USFWS Proposes Most Generous Duck Limit in Years

There was a lot of speculation on whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) would increase the scaup limit, and now that the official proposed framework has been released--WOW--the news is better than anyone imagined.

In other news I may just move to the Pacific Flyway. West Coast hunters are set to enjoy a 107-day regular duck season between September 22 and January 27. Bag limit is seven ducks, which cannot include more than 2 mallard hens, 2 pintails, 2 redheads or one canvasback.

The scaup increase is by the biggest news for all flyways. In the Pacific (bag limit of seven ducks) and Central (bag limit of six ducks), every duck in your limit is permitted to be a scaup. And Atlantic and Mississippi Flyway hunters are allowed four scaup per day, which doubles the allowable number from just one year ago.

All flyways will again enjoy limits of two pintails and one canvasback. An anonymous source at USFWS tells me that we were very close to getting a nationwide two-canvasback limit, which speaks to the success of King Can's continued population recovery.

Here is the full proposed framework:

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 September 22, 2012, and January 27, 2013. 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, 4 scaup, 1 black duck, 2 pintails, 1 canvasback, 1 mottled duck, and 1 fulvous whistling duck.

• Geese: For light geese, states will be able to select a 107-day season between October 1, 2012, and March 10, 2013, 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 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 50 days with a daily bag limit of 2.

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 September 22, 2012, and January 27, 2013. 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, 4 scaup, 2 pintails,
1 black duck, and 1 canvasback. 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 which may be hooded mergansers.

• Geese: Generally, seasons for Canada goose would be held between September 22, 2012, and January 31, 2013, 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 September 22, 2012, and March 10, 2013; for white-fronted geese the proposed season would not exceed 74 days with a 2-bird daily bag limit or 88 days with a 1-bird daily bag limit between September 22, 2012, and February 17, 2013; 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 September 22, 2012, and January 31, 2012. There is no possession limit for light geese.

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 September 22, 2012 and January 27, 2013. The daily bag limit would be 6 ducks, with species and sex restrictions as follows: 5 mallard, no more than 2 of which may be females; 3 wood duck, 2 pintail, and 2 redhead, 1 mottled duck and 1 canvasback. Mottled ducks may not be harvested during the first 5 days after the beginning of the regular season in Texas. The possession limit would be 2 times the daily bag limit. 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 December 8, 2012. A 74 day season is proposed for the remainder of the Central Flyway.

• Geese: States may select seasons between September 22, 2012 and February 17, 2013 for dark geese and between September 22, 2012, and March 10, 2013, for light geese. East-tier states would be able to select a 107 day season for Canada geese with a daily bag limit of 3. For white-fronted geese, east-tier states would be able to select either a 74 day season with a daily bag limit of 2 birds or an 88 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 would be able to select a 95 day season with a daily bag limit of 5 dark geese (including no more than 1 white-fronted goose). For light geese, all states would be able to select a 107-day season with a daily bag limit of 20 and no possession limit.

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 September 22, 2012, and January 27, 2013. The proposed daily bag limit is 7 ducks, including no more than 2 mallard hens, 2 redheads, 2 pintails and 1 canvasback.

• Geese: 107-day seasons are proposed for the Pacific Flyway between September 29, 2012, and March 10, 2013. Proposed basic daily bag limits are up to 10 light geese and 6 dark 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 dark goose limit does not include brant. For brant, the proposed season lengths are 16 days in Oregon and Washington and 30 days in California, with a 2-bird daily limit. Washington and California are able to choose seasons in each of the two zones described in state regulations.

With liberal season lengths, generous bag limits and duck populations at all-time highs, I can't help but be optimistic for what the season holds.

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