Waterfowl hunters may be able to shoot more black ducks

Posted on: April 5, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Hunters may be able to harvest more black ducks than at any time in decades this coming fall.
Photo from US Fish and Wildlife Service

Chances are waterfowl seasons in 2017-18 will look very similar to those from this past season.

With one notable exception.

For the past 34 years, hunters have been limited to taking one black duck per day. This year they may be allowed two.

Why the change?

It’s not because black duck numbers have changed significantly. They haven’t, said Ian Gregg, game management division chief for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

What has changed is the black duck harvest.

“It’s gone way down,” Gregg said.

In the late 1990s, hunters across the United States and Canada were taking around 300,000 black ducks annually. Now they’re taking only about 200,000.

That – and the fact that research suggests hunting is not driving black duck survival and recruitment — suggests there’s room for hunters to take a few more, he said.

“Now, this doesn’t come without any nervousness on us as biologists,” Gregg said.

Pennsylvania likely doesn’t account for much of that, he said. Mallards and wood ducks, in that order, account for most of Pennsylvania’s duck harvest, with black ducks a distance third.

But along the Atlantic, in places like coastal New Jersey, he said “it’s going to be a big deal.”
Biologists will monitor black duck numbers to see if the change can stand for a while or bag limits need to go back to being more conservative.

That’s already the way things are going with pintails.

Their numbers are typically tied to weather and where they nest. In dry years, when the nest further north, their numbers decline.

That’s what happened last year, Gregg said, so the pintail limit this year will likely be one bird per day.

Otherwise, the Atlantic Flyway Council’s recommendations for the coming fall pretty much mirror last season. They call for a 60-day season with a six-duck daily bag limit. Four of those could be mallards, with no more than two of those hens. Among their six, hunters could also take three wood ducks, two blacks, two redheads, two canvasbacks, one pintail, one mottled duck, one fulvous whistling duck, four scoters, four eiders and four long-tailed ducks.

As for geese, if nothing changes, the resident season would run from Sept. 1-25 with an eight-bird daily limit. The bag limit for migratory geese in the resident population zone would be five birds.

The Game Commission will pick where to slot duck and goose seasons into the calendar. It will forward its proposal to federal officials by early April, so that seasons and bag limits can be included in the hunting digest.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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