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Migratory bird season framework permanent rule set

July 19, 2019 by Beckie Gaskill

In April, the Natural Resources Board was presented with an emergency rule regarding the state’s setting of the migratory bird season. While it is largelyregulated at the federal level, the state does have some leeway in certain areas.

Wildlife management regulation policy specialist Scott Karel came before the board with a permanent rule, identical to the emergency rule brought forward by Department of Natural Resources migratory bird ecologist Taylor Finger in April, asking for its adoption. The rule needed to be in place by April 30 to cover this year’s hunt, but the procedure to put a permanent rule into place could not be completed by that time. For that reason, an emergency rule was put into place, with this permanent rule coming later the same year.

All three zones, the Northern, Southern and Mississippi River Zone, will open on Sept. 28 for the 2019 season. This pushes the northern opener a week later. This will create a 60-day season with a daily bag limit of six ducks in total. Of those six, there may be no more than one pintail, three scaup and two canvas backs. Also, there may be fiver mergansers with no more than two being hooded mergansers. For other ducks not listed in the rule, there may be a combination with those listed not to exceed six per day. The possession limit is three times the daily bag limit for all migratory game birds.

The framework does reduce daily bag limits for pintail from two to one, Finger had said at the April meeting. This is due to federal regulations. This bag limit follows the federal framework which found population numbers to now be below the threshold that would allow the higher daily bag limit.

Federal regulation allows for a two per day bag limit on black ducks, as does this new rule proposed by the department. When questioned at the April meeting about the possibility of hunters mistakenly harvesting hen mallards, Finger told the board the department had seen very few instances of that.

The youth waterfowl hunt dates will be Sept. 14-15, 2019. The southern zone will have a five-day closure starting on Oct. 6 and reopening Oct. 12 through Dec. 1 for ducks. The Northern Zone has no split and will close on Nov. 26. The Mississippi River Zone will have a seven day closure starting on Oct. 4 and reopening Oct. 12 through Dec. 3.

The season framework for geese under this framework will be as follows: The Exterior Zone will have a 92-day season with a daily bag limit of three Canada geese. The Northern Zone will run from Sept. 16 to Dec. 16. The Southern Zone will be a split season to allow the season to include the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. That season will run Sept. 16 to Oct. 6, from Oct. 12 to Dec. 1 and Dec. 14 to Jan. 2. The Mississippi River Subzone will also be a split season, running from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 and Oct. 12 to Jan. 2. 

Finger stated in the April meeting that the department could find no biological concerns with the split season and later hunting dates as 90% of geese harvested were taken before Nov. 25. However this would give hunters more opportunity for harvest or to pursue migratory birds, later in the year.

The permanent rule had gone through the public hearing process and was consistent with past board policies of regulating fish and game  harvest for consumption purposes. The board passed the permanent rule.

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