Highlights include expanded opportunity for doves and woodcock.
Pennsylvania’s 2018-19 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.
“Under the USFWS regulatory schedule in place since 2016, states now make season selections in early spring rather than late summer,” said Ian Gregg, chief of the Game Commission’s Game Management Division. “Thus, they can be announced and published alongside other hunting season dates, providing hunters additional time to plan their vacations.”
The 2018-19 waterfowl seasons are very similar to those selected in 2017-18. However, hunters will enjoy longer seasons for doves, woodcock, and other “webless” migratory game bird species this year.
“For states where Sunday hunting is closed by state law, the USFWS recently approved compensatory days for webless migratory game bird hunting,” said Gregg. “This provision, which had already been in place for waterfowl, exempts Sundays from being counted against the total number of hunting days allowable under federal frameworks.
“Using doves as an example, in 2017-18, Pennsylvania could only use 78 of the allotted 90 hunting days under the frameworks due to the lack of compensatory days,” Gregg said. “With the change, we are now able to provide 90 actual hunting days for doves.”
Waterfowl season highlights
Game Commission biologist Jeremy Stempka noted that the goose season restrictions enacted in northwestern Pennsylvania for the 2017-18 season will continue this year.
In a portion of western Crawford County, the September Canada goose season will run Sept. 1-15, and the daily bag limit will be one 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 with a daily bag limit of one 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.
“These restrictions aim to stabilize or increase the resident goose population on and around Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area and provide adequate goose-hunting opportunities over the long term,” explained Stempka. “A few additional years of population monitoring will likely be necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of these changes.”
Special regulations also 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 maintain harvest on the resident Canada goose flock at sustainable levels.
In the remainder of Pennsylvania (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. 15 when the season overlaps with the statewide youth waterfowl hunting day and shooting hours end at sunset.
Dates and bag limits for post-September Canada goose seasons, as well as light goose and Atlantic brant seasons, remain similar to those from 2017-18 and are listed at the end of this news release.
For ducks, season dates in all four of Pennsylvania’s established zones are similar to those selected in 2017-18, and with the exception of an increase in the daily bag limit for pintails (from one to two), overall and species-specific duck bag limits are identical to last year’s.
“Pintail bag limits have fluctuated frequently in recent years as the population has alternated between levels slightly above or below the threshold for changing the bag limit,” said Stempka. “While this species is not commonly encountered in Pennsylvania, hunters should be aware that they may legally harvest two pintails this year if presented with the opportunity.”
Similar to past years, there will be a statewide youth waterfowl hunting day in mid-September (Sept. 15) and a second youth day varying by duck zone.
“In 2017-18, the Game Commission experimented with holding the second youth days in the Northwest, North, and South Zones later in the season than previously,“ said Gregg. “Feedback received from hunters about these changes was generally positive, and the dates of the 2018-19 second youth days will be similar to last year’s.” The second day in the Northwest Zone will be Dec. 15; in the North Zone, Jan. 19; and in the South Zone, Jan. 26. In the Lake Erie Zone, the second youth day (Oct. 20) will continue to be similar to previous years.
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.
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 2018, 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 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 Nov. 24. It will then re-open on Dec. 18 and run through Jan. 5.
Hunters are reminded that, through a regulation change approved by the Board of Game Commissioners in April, hunting hours are now one-half hour before sunrise to sunset throughout the entire dove season.
In previous years, hunting hours during the early portion of the season did not open until noon.
For both dove-season segments the daily bag limit is 15, and the possession limit is 45.
Pennsylvania’s woodcock and common snipe seasons now have two segments. For both species, the first segment opens on Oct. 13 and closes on Nov. 24, and the second segment opens on Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 18. Daily limits are three woodcock and eight snipe, with possession limits three times the respective daily bag limits.
Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 21. 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. 21, and the bag limits are three daily and nine 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,” then scroll down and click on “Federal Waterfowl Regulations” 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.
“Telephone band reporting has been eliminated by the federal Bird Banding Laboratory due to cost and data-quality concerns,” said Stempka. “Hunters encountering older bands inscribed with the 1-800-327-BAND telephone number can still report them, but will need to use www.reportband.gov to do so. Callers to the 1-800 number will receive a recorded message directing them to the website.”
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.
Stempka 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.
2018-19 MIGRATORY GAME BIRD SEASONS AND BAG LIMITS
North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 6-Nov. 17, and Dec. 18-Jan. 12.
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 13-20, and Nov. 20-Jan. 19.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 6-Dec. 8, and Dec. 27-Jan. 1.
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 29-Jan. 5.
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, 2 pintails, 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. 27-Nov. 24, Dec. 17-Jan. 19, and Jan. 26-Feb. 23 (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. 6-Nov. 24 and Dec. 11-Jan. 19 (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. 15-24 and Dec. 15-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. 13-Dec. 21. 2 daily, 6 in possession.
LIGHT GEESE (Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese):
Atlantic Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 1-Jan. 31, 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Feb. 1 – April 19; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 1-Jan. 19; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Jan. 21 – April 19; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Resident Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 23-Feb. 23; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Feb. 25 – April 19; 25 daily, no possession limit.
HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWANS: No open season.
JUNIOR WATERFOWL HUNTING DAYS: Statewide: Sept. 15; also in Lake Erie Zone, Oct. 20; in Northwest Zone, Dec. 15; in North Zone, Jan. 19; and in South Zone, Jan. 26. 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-Nov. 24, and Dec. 18-Jan. 5. 15 daily, 45 in possession.
WOODCOCK: Oct. 13-Nov. 24, and Dec. 10-18. 3 daily, 9 in possession.
COMMON SNIPE: Oct. 13-Nov. 24, and Dec. 10-18. 8 daily, 24 in possession.
GALLINULES: Sept. 1-Nov. 21. 3 daily, 9 in possession.
VIRGINIA AND SORA RAILS: Sept. 1-Nov. 21. Bag limits singly or in the aggregate; 3 daily, 9 in possession.
CLAPPER AND KING RAILS: No open season.