Pennsylvania’s early migratory bird seasons have been approved, and changes this year will increase the number of birds hunters can keep in their possession.
The early seasons for mourning doves, Canada geese, woodcock and other migratory bird species break down similarly to last year. The biggest difference is in regard to possession limits. A change in federal regulations has allowed Pennsylvania this year to increase possession limits for most migratory game birds from two times the daily bag limit to three times the daily bag limit.
Those changes are taking place across the board in the early seasons. The calendar has had an influence on the opening days for some seasons.
Dove hunters will be able to take to the field Monday, Sept. 2 in the first segment of a triple-split season. The first segment ends on Saturday, Sept. 28 and daily hunting hours during the first segment are from noon to sunset.
Other dove-hunting segments run from Oct. 26 to Nov. 30 and from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, with hunting hours during those segments set at one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
The daily bag limit in each dove-hunting segment has been set at 15, with a possession limit of 45.
The September statewide season for resident Canada geese also will open Sept. 2, and continue through Sept. 25. The September season retains a daily bag limit of eight Canada geese, but the possession limit has climbed to 24.
Shooting hours during the September goose season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, except for on Sept. 14 and Sept. 21, when the season overlaps with youth waterfowl hunting days. On those days, shooting hours end at sunset.
There are special regulations – including smaller bag limits and possession limits – in a couple of areas of the state.
In most of the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, and on the Pymatuning Reservoir and the area extending 100 yards inland from the shoreline of the reservoir, excluding the area east of state Route 3011 (Hartstown Road), hunters will have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of nine.
Also, in a portion of western Crawford County, the daily bag limit is one goose and possession limit is three geese. That area begins south of state Route 198 from the Ohio state line to intersection of state Route 18, then follows state Route 18 south to state Route 618; follows state Route 618 south to U.S. Route 6; U.S. Route 6 east to U.S. Route 322/state Route 18; U.S. Route 322/state Route 18 west to intersection of state Route 3013; and state Route 3013 south to the Crawford/Mercer County line. The exception to the rules in this area is State Game Lands 214, where September goose hunting is closed. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the expanded youth waterfowl hunting days, which are set for Sept. 14 and 21, 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 address the decline in the resident Canada goose flock.
And, 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 and Lancaster-Berks county line to state Route 1053 (also known as Peartown Road and Greenville Road); 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, which are set for Sept. 14 and 21, when regular season regulations apply.
Kevin Jacobs, a waterfowl biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, noted that recent liberalizations in Canada goose hunting opportunities, along with control programs being implemented by many municipalities and public and private landowners, appear to be stabilizing the growth of the state’s resident Canada goose population. The 2013 Pennsylvania spring resident Canada goose population was estimated at 279,212 , which is statistically similar to the recent eight-year average of 265,905.
However, populations remain significantly above the management goal of 150,000.
“Hunting remains the most effective and efficient way to manage resident Canada geese, provided hunters can gain access to geese in problem areas,” Jacobs said.
Youth waterfowl days are open to licensed junior hunters who are 12 to 15 years old. 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 those hunts, youth can harvest ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens, and both youth and licensed adults can harvest Canada geese.
During youth waterfowl days, youth and adults have the same daily limit for Canada geese in the area being hunted. Bag limits for ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens will be consistent with the limit for the regular season, which will be announced in mid-August, after the annual Waterfowl Symposium on Aug. 9.
Pennsylvania’s woodcock season retains its longer format this year, opening on Oct. 19 and closing on Nov. 30. The daily limit remains three, but the possession limit increases to nine.
The season for common snipe also will run from Oct. 19 to Nov. 30, which is the same structure as previous years. The daily limit is 8, and the possession limit is 24.
Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 2 to Nov. 9. Bag limits, singly or combined, are three daily or nine in possession. The season for king and clapper rails remains closed.
Hunting for moorhen and gallinules also runs from Sept. 2 to Nov. 9, and the bag limits are three daily and nine in possession.
Migratory game bird hunters, including those afield for doves and woodcock, are required to obtain and carry a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license ($3.70 for residents, $6.70 for nonresidents), as well as a general hunting, combination or lifetime license. All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older also must possess a federal migratory game bird and conservation (duck) stamp.
Hunting hours for all migratory birds close at sunset, except for September Canada geese, as noted above, and the snow goose conservation season.
Annual migratory bird and waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The “Pennsylvania 2013-14 Guide to Migratory Bird Hunting” brochure will be posted on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) in mid-August.
Hunters are encouraged to report leg-banded migratory game bird recoveries online at www.reportband.gov, or use the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND). Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory game birds.