Canada geese

John F. Brothers Herald-Standard

Canada geese share a section of a swampy sand bar with a great white heron in the middle of Mammoth Lake in Mammoth Park in Mount Pleasant Township.

Pennsylvania’s 2021-22 migratory game bird seasons have been set.

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 hunter harvests, population survey data and public input.

There is one significant change to Pennsylvania waterfowl seasons this year, said Wildlife Operations Division Chief Ian Gregg. The change drops the bag limit during the regular season in the Atlantic Population (AP) goose zone to one Canada goose a day. “This change is necessary to reduce harvest rates to a level that will allow for growth of this migratory Canada goose population” Gregg said. The population declined significantly and experienced a near total reproductive failure in 2018. The lowered bag limit should allow AP Canada goose populations to rebound.

In addition to the framework change, there were some slight changes to selected seasons across the state.

“In 2020, we conducted a statewide comprehensive survey of our waterfowl hunters’ desires for season timing,” said Nate Huck, Waterfowl and Dove Program Specialist. “With the results of this survey, and as a result of public comment on proposed seasons, we have modified a few season dates to better align with public preferences,” Huck said.

The first shift was to move the opening of the first segment a week earlier and open the Northwest, North and South Zone duck seasons on Oct. 9. “We believe the earlier opening day will allow hunters to take advantage of earlier migrating birds such as blue-winged teal,” explained Huck. In addition, the shift may reduce some hunter crowding issues.

The other changes are all shifting the season a week later. This included opening the South Zone duck season on Nov. 23 and running the season through Jan. 22.

“We have heard from many hunters in the South Zone they would like to see the season run later into the year. We felt shifting the season back to close on Jan. 22 allowed us to provide more late-season opportunities without the negative impacts that we might see with seasons closing at the end of January,” Huck said.

Additionally, the AP goose zone’s first split will open Nov. 23 and close Nov. 26, and then open Dec. 24 and run through Jan. 22. This change was to better align the AP goose zone with the new South Zone duck season dates.

In the Northwest Zone, duck season will also be shifted a week later.

“We took a week off the back end of the first segment and put it at the end of the second segment, so the season closes Jan. 8,” explained Huck. “Many hunters in the Northwest Zone had expressed a desire to hunt later in the season and this change should provide that opportunity.”

The last season date change is in the Resident Population Canada goose zone. Originally, this season was proposed to be similar to the 2020-21 seasons.

“We heard from quite a few hunters interested in hunting the last week of February in this zone. We shifted the third segment of the season back one week from the original proposed seasons, opening Feb. 4 and closing Feb. 26 as a result of these comments,” said Huck.

One additional change will open up more opportunity for Veterans and Active Duty Military personnel.

Similar to past years, there will be a statewide youth-only day on Sept. 25. Then there will be a zone specific Youth and Veterans and Active Duty Military day, either the Saturday before the season in the Lake Erie Zone on Oct. 23, or during the split in the North Zone – Nov. 6; South Zone – Nov. 13; and Northwest Zone – Dec. 18. The Saturday following the close of the season there will be a Veterans and Active Duty Military only day. In the Lake Erie, North, and Northwest zones, it will be Jan. 15, and in the South Zone, the day will be Jan. 29.

Other migratory game bird seasons are similar to those in recent years.

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. 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.

Huck 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. 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,” Huck explained. “Information provided by hunters is essential to manage migratory game bird populations and support sustainable 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.”

2021-22 MIGRATORY GAME BIRD SEASONS AND BAG LIMITS

DUCKS

North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 9-23, and Nov. 16-Jan. 8; South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 9-16, and Nov. 23-Jan. 22; Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 9-Dec. 4, and Dec. 28-Jan. 8; Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Nov. 1-Jan. 8.

Total Duck Bag Limits: 6 daily, 18 in possession of any species, except for the following restrictions: daily limit may not include more than 2 mallards including 1 hen mallard, 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. Daily limit for scaup varies; see below. Possession limits are three times the daily limits.

Scaup Bag Limits: North Zone: 1 scaup daily, Oct. 9-23 and Nov. 16-Dec. 16; 2 scaup daily, Dec. 17-Jan.8. South Zone: 1 scaup daily, Oct. 9-16 and Nov. 23-Dec. 30; 2 scaup daily, Dec. 31-Jan. 22. Northwest Zone: 1 scaup daily, Oct. 9-Nov. 24; 2 scaup daily, Nov. 25-Dec. 4 and Dec. 28-Jan. 8. Lake Erie Zone: 2 scaup daily, Nov. 1-23; 1 scaup daily, Nov. 24-Jan. 8

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. 23-Nov. 26, Dec. 13-Jan. 15, and Feb. 4-Feb. 26 (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 (5-goose daily bag limit); and Oct. 24-Nov. 27 and Dec. 21-Feb. 13 (3-goose daily bag limit in latter 2 segments).

Exception: During the September season in the area south of SR 198 from the Ohio state line to intersection of SR 18, SR 18 south to SR 618, SR 618 south to US Route 6, US Route 6 east to US Route 322/SR 18, US Route 322/SR 18 west to intersection of SR 3013, SR 3013 south to the Crawford/ Mercer County line. The season is Sept. 1-11. The daily bag limit is 1, possession limit 3; except on SGL 214 where the season is closed to September goose hunting.

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. 23-26 and Dec. 24-Jan. 22 (1-goose daily bag limit in latter two segments).

Exception: Areas inside the goose hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and State Game Lands 46 have a season limit of one and shall be closed during the September season.

BRANT

(All Zones): Oct. 9-Dec. 6. 2 daily, 6 in possession.

LIGHT GEESE

(Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese)

Atlantic Population Zone: Regular: Oct. 1-Jan. 29, 25 daily, no possession limit. Conservation Hunt: Jan. 31 – April 22; 25 daily, no possession limit.

Southern James Bay Population Zone: Regular: Oct. 12-Feb. 12; 25 daily, no possession limit. Conservation Hunt: Feb. 14 – April 22; 25 daily, no possession limit.

Resident Population Zone: Regular: Oct. 26-Feb. 26; 25 daily, no possession limit. Conservation Hunt: Feb. 28 – April 22; 25 daily, no possession limit.

HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWANS

No open season.

Junior Days:

Sept. 25; 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.

Junior, Veteran and Active Duty Military Days:

In Lake Erie Zone; Oct. 23; in Northwest Zone, Dec. 18; in North Zone, Nov. 6; and in South Zone, Nov. 13. Open to licensed junior hunters ages 12-16, when properly accompanied; veterans (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code); and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training) for ducks, mergansers, gallinules and coots, and Canada goose as permitted. Same daily bag limits as regular season.

Veteran and Active Duty Military Days:

In Lake Erie Zone; Jan. 15; in Northwest Zone, Jan. 15; in North Zone, Jan. 15 ; and in South Zone, Jan. 29. Veterans (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code); and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves on active duty (other than for training) for ducks, mergansers, gallinules and coots, and Canada goose as permitted. Same daily bag limits as regular season.

DOVES

Sept. 1-Nov. 26, and Dec. 16-Jan. 1. 15 daily, 45 in possession.

WOODCOCK

Oct. 16-Nov. 26, and Dec. 13-22. 3 daily, 9 in possession.

COMMON SNIPE

Oct. 16-Nov. 26, and Dec. 13-22. 8 daily, 24 in possession.

GALLINULES

Sept. 1-Nov. 20. 3 daily, 9 in possession.

VIRGINIA AND SORA RAILS

Sept. 1-Nov. 20. Bag limits by single species or in the aggregate; 3 daily, 9 in possession.

CLAPPER AND KING RAILS

No open season.

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