Balance critical in waterfowl managementIn the wildlife profession, the word “balance” is often associated with a challenge to meet the needs of many. Establishing a waterfowl season framework to meet the expectations of thousands of stakeholders, young and old, urban and rural, is a good example.
By: By Doug Leier, North Dakota Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun
In the wildlife profession, the word “balance” is often associated with a challenge to meet the needs of many.
Establishing a waterfowl season framework to meet the expectations of thousands of stakeholders, young and old, urban and rural, is a good example.
Hunters taking the field are not easily pigeonholed into one category. I’m not complaining, just helping lay the foundation for a discussion on waterfowl hunting regulations.
Sure, you can put together a pretty close description of the typical North Dakota hunter. But at the same time, shrugging off the minority isn’t fair either. They buy a license and have the same privileges as other license holders, regardless of age or if they prefer to hunt their waterfowl with a bow instead of a shotgun.
Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes guidelines the states must follow in setting their waterfowl seasons.
The biological issues influencing season length, bag limits and essentially driving the day-to-day hunting opportunities for waterfowlers change from year to year.
Sometimes, I hear from hunters who feel more simplified duck hunting regulations, without as many species restrictions and other protectionary means, would help draw more people into the marsh. Some examples are closed seasons for canvasback, reduced limits for mallard hens, and other intricate rules over which some hunter express frustration.
It’s not uncommon for duck hunters to ask why the duck limit couldn’t be somewhat lower than it is and not include those restrictions. While that would simplify the rules and might satisfy some hunters who would no longer have to worry about species or sex identification, it would mean a significant loss of opportunity for hunters who are proficient at duck identification.
To ensure that species with low populations aren’t over-harvested, Game and Fish would have to be set the daily limit at one — or two at most — or else shorten the season considerably.
Here’s where the concept of balance comes in. While the potential exists to make duck regulations simpler, such a concept would penalize avid waterfowl hunters from being able to take abundant blue-winged teal or gadwall. You might be surprised at how strongly an old marsh hound would react if his opportunity is reduced because the regulations can be confusing to other waterfowl hunters.
This entire debate over how to balance waterfowl regulations brings me back to upcoming 2009 waterfowl season, which has some changes from the last three years when states in the Central Flyway were evaluating a concept called Hunter’s Choice. Under Hunter’s Choice, the daily bag limit was five, with provisions to restrict harvest of hen mallards, canvasbacks and pintails.
The trade-off was that pintails and canvasbacks could be hunted the entire season, instead of having a shortened season as was the case for several years prior to Hunter’s Choice.
While waterfowl managers are evaluating Hunter’s Choice, the duck season structure is similar to what it was prior to 2006, except that because of positive population changes, hunters can take one pintails and one canvasback all season long.
This year, hunters may take six ducks per day with the following restrictions: five mallards of which two may be hens, three wood ducks, two scaup, two redheads, one pintail, one canvasback. For ducks, the possession limit is twice the daily limit.
The daily limit of five mergansers may include no more than two hooded mergansers.
Opening day for North Dakota residents is Sept. 26 for ducks, geese, coots and mergansers. Nonresidents may begin hunting waterfowl in North Dakota Oct. 3. Duck season closes Dec. 6 statewide, and then reopens again in the High Plains unit on Dec. 12 and runs through Jan. 3.
The bottom line is, waterfowl managers and biologists are some of the most serious duck hunters you’ll mix with in the field or at the coffee shop. Rest assured their goal is to maintain and preserve populations, and put forth regulations that balance science and recreation.