Hunters need to be aware of changes.
Pennsylvania’s 2017-18 migratory game bird seasons have been selected.
Annual migratory game bird seasons are selected by states from frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Game Commission selections were made after reviewing last year’s season results, population survey data, and input gathered from hunters and the public.
“The new regulatory schedule introduced by the USFWS in 2016 continues this year,” said Ian Gregg, chief of the Game Commission’s Game Management Division. “States now make season selections in early spring rather than late summer, allowing them to be published alongside other hunting season dates and providing additional time for hunters to plan their vacations.”
While seasons for webless migratory birds are similar to those selected in 2016-17, waterfowl hunters will notice some changes this year including more restrictive September Canada goose seasons in northwestern Pennsylvania, modifications to daily bag limits for some duck species, and later dates for some youth waterfowl hunting days.
Waterfowl season highlights
In a portion of western Crawford County, the September Canada goose season will run Sept. 1-16 rather than the typical Sept. 1-25, and the daily bag limit will be 1 goose. This shorter season applies to the area south of state Route 198 from the Ohio state line to intersection of state Route 18, state Route 18 south to state Route 618; state Route 618 south to U.S. Route 6; U.S. Route 6 east to U.S. Route 322/state Route 18; U.S. Route 322/state Route 18 west to the intersection of state Route 3013; and state Route 3013 south to the Crawford/Mercer County line. The season on State Game Lands 214 remains closed. In the rest of the Southern James Bay Population Zone in northwestern Pennsylvania, the season remains Sept. 1-25 but the daily bag limit has been reduced to 1 goose. The bag limit restrictions do not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular-season regulations apply. Hunters should carefully consult the maps and descriptions at www.pgc.pa.gov to determine the specific regulations applicable to the area they plan to hunt.
Game Commission biologist Jeremy Stempka explained that the goose season restrictions are being enacted in an attempt to stabilize or increase the resident goose population on and around Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area.
“The migratory Southern James Bay Population of Canada geese no longer provides the large component of the Pymatuning goose harvest it once did, due to declining numbers overall and a northward shift in wintering range,” Stempka said. “Consequently, current goose hunting opportunities in the Pymatuning area are largely dependent on local resident geese.
“With this population also showing some recent declines, a reduction in harvest is warranted to ensure adequate goose hunting opportunities over the long term,” Stempka said. “The Game Commission will be closely monitoring the results of this year’s changes.”
For ducks, the daily bag limit is increasing from 1 to 2 for black ducks and decreasing from 2 to 1 for pintails, in accordance with established USFWS harvest strategies for these species.
“Pintail bag limits have fluctuated frequently from year to year, but the black duck limit is changing for the first time in over three decades,” said Stempka. “In response to recent analyses suggesting that a small increase in black duck harvest will not cause population declines, additional opportunity is being provided to hunters. If this change has any negative effects, they will be detected by existing population surveys and banding programs, and the bag limit could be reduced again in future years if needed.”
Similar to past years, there will be a statewide youth waterfowl hunting day in mid-September (Sept. 16) and a second youth day varying by duck zone.
“In three of our four duck zones, constituents have requested experimenting with holding the second youth day later in the season than previously,” said Gregg. “The second day in the Northwest Zone will be Dec. 16; in the North Zone, Jan. 20; and in the South Zone, Jan. 27. Previously, the North and Northwest Zones had their second youth days in September, and the South Zone’s second youth day was in early November.”
In the Lake Erie Zone, the timing of the second youth day (Oct. 21) will be similar to previous years. Also new this year, due to a recent change in federal frameworks youth waterfowl days are open to licensed junior hunters 12-16 years old. Previously, 15 was the upper age limit. A federal duck stamp is required for 16-year-olds to participate.
Youngsters participating in the youth days must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During those hunts, youth can harvest ducks, Canada geese, mergansers, coots and gallinules. Licensed adults can harvest Canada geese if there is a general Canada goose season open in the area being hunted.
On youth waterfowl days occurring when there is a general Canada goose season open, youth and adults have the same daily limit for Canada geese in the area being hunted. On youth waterfowl days occurring when there is not a general Canada goose season open, accompanying adults may not harvest Canada geese, and the bag limit for youth hunters is the same as in the regular season for the area being hunted. Bag limits for ducks, mergansers, coots and gallinules also are consistent with the limits for the regular season.
