|Flyway distribution for N. American waterfowl: Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
As a result of steady or improving population numbers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced it is proposing continued liberal game bird season lengths and bag limits for the 2016-17 hunting seasons.
Each year, the Service works in partnership with states from four Flyway Councils (Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic) to establish regulatory frameworks for hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits. States select their individual seasons from within the federal frameworks.
The announcement can be viewed at http://www.fws.gov/home/
feature/2015/pdfs/Proposed- frameworks-2016.pdf . It is the first following the Service’s implementation of a streamlined process for setting annual migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits.
Beginning with the 2016-17 hunting seasons, the previous two-cycle regulatory practice is now compressed into a single, annual process. Biological data from the past year is now used to set hunting season dates and to project appropriate harvest limits for each game species. The change gives biologists more time to analyze bird survey data that inform the Service’s regulatory decisions and gives the public more time to weigh in on proposed rules. The change will also ensure administrative procedures do not delay the opening of state hunting seasons.
The 2016-17 federal frameworks propose duck hunting season lengths of 60 days in both the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways and 74 days in the Central Flyway (with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas), with a daily bag limit of six ducks in each of those flyways. Proposed duck hunting frameworks for the Pacific Flyway would allow a 107-day season and a seven-bird daily bag limit.
A 16-day special September teal season with a six-bird daily bag limit is proposed to continue to be offered in certain states in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central flyways. Proposed dove seasons are 90 days with a 15-bird daily bag limit in the Eastern and Central management units and 60 days with a 15-bird daily limit in the Western Management Unit. A woodcock season length of 45 days is proposed in both the Eastern and Central management regions, with a three-bird daily bag limit. Proposed regulations for geese also are largely unchanged from 2015-16 seasons and in several cases are very liberal in an attempt to reduce their abundance (e.g., light geese, resident Canada geese).
Although most migratory game bird populations remain abundant, when and where birds will be encountered depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat and weather conditions, and other factors all influence local bird abundance, distribution, behavior and ultimately, hunter success. The Service’s reports on the status and harvest of migratory game bird populations and information about migratory bird management across North America are available on the Migratory Bird homepage. The new regulatory process resulted from the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, published by the Service in 2013. More details about the new process and its impacts were published earlier this year.
Under the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, about 170 species are game birds. Fewer than 60 species are typically hunted each year, subject to limits based on data from aerial surveys and other monitoring programs. The Service publishes migratory game bird regulations each year in the Federal Register.