The Pennsylvania Game Commission has made its selections for the 2012-13 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.
The Game Commission has posted the annual waterfowl and migratory bird season brochure and zone maps on its website at www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Game Commission waterfowl biologist Kevin Jacobs said the outlook is mixed for waterfowl populations important to Pennsylvania.
"Banding studies indicate most of Pennsylvania's mallard, wood duck, and Canada goose harvests are derived from birds breeding in Pennsylvania and surrounding states," Jacobs said. "These populations are monitored through the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey. This year, because of the mild winter and early spring, the Pennsylvania portion of this multi-state survey was advanced a week earlier than normal for the first time.
"At the state level, the estimated number of indicated mallard breeding pairs (60,500) was 35 percent below the 1993-2011 long-term average of 93,000 pairs. Southeastern Pennsylvania had the highest density of breeding mallards, followed by northeastern Pennsylvania. The 68,000 wood duck breeding pairs estimated in 2012 was 31 percent above the long-term average of 52,000 pairs."
Jacobs noted that this estimate could be the result of larger than average numbers of migrating wood ducks being in Pennsylvania at the time of the earlier survey.
"Trends in wood duck abundance have indicated stable to slightly increasing populations across all years of the survey," Jacobs said. "Wood duck densities were highest in northwestern, southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania. American black ducks were not observed in Pennsylvania's 2012 survey. Black ducks have been observed at very low and declining densities since the survey was initiated in 1989. However, black duck populations in eastern Canada remain healthy, allowing this species to continue to account for about five percent of Pennsylvania's total duck harvest."
In the Atlantic Population Goose Zone, the regular snow goose season will be Oct. 27-Jan. 26, with a snow goose conservation season to run from Jan. 28-April 26. In the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, the regular snow goose season will be Oct. 27-Jan. 18, with a snow goose conservation season to run from Jan. 19-April 26. The Resident Population Goose Zone regular snow goose season will run Oct. 27-Feb. 28, and the snow goose conservation season will run March 1-April 26.
Young Pennsylvania hunters will have two special days of waterfowl hunting on Sept. 15 and Sept. 22. The Junior Waterfowl Days will be open to those 12 to 15 years old who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult.
During these hunts, juniors can harvest Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens. The daily bag limit for juniors participating 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; juniors then can take the September daily limit.
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.
North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 6-20, and Nov. 13-Jan. 5.
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 13-20, and Nov. 15-Jan. 15.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 6-Dec. 14.
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 22-Dec. 29.
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, 4 scaup, 1 black duck, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 canvasback, 2 pintails, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck and 4 scoters. Possession limits are double the daily limits.
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 Population Goose Zone (RP)
All of Pennsylvania except for the Southern James Bay Population and the Atlantic Population zone. The season is Oct. 27-Nov. 24, Dec. 11-Jan. 15, and Feb. 1-28, 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. 6-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-Jan. 18, 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. 13-24 and Dec. 13-Jan. 26, 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 has a daily bag limit of one, and possession limit of two during the regular Canada goose season.
BRANT (All Zones): Oct. 6-Dec. 3, 2 daily, 4 in possession.
LIGHT GEESE (Snow Geese and Ross' Geese):
Atlantic Population Zone: Regular: Oct. 27-Jan. 26, 25; daily, no possession limit; Snow Goose Conservation Hunt: Jan. 28 – April 26; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone: Regular: Oct. 27-Jan. 18; 25 daily, no possession limit; Snow Goose Conservation Hunt: Jan. 19 – April 26; 25 daily, no possession limit;
Resident Population Zone: Regular: Oct. 27-Feb. 28; 25 daily, no possession limit; Snow Goose Conservation Hunt: March 1 – April 26; 25 daily, no possession limit.
HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and TUNDRA and TRUMPETER SWANS: No open season.
Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area: Shooting days at Pymatuning are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, one-half hour before sunrise to 12:30 p.m. Ducks: Oct. 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24 (junior-only day), 26, 27, 29, and 31; Nov. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, and 30; and Dec. 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, and 14. Geese: Oct. 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, and 31; Nov. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 24 (junior-only day); Dec. 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, and 31; and Jan. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, and 18.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area: shooting days at Middle Creek are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to 1:30 p.m. Geese only: Nov. 13; and Jan. 17, 19, 22, 24, and 26. Geese and ducks: Nov. 15, 17 (junior-only day), 20, 22, and 24; Dec. 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 27, and 29; and Jan. 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, and 15.
JUNIOR WATERFOWL HUNTING DAYS (Statewide): Saturday, Sept. 15 and 22. 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. Hunting hours to close at sunset.
JUNIOR-ONLY DAY AT CONTROLLED HUNTING AREAS: Middle Creek is Nov. 17, and Pymatuning is Nov. 24.