English: crop of File:Bgforhunting.jpg Taken by Dr. F Eugene Hester. Picture supplied by Fish and Wildlife Service Website. http://www.fws.gov/hunting/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today announced that the agency has made its selections for the 2012-13 migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits.
Annual waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Game Commission selections were made after reviewing last year’s season results, waterfowl survey data, and input gathered from waterfowl hunters and the public. Final approval from the USFWS is expected by late September.
Roe also noted that the Game Commission will post the annual waterfowl and migratory bird season brochure and zone maps on its website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) the week of Aug. 20.
“Many hunters already have purchased their hunting licenses and federal waterfowl stamps in anticipation of the season,” Roe said. “For their convenience, hunters will be able to obtain this important information from the Game Commission’s website. However, to improve efficiency and reduce printing and postage costs, the Game Commission is not mass producing the brochure and mailing copies to U.S. Post Offices.”
Game Commission waterfowl biologist Kevin Jacobs said the outlook is mixed for waterfowl populations important to Pennsylvania.
“Banding studies indicate most of Pennsylvania’s mallard, wood duck, and Canada goose harvests are derived from birds breeding in Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” Jacobs said. These populations are monitored through the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey. This year, because of the mild winter and early spring, the Pennsylvania portion of this multi-state survey was advanced a week earlier than normal for the first time.
“At the state level, the estimated number of indicated mallard breeding pairs (60,500) was 35 percent below the 1993-2011 long-term average of 93,000 pairs. Southeastern Pennsylvania had the highest density of breeding mallards, followed by northeastern Pennsylvania. The 68,000 wood duck breeding pairs estimated in 2012 was 31 percent above the long-term average of 52,000 pairs.”
Jacobs noted that this estimate could be the result of larger than average numbers of migrating wood ducks being in Pennsylvania at the time of the earlier survey.
“Trends in wood duck abundance have indicated stable to slightly increasing populations across all years of the survey,” Jacobs said. “Wood duck densities were highest in northwestern, southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania. American black ducks were not observed in Pennsylvania’s 2012 survey. Black ducks have been observed at very low and declining densities since the survey was initiated in 1989. However, black duck populations in eastern Canada remain healthy, allowing this species to continue to account for about five percent of Pennsylvania’s total duck harvest.”
The Pennsylvania estimates of total blue-winged teal (3,000) were slightly below average, while green-winged teal numbers (7,500) were above average in 2012. Teal abundance in this survey can vary dramatically from year to year, due to weather-related impacts on teal migration. Teal migration appeared average in 2012.
“We don’t believe these estimates are indicative of true breeding populations of teal in Pennsylvania as many migrating teal are encountered during the survey period,” Jacobs said. “Estimates of total hooded mergansers (5,700) and common mergansers (24,000) were above average. The trends for both breeding merganser species have increased since 1993.”
Jacobs noted that Pennsylvania’s spring 2012 Canada goose population was estimated at 220,000 birds.
“The resident goose population appears to have declined over the past nine years following highly significant population expansion from 1990 to 2004, but it remains well above the Resident Population management plan goal of 150,000 spring birds,” Jacobs said. “We continue efforts to achieve the management plan goal through reduced densities in Southeastern and Southwestern Pennsylvania, while maintaining populations in other portions of the Commonwealth.
“Observations during June banding indicated 37 percent below average juvenile recruitment statewide. Hunters should expect a below average fall flight with fewer juveniles, but resident geese will remain plentiful overall. Populations of Arctic-nesting Canada geese and snow geese are generally similar to recent averages.”
Jacobs noted that spring population estimates and fall flight forecasts are obtained at large geographic scales, and therefore are not reliable predictors of waterfowl numbers that can be expected during hunting seasons.
“At the local or regional level, hunting pressure, habitat and weather variables most often dictate waterfowl movements, staging and wintering numbers through the hunting seasons.”
In the Atlantic Population Goose Zone, the regular snow goose season will be Oct. 27-Jan. 26, with a snow goose conservation season to run from Jan. 28-April 26. In the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, the regular snow goose season will be Oct. 27-Jan. 18, with a snow goose conservation season to run from Jan. 19-April 26. The Resident Population Goose Zone regular snow goose season will run Oct. 27-Feb. 28, and the snow goose conservation season will run March 1-April 26.
Young Pennsylvania hunters will have two special days of waterfowl hunting, on Saturday, Sept. 15, and Saturday, Sept. 22. The Junior Waterfowl Days will be open to those 12 to 15 years old who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the juniors in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During these two special hunts, juniors can harvest Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens. The daily bag limit for juniors participating in the Junior Waterfowl Days is the same as for the regular season daily limit in the area being hunted. The only exception is when September Canada goose daily bag limits exceed the regular season limit for the area being hunted; juniors then can take the September daily limit.
