Friday, August 28, 2015

MDC announces waterfowl seasons and outlook

Additional details about Missouri waterfowl hunting regulations, including zone descriptions, will be published in the MDC 2015-2016 Waterfowl Hunting Digest, available starting in late September from permit vendors, MDC offices and nature center, and online at mdc.mo.gov.
Duck numbers are high, but limited food and cover and warm weather may limit availability. 
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) announces that duck hunters will again have a 60-day season for 2015-2016 hunting. The Missouri Conservation Commission set upcoming Missouri waterfowl hunting seasons at its Aug. 19 meeting.
DUCK SEASONSNorth Zone: Oct. 31 – Dec. 29
Middle Zone: Nov. 7 – Jan. 5
South Zone: Nov. 26 – Jan. 24
Shooting Hours: One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Daily Bag Limit: Six ducks daily with species restrictions of:
  • 4 mallards (no more than 2 females)
  • 3 scaup
  • 3 wood ducks
  • 2 redheads
  • 2 hooded mergansers
  • 2 pintails
  • 2 canvasback (increased from 1 last year)
  • 1 black duck
  • 1 mottled duck
Possession Limit: Three times the daily bag limit (18), including species restrictions.
COOT SEASONS:
Concurrent with duck seasons in the respective zones with a daily bag limit of 15 and a possession limit of 45.
GOOSE SEASONS:
Light geese: snow, blue, and Ross’s: Statewide, Oct. 31 - Jan. 31
White-fronted geese: Statewide Nov. 7 - Jan. 31
Canada geese and brant: Statewide Oct. 3 - Oct. 11 and Nov. 26 - Jan. 31
Shooting Hours: One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Daily Bag Limit and Possession Limit: No more than three Canada geese and brant geese in aggregate daily and nine in possession, 20 light geese (snow, blue, or Ross’s) daily with no possession limit, and two white-fronted geese daily and six in possession.
YOUTH HUNTING DAYS:
North Zone: Oct. 24 and 25
Middle Zone: Oct. 31 and Nov. 1
South Zone: Nov. 21 and 22
Bag Limit: Same as during regular waterfowl season.
Shooting Hours: Same as during regular waterfowl season.
Participation Requirements: Any person 15 years of age or younger may participate in the youth waterfowl hunting days without permit, provided they are in the immediate presence of an adult 18 years of age or older. If the youth hunter does not have hunter-education certification, the adult must meet permit requirements for small-game hunting and have in his or her possession valid hunter-education certification unless born before Jan. 1, 1967.  The adult may not hunt ducks, but may participate in other seasons open on the youth days.
LIGHT GOOSE CONSERVATION ORDER:
The Conservation Order for light geese will be in effect Feb. 1 through April 30 with no bag limit. Hunters may use electronic calls and unplugged shot guns. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrises to one-half hour after sunset. A Conservation Order permit is the only permit required for resident and nonresident hunters.
FALCONRY SEASON FOR DUCKS, COOTS AND MERGANSERS:The federal framework allows 107 days. Falconry is open during teal season (16 days), regular duck season (60 days), and youth season (two days) in the respective zones, leavingFeb. 11 – March 10 (29 days) for extended falconry statewide.
Hunting Hours: One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Bag and Possession Limits: The daily bag and possession limits shall not exceed three and nine birds, respectively, singly, or in the aggregate, during the teal, regular duck, youth waterfowl and extended falconry seasons.
TEAL SEASONS:
As previously announced by MDC in July, blue-winged, green-winged, and cinnamon teal may be taken from Sept 12 through Sept. 27 from sunrise to sunset with a combined daily limit of six and a combined possession limit of 18 for all three species. Additional details are published in MDC's 2015 Migratory Bird Hunting Digest available where hunting permits are sold, at MDC offices and nature centers, and online at mdc.mo.gov.
WATERFOWL POPULATION ESTIMATES:
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the total number of North American ducks is estimated to be at a record high for the fourth year in a row at 49.5 million, 43% above the long-term average (LTA). Estimates of breeding populations for various duck species from 2015 survey results are:
  • Mallard numbers are similar to the 2014 estimate and 42 percent above their long-term average.
  • Blue-winged teal numbers are similar to 2014 and 73 percent above their long-term average.
  • Green-winged teal numbers increased by 19 percent, which puts them 98 percent above their long-term average.
  • Northern shoveler numbers dropped by 17 percent but still remain 75 percent above their long-term average.
  • Gadwall and American wigeon numbers are similar to 2014 and 100 and 17 percent above their long-term averages, respectively.
  • Redhead numbers are similar to 2014 and 71 percent above their long-term average.
  • Canvasback numbers increased slightly. They are now estimated to be 30 percent above their long-term average.
  • Scaup numbers are similar to the 2014 estimate and 13 percent below their long-term average.
  • Pintail numbers are similar to 2014 and 24 percent below their long-term average.
HUNTING OUTLOOK:
MDC Resource Scientists note that there are three factors equally or more important than overall population numbers in contributing toward a season’s outcome: local habitat conditions, weather, and migration timing. They caution that preseason outlooks for habitat and weather are less than ideal.
“Wetlands should have plenty of water going into fall, but extensive and repeated flooding over the summer will mean food and cover could be patchy,” explained MDC Resource Scientist Andy Raedeke. “Moist-soil seed production will be excellent in wetlands that benefitted from a wet spring and early summer but did not have late-summer flooding. Those that did experience late flooding will likely have poor moist-soil seed production and limited vegetation for cover. Due to flooding, food provided by crops, such as corn, will likely be well below average.”
Raedeke added that weather conditions play a significant role in affecting duck movements and distribution. “Long-term weather forecasts are calling for milder than normal fall and winter weather in the upper Midwest,” he said.
Habitat conditions and weather combine to influence waterfowl migrations.
“The primary uncertainty is how ducks will respond if we have a hunting season with mild weather, plenty of water, and below average food and cover,” said Raedeke. “In the absence of significant cold fronts, ducks may disperse throughout the Mississippi Flyway resulting in lower peak numbers in Missouri. Once ducks arrive in Missouri, habitat conditions will influence how long they stay. Species that depend entirely on wetland sources of food may depart sooner than normal. For species that also field feed, such as mallards, the combination of ample water for roosting and harvested grain fields for feeding may help offset effects of below average wetland conditions.”
He added that hunters will need to be flexible in when and where they hunt. “If it is a mild fall, it will be especially important to time hunts with cold fronts and migration events. Hunters should also be willing to try new locations for potentially better habitat conditions,” Raedeke said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Additional details about waterfowl hunting regulations, including zone descriptions, will be published in the MDC 2015-2016 Waterfowl Hunting Digest, available starting in late September from permit vendors, MDC offices and nature center, and online at mdc.mo.gov.