Outlook good for Northern Zone waterfowl hunting

Average breeding conditions, wet summer weather and a near record numbers of ducks reported in spring

MADISON A near record numbers of ducks reported in spring, coupled with average breeding conditions and wet summer weather have set the stage for strong fall waterfowl hunting as the North Zone duck season opens Sept. 24.

“Although conditions were average to dry this spring, Wisconsin has seen abundant rainfall for most of the summer and even into early fall,” said DNR assistant migratory game bird ecologist Taylor Finger. “Waterfowl hunters should have the potential for a good hunting season – continental breeding surveys spanning 61 years reported a near record numbers of ducks this spring.”

The 2016 North Zone duck season will run from Sept. 24 to Nov. 22 – opening day shooting hours will begin one-half hour before sunrise. The daily bag limit statewide is six ducks, including no more than:

  • four mallards, of which only one may be a hen;
  • one blackduck;
  • two canvasbacks;
  • three wood ducks;
  • two pintails;
  • three scaup; and
  • tworedheads.

Five mergansers may be harvested daily, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers; 15 coot may be harvested daily. For 2016, the possession limit remains three times the daily bag limit.

Many of the ducks harvested in Wisconsin are produced from locally nesting ducks breeding in the state’s wetlands. According to Finger; mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal are the four most abundant ducks in Wisconsin’s fall hunting harvest.

“Even with excellent continental breeding indications, local water levels and scouting will are most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall,” said Finger. “Hunter survey data in Wisconsin show that duck hunters who scouted three or more times harvested on average 3-4 times as many ducks per season as those who did not scout.”

As a result of regulatory changes in 2016, hunters can now legally hunt in open water as long as part of their boat, blind or similar device is located within three feet of the shoreline, including islands. This change eliminates the concealment requirement so long as the boat or blind is within three feet of any shoreline.

“This regulatory change will open up countless opportunities throughout the state, especially where the water levels fluctuate throughout the year and where vegetation was not always available for concealment,” said DNR assistant waterfowl ecologist Taylor Finger.

Licenses and stamps required for duck hunting include a Wisconsin small game license, a Wisconsin waterfowl stamp, and a federal migratory bird stamp. The federal duck stamp will now cost $25 (an increase from $15 dollars) – a change suggested and supported by waterfowl hunters nationwide.

While there has not been an increase in the federal waterfowl stamp since the 1990s, this $10 increase will help protect additional upland and wetland waterfowl habitat. The federal migratory bird stamp can be purchased at a U.S. Post Office. Hunters will also be given the option to purchase the federal stamp privilege at DNR license vendors for an additional $2.50 surcharge. The purchase will be noted on their license, and the stamp itself will arrive later in the mail.

Waterfowl and other migratory bird hunters must also register each year with the federal Harvest Information Program, which places them on a list of hunters that may receive a mailing asking them to provide a summary of their harvest. HIP registration is free and can be done at the time hunters purchase their licenses, but can always be added later on if a hunter decides they may pursue migratory game birds.

State licenses and stamps, permits, and HIP registration are also available through Wisconsin’s Online Licensing Center

For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search keyword “waterfowl.”

2016 Wisconsin Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast now available

Many fall hunting and trapping seasons in Wisconsin are just around the corner, and the 2016 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast is now available.

To view this year’s hunting and trapping forecast, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “forecast [PDF]” or “hunt.”

Avian influenza in wild birds

Several federal agencies are working in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to collect samples related to the research and surveillance of avian influenza in wild birds. This surveillance will help monitor for the virus during fall migration.

Avian influenza is a viral disease common in wild bird populations with many different subtypes – most do not cause obvious signs of disease in wild birds or have the ability to infect animals other than birds. While strains currently detected in the U.S. have caused mortality of domestic birds, they have not resulted in any illness in humans.

Samples will be collected from live-captured birds during DNR banding efforts and from hunter-harvested dabbling ducks, such as blue-winged teal, mallard, wood duck and Northern pintail. Federal staff will also be located at boat landings and other hunter access points this fall to sample ducks from willing hunters.

To learn more, search keywords “bird diseases.”