In the Resident Population Zone and most of the Atlantic Population Zone, the September Canada goose season runs Sept. 1-25 with a daily bag limit of eight Canada geese, and a possession limit of 24. Statewide shooting hours during the September goose season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, except on Sept. 16 when the season overlaps with the statewide youth waterfowl hunting day and shooting hours end at sunset.
In addition to the more restrictive seasons and bag limits in portions of northwestern Pennsylvania, special regulations remain in place for the September Canada goose season in a portion of southeastern Pennsylvania. In the area of Lancaster and Lebanon counties north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) and east of state Route 501 to state Route 419; south of state Route 419 to Lebanon-Berks county line; west of Lebanon-Berks county line to state Route 1053 (also known as Peartown Road and Greenville Road); and west of state Route 1053 to Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76), the daily bag limit is one goose, with a possession limit of three geese. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular season regulations apply.
The controlled hunting areas at the Game Commission’s Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Lands 46, will remain closed to September goose hunting to address the decline in the resident Canada goose flock.
Dates for regular duck seasons, light geese, and brant remain similar to those for 2016-17 and are listed at the end of this release.
To hunt waterfowl, in addition to a regular Pennsylvania hunting license, persons 16 and older must have a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly referred to as a “Duck Stamp.” It must be signed in ink across its face and possessed while hunting.
A temporary, electronic Federal Duck Stamp (eDuck) may be purchased online through the Pennsylvania Automated License System, and is valid for 45 days from date of purchase to hunt migratory waterfowl within Pennsylvania and other states that have approved its validity. The eDuck stamp may be printed out or downloaded onto a mobile device, and must be carried while hunting waterfowl.
Within 45 days of purchasing an eDuck stamp, a physical Duck Stamp will be mailed to the purchaser, at which time it should be signed and carried afield while hunting.
Regardless of age, all hunters must have a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License to hunt waterfowl and other migratory birds, including doves, woodcock, coots, gallinules, 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.
“By answering questions when purchasing a new hunting license, hunters help improve survey efficiency and the quality of information used to track the harvest of migratory birds for management purposes,” Stempka said.
To participate in light goose conservation hunts, hunters will need to obtain a free light goose conservation season permit, in addition to their other required licenses, and file a mandatory report of harvest/participation. In late 2017, the Light Goose Conservation Hunt website will be available at www.pgc.pa.gov 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.
Webless Migratory Game Bird Seasons
As usual, Sept. 1 will mark the beginning of dove season statewide. The first segment of the season will run through Oct. 7, with shooting hours from noon until sunset throughout this segment. It will then re-open on Oct. 14, which is the first day of the statewide openers for squirrels, rabbits and ruffed grouse, and run through Nov. 25, which is the closing day for squirrels, rabbits, grouse, and pheasants. The final dove season segment runs from Dec. 23 through Jan. 1. Dove hunting hours during the second and third season segments are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. For all three segments the daily bag limit has been set at 15, with a possession limit of 45.
Pennsylvania’s woodcock and common snipe seasons both open on Oct. 14 and close on Nov. 25. Daily limits are 3 woodcock and 8 snipe, with possession limits three times the respective daily bag limits.
Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 9. Bag limits, singly or combined, are three daily and nine in possession. The season for king and clapper rails remains closed.
Hunting for gallinules also runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 9, and the bag limits are 3 daily and 9 in possession.
Migratory game bird hunters, including those afield for doves and woodcock, are required to obtain and carry a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license ($3.90 for residents, $6.90 for nonresidents), as well as a general hunting, combination or lifetime license.
Hunting hours for woodcock, snipe, rails, and gallinules are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
Federal regulations posted on Game Commission’s website
In addition to posting the migratory game bird seasons on its website, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has posted a synopsis of federal regulations that govern migratory game bird and waterfowl seasons to assist hunters in finding answers to questions.
To review the information, go to www.pgc.pa.gov, put your cursor on “Hunt/Trap” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Hunting,” scroll down and click on “Waterfowl Hunting and Conservation,” and then scroll down and click on “Federal Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Synopsis” in the “Waterfowl Hunting Regulations” section.