However, waterfowl hunters should be aware that a new restriction on hunting hours will impact the junior waterfowl hunting days. On Sept. 15 and 22, hunting hours for all waterfowl species will close at sunset. For the remainder of the September 1-25 Canada goose season, hunting hours close at one-half hour after sunset.
“Federal frameworks specify that for most migratory game bird seasons, hunting hours must close at sunset,” Jacobs said. “Exceptions currently are in place to allow states to extend hunting hours to one-half hour after sunset for the September Canada goose season and the snow goose conservation season, in an effort to increase harvest pressure on overabundant waterfowl populations. One of the conditions for use of extended hunting hours is that while they are in effect, no other waterfowl seasons may be open.
“By previously allowing extended hunting hours for Canada geese throughout the September season, and also holding our junior waterfowl days within this period, Pennsylvania had inadvertently been in conflict with this provision of federal regulations.”
Jacobs noted that the need to resolve this issue was brought to our attention by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service following its review of the Game Commission’s 2012-13 early migratory game bird season selections.
“Rather than reschedule the previously announced junior days, limit junior hunters to geese only on those two days, or restrict hunting hours for the entire September goose season, we have chosen to close hunting hours for all waterfowl species and all waterfowl hunters at sunset on the two junior waterfowl days, Sept. 15 and Sept. 22,” Jacobs said. “While we recognize this change adds some complexity to regulations, it places our season selections in compliance with federal regulations while minimizing effects on the hunter recruitment and population management goals of the junior waterfowl days and the September goose season.”
The Game Commission again will hold a special junior-only waterfowl hunting day at the controlled hunting blinds at both Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. The junior day for Middle Creek is Nov. 17; for Pymatuning, Nov. 24. A special drawing of applications submitted by junior license holders will be held immediately before the regular drawing for goose blinds. Interested juniors should use the same application on page 28 of the 2012-13 Digest. Only one application will be accepted per junior hunter.
Additionally, Game Commission officials, in partnership with the state chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), are encouraging hunters to help veterans discover or rediscover the thrills and joys of hunting in Pennsylvania, including the many migratory game bird seasons that will be open, especially on Veterans Day, which will be observed on Monday, Nov. 12.
To recognize those who step up to serve as volunteer guides for a veteran, the Game Commission will conduct a drawing to present six framed fine-art wildlife prints. To be eligible for one of the prints, a participating hunter must submit a brief e-mail that outlines the name and address of the veteran taken afield, type of hunting taken part in, and county where the shared hunt took place. American Legion or VFW members who take another veteran hunting also should include their member number.
All participating hunters, including those not affiliated with the American Legion or VFW must send an e-mail to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. A drawing will be held to select the six winners from all e-mails received by Dec. 31, 2012.
In addition to a regular Pennsylvania hunting license, persons 16 and older must have a Federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp, commonly referred to as a “Duck Stamp,” signed in ink across its face. All waterfowl hunters, regardless of age, must have a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License to hunt waterfowl and other migratory birds, including doves, woodcock, coots, moorhens, 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 the questions on the survey card, hunters will improve survey efficiency and the quality of information used to track the harvest of migratory birds for management purposes,” Jacobs said.
Also, to participate in the snow goose conservation hunts, hunters will need to obtain a free conservation hunt permit, in addition to their other required licenses, and file a mandatory report of harvest/participation. In late 2012, the Snow Goose Conservation Hunt website will be available on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) 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 snow goose conservation seasons. Also, the use of any sort of artificial substance or product as bait or an attractant is prohibited.
For complete early Canada goose season information, as well as webless migratory game bird seasons, please see News Release #081-12, which the agency issued on July 26.
FEDERAL REGULATIONS POSTED ON GAME COMMISSION WEBSITE
In addition to posting the annual waterfowl and migratory game bird brochure 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 the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), 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
Waterfowl hunters are encouraged to report banded ducks, geese and doves they harvest online atwww.reportband.gov, or by using the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND). 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.
Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist, also stressed that reporting leg-bands helps the Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learn more about waterfowl 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.
“Information provided by hunters is essential in our efforts to properly manage our migratory game bird populations and harvest opportunities,” Jacobs said. “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.”
Jacobs noted that the online and toll-free reporting systems have produced big dividends. Under the old reporting system, utilized until the late 1990s, about one-third of recovered banded birds were reported by hunters. Now, with the option of using online or toll-free methods, band reporting rates are estimated to have stabilized around 70 percent. This allows more information to be obtained from the program and can reduce costs associated with banding ducks, geese and doves.
