Expanded opportunity for ‘webless’ birds

HARRISBURG — The 2018-19 waterfowl seasons are similar to the previous year, although hunters will enjoy longer seasons for doves, woodcock, and other “webless” migratory game bird species this year.

Annual migratory game bird seasons are selected by states from frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Game Commission selections were made after reviewing last year’s season results, population survey data, and input gathered from hunters and the public.

Game Commission biologist Jeremy Stempka noted that the goose season restrictions enacted in northwestern Pennsylvania for the 2017-18 season will continue this year.

“These restrictions aim to stabilize or increase the resident goose population on and around Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area and provide adequate goose-hunting opportunities over the long term,” Stempka said. “A few additional years of population monitoring will likely be necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of these changes.”

Special regulations also remain in place for the September Canada goose season in a portion of southeastern Pennsylvania. In the area of Lancaster and Lebanon counties north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) and east of state Route 501 to state Route 419; south of state Route 419 to Lebanon-Berks county line; west of Lebanon-Berks county line to state Route 1053 (also known as Peartown Road and Greenville Road); and west of state Route 1053 to Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76), the daily bag limit is one goose, with a possession limit of three geese. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular season regulations apply.

The controlled hunting areas at the Game Commission’s Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Lands 46, will remain closed to September goose hunting to maintain harvest on the resident Canada goose flock at sustainable levels.

In the remainder of Pennsylvania (Resident Population Zone and most of the Atlantic Population Zone), the September Canada goose season runs Sept. 1-25 with a daily bag limit of eight Canada geese, and a possession limit of 24. Statewide shooting hours during the September goose season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, except on Sept. 15 when the season overlaps with the statewide youth waterfowl hunting day and shooting hours end at sunset.

Dates and bag limits for post-September Canada goose seasons, as well as light goose and Atlantic brant seasons, remain similar to those from 2017-18 and are listed at the end of this news release.

For ducks, season dates in all four of Pennsylvania’s established zones are similar to those selected in 2017-18, and with the exception of an increase in the daily bag limit for pintails (from one to two), overall and species-specific duck bag limits are identical to last year’s.

Similar to past years, there will be a statewide youth waterfowl hunting day in mid-September (Sept. 15) and a second youth day varying by duck zone.

“In 2017-18, the Game Commission experimented with holding the second youth days in the Northwest, North, and South Zones later in the season than previously,” said Ian Gregg, chief of the Game Commission’s Game Management Division. “Feedback received from hunters about these changes was generally positive, and the dates of the 2018-19 second youth days will be similar to last year’s.”

The second day in the Northwest Zone will be Dec. 15; in the North Zone, Jan. 19; and in the South Zone, Jan. 26. In the Lake Erie Zone, the second youth day (Oct. 20) will continue to be similar to previous years.

To participate in light goose conservation hunts, hunters will need to obtain a free light goose conservation season permit, in addition to their other required licenses, and file a mandatory report of harvest/participation. In late 2018, the Light Goose Conservation Hunt website will be available at www.pgc.pa.gov so that hunters can apply for and print out the free conservation permit.

Hunters must use non-toxic shot while hunting ducks, geese or coots in Pennsylvania. The use of any sort of artificial substance or product as bait or an attractant is prohibited.

As usual, Sept. 1 will mark the beginning of dove season statewide. The first segment of the season will run through Nov. 24. It will then re-open on Dec. 18 and run through Jan. 5.

Hunters are reminded that, through a regulation change approved by the Board of Game Commissioners in April, hunting hours are now one-half hour before sunrise to sunset throughout the entire dove season. In previous years, hunting hours during the early portion of the season did not open until noon.

For both dove-season segments the daily bag limit is 15, and the possession limit is 45.

Pennsylvania’s woodcock and common snipe seasons now have two segments. For both species, the first segment opens on Oct. 13 and closes on Nov. 24, and the second segment opens on Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 18. Daily limits are three woodcock and eight snipe, with possession limits three times the respective daily bag limits.

Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 21. Bag limits, singly or combined, are three daily and nine in possession. The season for king and clapper rails remains closed.

Hunting for gallinules also runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 21, and the bag limits are three daily and nine in possession.

Hunting hours for woodcock, snipe, rails, and gallinules are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

Migratory game bird hunters are encouraged to report banded ducks, geese, doves and woodcock they harvest online at www.reportband.gov. Telephone band reporting has been eliminated by the federal Bird Banding Laboratory. 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.