HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe announced that the agency has made its selections for the 2011-12 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. 15. However, the agency will not be mass-producing brochures to be distributed to U.S. Post Offices.
'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 will not be mass producing the brochure and mailing copies to U.S. Post Offices.'
Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist, said the federal frameworks are again allowing for a 60-day duck season, with a six bird daily limit.
'In response to public input, we are keeping the duck season open in the Northwest Duck Zone during the two-week firearms deer season (Nov. 28-Dec. 10),' Jacobs said. 'We incorporated this request into the 2010 season dates, and have responded to public comments received in 2011 to have no split season in the Northwest Duck Zone. Based upon these recommendations, the Northwest Duck Zone seasons will run from Oct. 8-Dec. 16.'
Jacobs also noted that hunters will see changes in the regular snow goose and snow goose conservation hunts.
In the Atlantic Population and Southern James Bay Population goose zones, the regular snow goose season will be Oct. 25-Jan. 25, with a snow goose conservation season to run from Jan. 26-April 27. The Resident Population Goose Zone regular snow goose season will run Oct. 25-Feb. 25, and the snow goose conservation season will run Feb. 27-April 27.
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 2011, 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.
New this year, young Pennsylvania hunters will be provided with two special days of waterfowl hunting, on Saturday, Sept. 17, and Saturday, Sept. 24. The Youth Waterfowl Days will be open to those 12 to 15 year olds who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During these two special hunts, youth can harvest Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens. The daily bag limit for youth participating in the Youth 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, youth then can take the September daily limit.
Also, the Game Commission again will hold a special youth-only waterfowl hunting day at the controlled hunting blinds at both Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. The youth day for Middle Creek is Nov. 19; for Pymatuning, Nov. 26. A special drawing of applications submitted by junior license holders will be held immediately before the regular drawing for goose blinds. Interested youth should use the same application on page 28 of the 2011-12 Digest. Only one application will be accepted per junior hunter.
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.
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.
Jacobs noted that, although hunting hours have been extended to one-half hour after sunset for big game (except spring gobbler), as well as small game and furbearers, federal regulations prevail for waterfowl and migratory game birds. Therefore, shooting hours for these species will continue to close at sunset. The only exceptions are during the September Canada goose season (Sept. 1-24) and the Snow Goose Conservation Seasons, in which the USFWS has permitted states to extend the hunting hours to one-half hour after sunset.
Also, during the first part of the dove season (Sept. 1-Oct. 1), hunting hours are from noon through sunset.
For complete early Canada goose season information, as well as webless migratory game bird seasons, please see News Release #084-11, which the agency issued on July 26.