HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today 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.
FEDERAL REGULATIONS POSTED ON GAME COMMISSION WEBSITE
In addition to posting the annual waterfowl and migratory game bird brochure on its website, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has posted a synopsis of federal regulations that govern migratory game bird and waterfowl seasons to assist hunters in finding answers to questions.
To review the information, go to the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), put your cursor on "Hunt/Trap" in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on "Hunting," scroll down and click on "Waterfowl Hunting and Conservation," and then scroll down and click on "Federal Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Synopsis" in the "Waterfowl Hunting Regulations" section.
Additional information can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website (www.fws.gov/hunting/whatres.html), where a complete version of the federal regulations (50 CFR Part 20) is posted. When state law differs from the federal law, hunters must comply with the more restrictive law.
HUNTERS ENCOURAGED TO REPORT BANDED BIRDS
Waterfowl hunters are encouraged to report banded ducks, geese and doves they harvest online at www.reportband.gov, or by using the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND). Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species of migratory birds were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory birds.
Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist, also stressed that reporting leg-bands helps the Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learn more about waterfowl movements, and survival and harvest rates, which are critical to population management and setting of hunting regulations. Each year, nearly 380,000 ducks and geese and 30,000 mourning doves are banded across the United States and Canada.
"Information provided by hunters is essential in our efforts to properly manage our migratory game bird populations and harvest opportunities," Jacobs said. "By reporting the recovery of a leg-band, hunters not only assist in managing the resource, but also have an opportunity to learn interesting facts about the bird they harvested."
Jacobs noted that the online and toll-free reporting systems have produced big dividends. Under the old reporting system, utilized until the late 1990s, about one-third of recovered banded birds were reported by hunters. Now, with the option of using online or toll-free methods, band reporting rates are estimated to have stabilized around 70 percent. This allows more information to be obtained from the program and can reduce costs associated with banding ducks, geese and doves.
WATERFOWL HUNTERS CAUTIONED ABOUT EATING MERGANSERS
To minimize potential health impacts, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials recommend hunters do not eat merganser ducks, especially those harvested in the Lake Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania hunting zones.
"Studies conducted two decades ago on Pennsylvania and New York mergansers, especially common and red-breasted mergansers in the Lake Erie region, concluded they may have varying levels of contaminants, including PCBs," said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian. "Mergansers consume fish and other aquatic organisms that may cause a concentration of contaminants in body tissue. As such, health officials have issued similar consumption advisories for certain species of fish found in these same waters.
"For this reason, hunters are cautioned to not consume any mergansers. Other waterfowl should be skinned and the fat removed before cooking. Stuffing should be discarded after cooking and should not be consumed."
The Game Commission will be conducting a research project over the next two years to obtain additional information on contaminant levels in Lake Erie waterfowl, and the potential threats of those contaminants on wildlife and human health.
GOOSE BLIND DEADLINES FOR CONTROLLED HUNTING AREAS
Application deadlines are fast approaching for waterfowl hunters interested in being selected for the limited number of goose blinds at the controlled hunting areas at the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Pymatuning or Middle Creek wildlife management areas during the regular Canada goose season. A goose blind application must be submitted using the form found on page 28 of the 2011-12 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest.
Hunters may apply to only one area per year and may submit only one application, which must include the individual's nine-digit Customer Identification (CID) Number.
The Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area will accept applications through the mail until Sept. 13, at: PGC Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, P.O. Box 110, Kleinfeltersville, PA 17039-0110. A public drawing will be held at 10 a.m., Sept. 14.
Applications for the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area will be accepted through the mail until Sept. 10, at: PGC Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area, 9552 Hartstown Rd., Hartstown, PA 16131. A public drawing will be held at 10 a.m., Sept. 17.
Blinds at Middle Creek and Pymatuning will not be operational during the September season. Shooting days at Middle Creek during the regular season are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Shooting days at Pymatuning are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
A separate drawing is held for blinds that accommodate hunters with disabilities. Applicants must submit a current copy of their Disabled Person Permit (to hunt from a vehicle) issued by the Game Commission.
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 will be Nov. 19, and for Pymatuning it will be 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.
Successful applicants will be mailed a hunting reservation entitling them to be accompanied by up to three guests. On hunting days, hunters also may apply, in person, for a chance at any blinds unclaimed by a reservation holder.
Persons who have previously hunted a controlled goose hunting area at the Game Commission's Pymatuning or Middle Creek wildlife management areas may apply for unclaimed blinds on the morning of the designated shooting day, but only when there exists an absence of applications for the unclaimed blinds from persons who have not previously hunted a controlled goose hunting area.
SPECIAL WATERFOWL HUNTING SAFETY REMINDERS
Waterfowl hunters – whether hunting from shore or from a boat – are urged to keep safety first and foremost in mind, said Keith Snyder, Pennsylvania Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief.
"Basic firearm and hunting safety are critical," Snyder said. "Treat every firearm as if it is loaded and make sure that the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction. Never place your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire. Be aware of any companions' locations at all times and maintain a safe zone-of-fire. Waterfowl action can be exciting, but never swing your barrel toward another hunter.
"Make sure firearms are unloaded prior to reaching your hunting location and immediately after you are done hunting. Also, if you are using a boat, remember state law requires all firearms be unloaded in any boat propelled by motor or sail, and should be cased with actions open."