WATERFOWL HUNTERS CAUTIONED ABOUT EATING MERGANSERS
To minimize potential health impacts, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials recommend hunters do not eat merganser ducks, especially those harvested in the Lake Erie and Northwestern Pennsylvania hunting zones.
“Studies conducted two decades ago on Pennsylvania and New York mergansers, especially common and red-breasted mergansers in the Lake Erie region, concluded they may have varying levels of contaminants, including PCBs,” said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian. “Mergansers consume fish and other aquatic organisms that may cause a concentration of contaminants in body tissue. As such, health officials have issued similar consumption advisories for certain species of fish found in these same waters.
“For this reason, hunters are cautioned to not consume any mergansers. Other waterfowl should be skinned and the fat removed before cooking. Stuffing should be discarded after cooking and should not be consumed.”
The Game Commission is in its final year of a research project to obtain additional information on contaminant levels in Lake Erie waterfowl, and the potential threats of those contaminants on wildlife and human health. Individuals willing to allow Game Commission personnel to collect tissue samples from waterfowl harvested at Lake Erie or Presque Isle during the 2012-seasons are encouraged to contact the Bureau of Wildlife Management at 717-787-5529 for details.
GOOSE BLIND DEADLINES FOR CONTROLLED HUNTING AREAS
Application deadlines are fast approaching for waterfowl hunters interested in being selected for the limited number of goose blinds at the controlled hunting areas at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Pymatuning or Middle Creek wildlife management areas during the regular Canada goose season. A goose blind application must be submitted using the form found on page 28 of the 2012-13 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest.
Hunters may apply to only one area per year and may submit only one application, which must include the individual’s nine-digit Customer Identification (CID) Number.
The Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area will accept applications through the mail until Sept. 11, at: PGC Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, P.O. Box 110, Kleinfeltersville, PA 17039-0110. A public drawing will be held at 10 a.m., Sept. 12.
Applications for the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area will be accepted through the mail until Sept. 8, at: PGC Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area, 9552 Hartstown Rd., Hartstown, PA 16131. A public drawing will be held at 10 a.m., Sept. 15.
Blinds at Middle Creek and Pymatuning will not be operational during the September season. During the regular season, shooting days at Middle Creek are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, one-half hour before sunrise to 1:30 p.m. Shooting days at Pymatuning are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, one-half hour before sunrise to 12:30 p.m.
A separate drawing is held for blinds that accommodate hunters with disabilities. Applicants must submit a current copy of their Disabled Person Permit (to hunt from a vehicle) issued by the Game Commission.
Also, the Game Commission again will hold a special junior-only waterfowl hunting days at the controlled goose hunting areas at both Middle Creek (Nov. 17) and Pymatuning (Nov. 24) wildlife management areas. The junior-only restriction applies to the controlled goose hunting areas only; public hunting areas at Middle Creek and Pymatuning, and the Controlled Duck Hunting Areas at Pymatuning, remain open to everyone, including adults, on these dates.
Juniors must hold a junior license and be accompanied by an adult, who may participate in the hunt by calling only. A special drawing of applications submitted by junior license holders will be held immediately before the regular drawing for goose blinds. Interested juniors should use the same application on page 28 of the 2012-13 Digest. Only one application will be accepted per junior hunter.
Successful applicants will be mailed a hunting reservation entitling them to be accompanied by up to three guests. On hunting days, hunters also may apply, in person, for a chance at any blinds unclaimed by a reservation holder.
Persons who have previously hunted a controlled goose hunting area at the Game Commission’s Pymatuning or Middle Creek wildlife management areas may apply for unclaimed blinds on the morning of the designated shooting day, but only when there exists an absence of applications for the unclaimed blinds from persons who have not previously hunted a controlled goose hunting area.
SPECIAL WATERFOWL HUNTING SAFETY REMINDERS
Waterfowl hunters – whether hunting from shore or from a boat – are urged to keep safety first and foremost in mind, said Keith Snyder, Pennsylvania Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief.
“Basic firearm and hunting safety are critical,” Snyder said. “Treat every firearm as if it is loaded and make sure that the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction. Never place your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire. Be aware of any companions’ locations at all times and maintain a safe zone-of-fire. Waterfowl action can be exciting, but never swing your barrel toward another hunter.
“Make sure firearms are unloaded prior to reaching your hunting location and immediately after you are done hunting. Also, if you are using a boat, remember state law requires all firearms be unloaded in any boat propelled by motor or sail, and should be cased with actions open.”