Additional information can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, www.fws.gov/hunting/whatres.html, where a complete version of the federal regulations (50 CFR Part 20) is posted. When state law differs from the federal law, hunters must comply with the more restrictive law.
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.
The toll-free telephone number for band reporting (1-800-327-BAND) is being phased out due to cost and data-quality concerns, and may not be in operation for the 2017-18 hunting season.
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.
Jeremy Stempka, Game Commission 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. Last year, over 6,000 migratory game birds, including more than 5,000 waterfowl, were banded in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania continues to monitor migratory game bird populations in cooperation with other wildlife management agencies across North America,” Stempka explained. “Information provided by hunters is essential to manage migratory game bird populations and support hunting opportunities through time. By reporting the recovery of a leg-band, hunters not only assist in managing the resource, but also have an opportunity to learn interesting facts about the bird they harvested.”
Stempka noted that modern band reporting systems have produced big dividends. Under the old reporting system, used until the mid-1990s, only about one-third of recovered banded birds were reported by hunters. Since initiation of the online and toll-free methods, band reporting rates have improved to more than 70 percent. This has improved greatly migratory bird management while reducing monitoring costs.
2017-18 MIGRATORY GAME BIRD SEASONS AND BAG LIMITS
North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 7-Nov. 18, and Dec. 19-Jan. 13.
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 14-21, and Nov. 21-Jan. 20.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 7-Dec. 9, and Dec. 26-30.
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 30-Jan. 6.
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, 2 black ducks, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 2 canvasbacks, 1 pintail, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck, 4 eiders, 4 long-tailed ducks, 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.
CANADA GEESE (includes WHITE-FRONTED GEESE):
Resident Population Goose Zone (RP)
All of Pennsylvania except for the Southern James Bay Population and the Atlantic Population zone. Sept. 1-25 (8-goose daily bag limit); and Oct. 28-Nov. 25, Dec. 18-Jan. 20, and Jan. 27-Feb. 24 (5-goose daily bag limit in latter 3 segments).
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). Sept. 1-25 (except in a portion of western Crawford County defined under the “Waterfowl season highlights” section in this news release; 1-goose daily bag limit for entire zone); and Oct. 7-Nov. 25 and Dec. 12-Jan. 20 (3-goose daily bag limit in latter 2 segments).
Atlantic Population Zone (AP)
The area east of 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. Sept. 1-25 (8-goose daily bag limit); and Nov. 15-25 and Dec. 16-Jan. 31 (3-goose daily bag limit in latter two segments).
Exception: Areas outside of the controlled goose hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and State Game Lands 46 in Lebanon-Lancaster counties have a daily limit of one, and a possession limit of three during the regular Canada goose season. Areas inside the goose hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and State Game Lands 46 have a season limit of one.
BRANT (All Zones): Oct. 14-Dec. 22. 2 daily, 6 in possession.
LIGHT GEESE (Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese):
Atlantic Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 2-Jan. 31, 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Feb. 1 – April 20; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 2-Jan. 20; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Jan. 22 – April 20; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Resident Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 24-Feb. 24; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Feb. 26 – April 20; 25 daily, no possession limit.
HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWANS: No open season.
JUNIOR WATERFOWL HUNTING DAYS: Statewide: Sept. 16; also in Lake Erie Zone, Oct. 21; in Northwest Zone, Dec. 16; in North Zone, Jan. 20; and in South Zone, Jan. 27. Open to licensed junior hunters ages 12-16, when properly accompanied, for ducks, mergansers, gallinules and coots, and Canada goose as permitted. Same daily bag limits as regular season. Hunting hours to close at sunset.
DOVES: Sept. 1-Oct. 7 (hunting hours noon to sunset), Oct. 14-Nov. 25, and Dec. 23-Jan. 1.
Hunting hours one-half hour before sunrise to sunset in latter two segments. 15 daily, 45 in possession.
WOODCOCK: Oct. 14-Nov. 25. 3 daily, 9 in possession.
COMMON SNIPE: Oct. 14-Nov. 25. 8 daily, 24 in possession.
GALLINULES: Sept. 1-Nov. 9. 3 daily, 9 in possession.
VIRGINIA AND SORA RAILS: Sept. 1-Nov. 9. Bag limits singly or in the aggregate; 3 daily, 9 in possession.
CLAPPER AND KING RAILS: No open season.