September 8, 1997

For more information contact:
Fred Carlson at (609) 292-6686

1997-1998 waterfowl season tentative dates.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, three major changes in waterfowl management will increase opportunities for duck hunters in New Jersey this year. The new changes, recently approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency with ultimate authority in setting waterfowl seasons and bag limits, include 1) an increase in hunting days, 2) the use of Eastern mallard populations for research in determining this year’s and future hunting regulations within the Atlantic Flyway and 3) the elimination of counting Sundays as hunting days.

“Sportsmen and women can look forward to 60 days of duck hunting with a regular daily bag of four ducks and two additional teal,” said division Director Bob McDowell. “The increased season length, a total of 17 extra days, and other management changes are the result of extensive research on population numbers, banding information and harvest analysis conducted by waterfowl biologists throughout the country.”

The increase in hunting days is the direct result of newly developed basic duck hunting regulation packages. Each year, waterfowl biologists would carefully examine all of the information regarding duck populations currently available and depending upon the status of each duck population, recommend that regulations be restrictive, moderate or liberal. The resulting duck seasons would then be 30, 40 or 50 days long, respectively. For many years these basic hunting regulation packages remained the same. However, after several years of cooperative work between state and federal waterfowl biologists throughout the country, new packages were developed to allow for 20 (very restrictive), 30 (restrictive), 45 (moderate), and 60 (liberal) day seasons.

The second major change involves the use of Eastern mallard populations for research in determining future hunting regulations within the Atlantic Flyway. The Atlantic Flyway is one of four major waterfowl migration corridors in North America and is comprised of the eastern states and Canadian provinces along the Atlantic Seaboard. Traditionally, hunting regulations in all four flyways were determined based on the status of more heavily researched mid-continent mallard populations. However, the new ability to evaluate eastern mallard populations is the result of an extensive eastern survey of breeding waterfowl initiated in 1989, as well as increased banding efforts in the region.

“The use of information based on mid-continent mallard populations to generate waterfowl seasons in the Atlantic Flyway was frustrating to Garden State waterfowl biologists and hunters, since few of these birds winter in New Jersey or the Atlantic Flyway,” said Paul Castelli, principal wildlife biologist and leader of the Division’s Waterfowl Ecology and Management Program. “The new system places an emphasis on eastern mallard populations, but still considers mid-continent mallard populations as a secondary factor.”

The third major change focuses on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) elimination of counting Sundays, which are closed to hunting by state law in New Jersey, as hunting days. Since federal laws have no Sunday hunting restrictions, the USFWS traditionally counted these days as hunting days. This meant that when states were offered a 50-day duck season, as in 1996, there were only 43 hunting days available. As a result of the change, states like New Jersey will now get a prescribed number of hunting days instead of having to count and ultimately lose, Sundays as hunting days.

In 1997, examination of all available Eastern mallard population information lead Atlantic Flyway waterfowl biologists to conclude that a liberal hunting regulation package would be appropriate.

Coupling the liberal hunting package with credit for days lost to Sundays will increase hunting opportunity by 40 percent,” McDowell said. “In fact, this year New Jersey hunters will enjoy the longest duck season in over 40 years.”

Studies suggest that with a four duck bag limit, the additional harvest resulting from this increased opportunity will not be a problem for most duck species. In fact, both blue-winged and green-winged teal are so abundant and yet so lightly harvested that two additional teal will be offered in addition to the regular daily bag limit of four ducks.

The daily bag limit of four ducks may not include more than two wood ducks, two hen mallards, two pintails, two redheads, one canvasback and one black duck.

Black ducks continue to be a concern and waterfowl biologists believe that their population will not sustain a full 60-day harvest. As a result, there will be no hunting of black ducks during the first two weeks of the south zone season (Oct. 11 - 25), nor during the last two weeks (Dec. 28 - Jan. 10) of the coastal zone season. The north zone will not have a black duck closure, since relatively few black ducks are harvested there.

According to Castelli, this action ensures that black duck populations will be protected even though there will be more days to hunt this species than last year, in all zones. Each year, Division biologists will review harvest data to ensure that the black duck closure remains appropriate.

The migrant Canada goose breeding population increased 37 percent over last year, however, the population is still 45 percent below their 1988 population level. The regular Canada goose season will remain closed this year. However, a statewide September season and a limited winter season, both targeting resident geese, will be available to hunters who obtain the necessary $2 permit from the Division.

Atlantic brant are expected to have good production this summer. The season will be extended to 50 days this year. Last year, the season was 30 days long. The bag limit will remain at two brant per day.

Snow geese are also expected to have excellent production this summer. Their season length is already 107 days, the longest allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty. The bag limit will increase this year to 10 geese per day and the possession limit will be three times the daily bag.

Tentative New Jersey 1997-98 waterfowl season dates can be seen by clicking here. Although they are not expected to change, these dates are tentative until approved by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in early September. The 1997-98 New Jersey Migratory Bird Supplement will be available statewide in mid-September containing complete information regarding all migratory bird hunting regulations.

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