit between Sept. 26, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016.

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. 26, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016. The daily bag limit is 6 ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: 5 mallards, no more than 2 of which may be females; 3 wood ducks, 3 scaup, 2 pintails, 2 redheads, and 2 canvasbacks. In Texas, the daily bag limit on mottled ducks is 1, but no mottled ducks may be taken during the first 5 days of the season.  In addition to the daily limits listed above, the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming can have an additional daily bag limit of 2 blue-winged teal during the first 16 days of the regular duck season. 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. 12, 2015. A 74-day season is proposed for the remainder of the Central Flyway.
  • Geese: States may select seasons between Sept. 26, 2015, and Feb. 14, 2016, for dark geese and between Sept. 26, 2015, and March 10, 2016, for light geese. East-tier states are able to select a 107-day season for Canada geese with a daily bag limit of 8. For white-fronted geese, east-tier states will be able to select either a 74-day season with a daily bag limit of 3 birds, an 88-day season with a daily bag limit of 2 birds, or a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 1 bird. In the west-tier, states may select a 107-day dark goose season with a daily bag limit of 5 birds. In the Western Goose Zone of Texas, the state could select a 95-day season with a daily bag limit of 5 dark geese (including no more than 2 white-fronted geese). For light geese, all states would be able to select a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 50.

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. 26, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016. The proposed daily bag limit is 7 ducks, including no more than 2 mallard hens, 2 redheads, 2 pintails, 2 canvasbacks and 3 scaup. For scaup, the season length can be 86 days, which may be split according to applicable zones and split duck hunting configurations approved for each state.  
  • Geese: 107-day season is proposed for the Pacific Flyway between Sept. 26, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, for Canada goose and between Sept. 26, 2015, and March 10, 2016, for white-fronted geese and light geese. Proposed basic daily bag limits are up to 4 Canada geese, 10 white-fronted geese, and 20 light 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 proposed brant season lengths are 16 days in Oregon and Washington and 37 days in California, with a 2-bird daily limit. Washington and California are able to choose brant seasons in each of the two zones described in state regulations.  For the other Pacific Flyway States, brant are included in the aggregate bag with Canada geese.

The Service’s 2015 Waterfowl Population Status Report summarizes information on the status of duck and goose populations and habitat conditions during the spring of 2015. Overall, population estimates for most species of ducks remained steady for this breeding season. In the traditional survey area, which includes Alaska, the north-central United States, and south-central and northern Canada, the total 2015 duck population estimate (excluding scoters, eiders, long-tailed ducks, mergansers and wood ducks) is 49.5 million birds. This population estimate is similar to the 2014 estimate of 49.2 million, and is 43 percent higher than the long-term average (1955-2014).  

Although most duck populations remain steady, when and where waterfowl will be encountered this fall depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat conditions and other factors all influence local duck and goose abundance, distribution, behavior and ultimately, hunter success.

The Service continues to monitor habitat changes throughout the survey regions and is mindful of large-scale changes in the all regions of North America. Climatic changes and extreme weather events may negatively impact duck production in the future.

Conservation efforts are important to ensuring continued population stability of ducks and geese. Waterfowl hunters contribute to conservation efforts through the purchase of a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (also known as the Duck Stamp). The purchase of habitat ultimately benefits waterfowl and other birds as well as many other species of wildlife.

The Waterfowl Status Report, more details from the waterfowl population survey crews, and information about waterfowl management across North America are available at http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/ . To view a video of the Status of Waterfowl video visit: http://flyways.us/status-of-waterfowl/video-report/.

Of the more than 1,000 species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, approximately 170 species are game birds. Fewer than 60 species are typically hunted each year, subject to limits based on data from aerial surveys and monitoring reports. The Service publishes migratory game bird regulations each year in the Federal Register.

Information contained in older news items may be outdated. These materials are made available as historical archival information only. Individual contacts have been replaced with general External Affairs office information. No other updates have been made to the information and we do not guarantee current accuracy or completeness.


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