Snyder also noted that, in Pennsylvania, all those using a boat are required to have a properly-fitted personal flotation device (PFD) readily accessible and, new regulations require a PFD to be worn during the cold weather months from November 1st through April 30th while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak. For more information on boating laws and regulations, as well as safety tips, please visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website (www.fish.state.pa.us). Better yet, take an approved boater’s safety course.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, every year several hunters die from drowning and hypothermia.
“When you have a crew of hunters, with decoys and equipment, and dogs, a boat can easily become unbalanced, especially if the wind comes up,” Snyder said, “Not only is it unsafe to overload a boat, exceeding the limits posted on the capacity plate is also illegal.
“Sudden immersion into cold water is one of the leading causes of boating fatalities in the Commonwealth. It places a severe strain on bodily systems that can lead to hypothermia or, worse, cardiac arrest. Survivors of cold-water accidents have reported their breath driven from them on contact with the water.”
Anyone falling into cold water should immediately ensure that their and any companions’ PFDs are intact, and work to find a way to exit the water or right the watercraft. Cover your mouth and nose – if possible – to prevent inhaling water.
If you can’t get out of the water immediately and the shore is too far, raise your knees and wrap your arms across your chest to help reduce heat loss through the body’s core. Don’t leave your watercraft and attempt to swim to shore. It’s probably further than you think. Experts recommend you stay with your boat until help arrives. If possible, try to climb back into your boat or on top of it.
“Most important,” Snyder suggests, “get into the routine of making the life jacket part of your hunting equipment, and wear it.”
2012-13 WATERFOWL SEASONS AND BAG LIMITS
North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 6-20, and Nov. 13-Jan. 5.
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 13-20, and Nov. 15-Jan. 15.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 6-Dec. 14.
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 22-Dec. 29.
Total Duck Bag Limits: 6 daily, 12 in possession of any species, except for the following restrictions: daily limit may not include more than 4 mallards including 2 hen mallards, 4 scaup, 1 black duck, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 canvasback, 2 pintails, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck and 4 scoters. Possession limits are double the daily limits.
Mergansers: 5 daily, 10 in possession (not more than 2 hooded mergansers daily, 4 hooded in possession).
Coots: 15 daily, 30 in possession.
REGULAR CANADA GOOSE SEASON & BAG LIMITS (including WHITE-FRONTED GEESE): All of Pennsylvania will have a regular Canada goose season, however, season lengths and bag limits will vary by area as follows:
Resident Population Goose Zone (RP)
All of Pennsylvania except for the Southern James Bay Population and the Atlantic Population zone. The season is Oct. 27-Nov. 24, Dec. 11-Jan. 15, and Feb. 1-28, with a five goose daily bag limit.
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). The season is Oct. 6-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-Jan. 18, with a three goose daily limit.
Atlantic Population Zone (AP)
The area east of route 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. The season is Nov. 13-24 and Dec. 13-Jan. 26, with a three goose daily limit.
Exception: The controlled hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon-Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Land 46 (Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area), has a daily bag limit of one, and possession limit of two during the regular Canada goose season.
BRANT (All Zones): Oct. 6-Dec. 3, 2 daily, 4 in possession.
LIGHT GEESE (Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese):
Atlantic Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 27-Jan. 26, 25; daily, no possession limit.
Snow Goose Conservation Hunt: Jan. 28 – April 26; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 27-Jan. 18; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Snow Goose Conservation Hunt: Jan. 19 – April 26; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Resident Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 27-Feb. 28; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Snow Goose Conservation Hunt: March 1 – April 26; 25 daily, no possession limit.
HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWANS: No open season.
Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area: Shooting days at Pymatuning are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, one-half hour before sunrise to 12:30 p.m. Ducks: Oct. 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24 (junior-only day), 26, 27, 29, and 31; Nov. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, and 30; and Dec. 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, and 14. Geese: Oct. 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, and 31; Nov. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 24 (junior-only day); Dec. 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, and 31; and Jan. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, and 18.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area: shooting days at Middle Creek are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to 1:30 p.m. Geese only: Nov. 13; and Jan. 17, 19, 22, 24, and 26. Geese and ducks: Nov. 15, 17 (junior-only day), 20, 22, and 24; Dec. 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 27, and 29; and Jan. 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, and 15.
JUNIOR WATERFOWL HUNTING DAYS (Statewide): Saturday, Sept. 15 and 22. Open to licensed junior hunters ages 12-15, when properly accompanied, for ducks, mergansers, moorhens and coots, and Canada goose as permitted. Same daily bag limits as regular season. Hunting hours to close at sunset.
JUNIOR-ONLY DAY AT CONTROLLED HUNTING AREAS: Middle Creek is Nov. 17, and Pymatuning is Nov. 24.