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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Early Season Migratory Bird Hunting Frameworks, Finalizes Duck Season Alternatives


July 17, 2002

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed regulatory guidelines (called “frameworks”) for early-season migratory bird hunting. The early-season frameworks, when finalized, will be used by State wildlife agencies to set season dates, lengths and bag limits for migratory bird species other than waterfowl and for some waterfowl seasons starting in September. The Service also finalized the set of regulatory alternatives that will be considered for the regular duck-hunting season, which traditionally begins in northern States around October 1.

The early-season proposals were developed after consultation with the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific flyway councils following a review of habitat, population, and harvest information collected throughout North America. The most notable change this year is a proposed reduction from 16 to 9 days in the September teal season offered in certain states of the Central and Mississippi flyways.

“Drought conditions on the mid-continent breeding grounds, combined with a 27 percent decline in blue-winged teal numbers this spring, led us to propose this reduction after four consecutive years of an extended 16-day season,” said Tom Melius, assistant director for Migratory Birds and State Programs. The 7-day reduction is consistent with criteria previously agreed to by the Service and the flyway councils.

No reduction in the September teal season is being proposed for the Atlantic Flyway because that season has always been limited to 9 days. No September teal season is offered in the Pacific Flyway.

The Service also announced today it has agreed to extend opening and closing framework dates in the “liberal” and “moderate” regulatory alternatives that are considered for the regular duck-hunting season. Framework dates are the earliest and latest dates during which States may hold their duck-hunting seasons. The traditional opening date of the Saturday nearest October 1 has been changed to the Saturday nearest September 24. The traditional closing date of the Sunday nearest January 20 has been changed to the last Sunday in January. Framework dates in the “restrictive” and “very restrictive” alternatives remain unchanged.

“Framework dates for the regular duck season have been a subject of great controversy in recent years. The Service agreed to the extensions only after extensive discussions with the four flyway councils, the National Flyway Council, and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies,” said Melius. The potential effects of the new framework dates are being anticipated as part of the Adaptive Harvest Management Program, which relies on state-of-the-art science and is supported by the Service and flyway councils.

The Service predicts that harvest rates of mallards will increase by as much as 15 percent with framework-date extensions in the liberal and moderate alternatives. The projected increase will be taken into account, along with current population and habitat conditions, in proposing a regulatory alternative under the Adaptive Harvest Management Program.

Although drought conditions greeted ducks returning to key nesting areas this spring, the Service is encouraged that numbers of breeding mallards and total ducks were near their long-term averages. “We continue to have serious concerns over the status of pintails, scaup, and black ducks, however, and continued hunting restrictions for those species are likely,” said Melius. The Service will propose its choice of regulatory alternative for the 2002-03 regular duck-hunting season in August.

Few changes were proposed for migratory bird species other than waterfowl. At the request of the Atlantic Flyway Council, the Service has proposed changing the opening framework date for woodcock from October 6 to October 1. For dove seasons, the Service is proposing to allow concurrent seasons for mourning and white-winged doves with an aggregate bag limit of birds in the Central Management Unit. The Central Management Unit encompasses parts of the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific flyways. In Georgia and on Lake Seminole in Florida, a special early season is being proposed for non-migratory Canada geese.

For detailed descriptions of the Service’s regulatory proposals, consult the Federal Register at or contact the Division of Migratory Bird Management at (703) 358-1714.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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