Snyder also noted that, in Pennsylvania, all those using a boat are required to have a properly-fitted personal flotation device (PFD) readily accessible. For more information on boating laws and regulations, as well as safety tips, please visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's website (www.fish.state.pa.us). Better yet, take an approved boater's safety course.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, every year several hunters die from drowning and hypothermia.
"When you have a crew of hunters, with decoys and equipment, and dogs, a boat can easily become unbalanced, especially if the wind comes up," Snyder said, "Not only is it unsafe to overload a boat, exceeding the limits posted on the capacity plate is also illegal.
"Sudden immersion into cold water is one of the leading causes of boating fatalities in the Commonwealth. It places a severe strain on bodily systems that can lead to hypothermia or, worse, cardiac arrest. Survivors of cold-water accidents have reported their breath driven from them on contact with the water."
Anyone falling into cold water should immediately ensure that their and any companions' PFDs are intact, and work to find a way to exit the water or right the watercraft. Cover your mouth and nose – if possible – to prevent inhaling water.
If you can't get out of the water immediately and the shore is too far, raise your knees and wrap your arms across your chest to help reduce heat loss through the body's core. Don't leave your watercraft and attempt to swim to shore. It's probably further than you think. Experts recommend you stay with your boat until help arrives. If possible, try to climb back into your boat or on top of it.
"Most important," Snyder suggests, "get into the routine of making the life jacket part of your hunting equipment, and wear it."
2011-12 WATERFOWL SEASONS AND BAG LIMITS
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 24-Dec. 31.
North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 8-22, and Nov. 11-Jan. 4.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 8-Dec. 16.
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 15-22, and Nov. 15-Jan. 14.
Total Duck Bag Limits: 6 daily, 12 in possession of any species, except for the following restrictions: daily limit may not include more than 4 mallards including 2 hen mallards, 1 black duck, 2 pintails, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous tree duck, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 canvasback, 4 scoters and 2 scaup. Possession limit may not include more than 8 mallards including 4 hens, 2 black ducks, 4 pintails, 2 mottled ducks, 2 fulvous tree ducks, 6 wood ducks, 4 redheads, 2 canvasbacks, 8 scoters and 4 scaup.
Mergansers: 5 daily, 10 in possession (not more than 2 hooded mergansers daily, 4 hooded in possession).
Coots: 15 daily, 30 in possession.
REGULAR CANADA GOOSE SEASON & BAG LIMITS (including WHITE-FRONTED GEESE): All of Pennsylvania will have a regular Canada goose season, however, season lengths and bag limits will vary by area as follows:
Resident Goose Zone (RP)
All of Pennsylvania except for the Southern James Bay Population and the Atlantic Population zone. The season is Oct. 22-29, Nov. 11-26, Dec. 20-Feb. 25, with a five goose daily bag limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone (SJBP)
The area north of I-80 and west of I-79 including in the city of Erie west of Bay Front Parkway to and including the Lake Erie Duck zone (Lake Erie, Presque Isle and the area within 150 yards of Lake Erie Shoreline). The season is Oct. 22-Nov. 26, Dec. 12-Jan. 25, with a three goose daily limit.
Atlantic Population Zone (AP)
The area east of route SR 97 from Maryland State Line to the intersection of SR 194, east of SR 194 to intersection of US Route 30, south of US Route 30 to SR 441, east of SR 441 to SR 743, east of SR 743 to intersection of I-81, east of I-81 to intersection of I-80, south of I-80 to New Jersey state line. The season is Nov. 15-26 and Dec. 17-Jan. 25, with a three goose daily limit.
Exception: The controlled hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon-Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Land 46 (Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area), has a daily bag limit of one, and possession limit of two during the regular Canada goose season.
ATLANTIC BRANT (All Zones): Oct. 8-Dec. 5, 2 daily, 4 in possession.
Atlantic Population and Southern James Bay Population goose zones:
Regular Season: Oct. 25-Jan. 25, 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Season: Jan. 26-April 27, 25 daily, no possession limit. To participate,
hunters also will need to obtain free conservation hunt permit and file a mandatory report
of harvest/participation. Specifics will be announced later this year.
Resident Population Goose Zone:
Regular Season: Oct. 25-Feb. 25, 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Season: Feb. 27-April 27, 25 daily, no possession limit. To participate,
hunters also will need to obtain free conservation hunt permit and file a mandatory report
of harvest/participation. Specifics will be announced later this year.
HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWANS: No open season.
Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area: shooting days are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, one-half hour before sunrise to 12:30 p.m. Duck: Oct. 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17,19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29 and 31; Nov. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28 and 30; and Dec. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14 and 16. Goose: Oct. 22, 24, 26, 28, 29 and 31; Nov. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25 and 26 (youth-only day); Dec. 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 31; and Jan. 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23 and 25.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area: shooting days are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to 1:30 p.m. Geese and ducks: Nov. 15, 17, 19 (youth-only day), 22, 24 and 26; and Dec. 17, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29 and 31; Jan. 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 14. Geese only: Jan. 17, 19, 21 and 24.
YOUTH WATERFOWL HUNTING DAYS (Statewide): Saturday, Sept. 17 and 24. Open to licensed junior hunters ages 12-15, when properly accompanied, for ducks, mergansers, moorhens and coots, and Canada goose as permitted. Same daily bag limits as regular season.
YOUTH-ONLY DAY AT CONTROLLED HUNTING AREAS: Middle Creek is Nov. 19, and Pymatuning is Nov. 26.
Note to Editors: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to: PGCNews@state.pa.us
SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission