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2017-18 Waterfowl Task Force Meeting Summaries and Rationale

Federal Atlantic Flyway Season Framework

Duck seasons in New York are set based on framework provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The framework for the Atlantic Flyway is as follows:

Duck Seasons:

Season Length: Maximum of 60 days, and the season may be 60 consecutive days ("straight season") or divided into two blocks totaling 60 days ("split season") in each zone. Seasons may not be split into 3 or more blocks, and zone boundary changes are not allowed.

Outside Dates: Seasons may begin on the Saturday closest to September 24 (Sept 23, 2017) and must end no later than the last Sunday in January (January 28, 2018).

Youth Days: Any 2 weekend days or holidays, up to 14 days before or after any regular duck season framework (between Sept 9, 2016 and Feb 11, 2018). For youth hunters only (age 12-15) accompanied by an adult. Bag limits are the same as during regular season for ducks and brant, but only 3 Canada geese per day in all areas. Youth days are not counted as part of the 60-day regular season.

Other Constraints: None. The seasons in each zone may be set independent of duck seasons in other zones of New York. Special September teal seasons are not allowed in New York or other northern "production" states. Youth hunt days should not overlap with Youth deer hunting weekend (Oct 7-9, 2017). A special sea duck season will no longer be authorized in New York. Sea ducks may, however, be taken as part of the daily bag limit for ducks (species specific bag limits apply).

Western Zone

Regular Duck Season Dates:

Saturday, October 28 - Wednesday, December 6
Tuesday, December 26 - Sunday, January 14

Youth Days:

Saturday, October 14 - Sunday, October 15

The Western Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on April 1, 2017, to develop recommendations for the 2017-18 waterfowl hunting season dates. They provided the following rationale for the above dates:

  • This year's 40-20 split season is designed to accommodate those who hunt the great variety of waterfowl hunting opportunity provided in the Western Zone. This hunting opportunity ranges from: (a) early-season marsh and small stream/beaver pond hunting, (b) field hunting, (c) hunting in smaller lakes that often freeze up before mid-December, (d) Niagara River hunting in early January, and (e) hunting deep-water Finger Lake and Great Lake waters that stay open into January.
  • The Task Force considered a range of options including the following combinations of days in the first and second splits: 44-16, 40-20, 33-27, 30-30, 23-37 and 16-44. Starting dates for the first split ranged from October 14th to October 28th. Ending dates for the second split ranged from January 7th to January 21st.
  • The Task Force considered many inputs from constituents in their objective to reach consensus. TF members considered ideas represented by the expanded DEC input tool, which provided preferences from about 620 WZ hunters. But, also expressed concern about how representative the sample was of waterfowl hunters throughout the zone. Two themes from the input tool that prompted more discussion were: (a) the idea of a "30/30" split and (b) the avoidance of the first 2 weeks of southern zone deer season. The consensus of the TF members was that more of a traditional split was preferred. They preferred staying open during deer season to reach into early December for the opportunity provided for migrant birds throughout the zone. Some TF members recognized an opportunity to have the season open during mid-December, but that idea was not wholly supported by the group due to the risk of freeze-up in many areas of the zone.
  • The task force believes this year's season provides the best compromise in giving all types of waterfowl hunting opportunity throughout the zone. But acknowledges that there is additional hunting opportunity extending beyond a 60-day season allowed by the federal regulations. Opportunity for early migrating birds, especially wood ducks and teal, is sacrificed to emphasize opportunity to harvest migrating mallards and black ducks in late November and early December, and deep water concentrations after other areas freeze up. Concern over an earlier opening date causing a 'dead zone' or slowing of opportunity between when locally produced mallards and wood ducks leave and mallard migrants pick up was a consideration in the October 28th start.
  • Another consideration for the October 28th start was to open the duck season on the same day as the goose season. Coupling the goose and duck seasons is preferred by many waterfowl hunters. Current policy for hunting the migrant Atlantic population of Canada geese requires that the goose season can open no earlier than the fourth Saturday in October (Oct 28, 2017).
  • The task force focused on maximizing weekend opportunity in times when good numbers of mallards are available. Nine full weekends of hunting opportunity are provided. The first split provides 40 days with 6 full weekends and the Thanksgiving holiday. The second split provides 20 hunting days and 3 full weekends.
  • Opening day is scheduled for a Saturday as surveys have shown a weekend opening date is preferred by a majority of hunters in the Western Zone. The second split opens on a Tuesday within the Christmas to New Year's week. Last year's season did not catch all of this timeframe and hunters expressed preference for returning this time when many hunters will be off from work and school, or returning to the area to enjoy the tradition of a family waterfowl hunt.
  • The January days provide excellent late-season hunting valued by many Great Lakes and Finger Lakes hunters. Surveys show that Western Zone duck hunters find late Dec. to mid-Jan. nearly as important as late October to mid-November.
  • Youth Days are October 14 & 15 (Sat and Sun) and will provide a break of 12 days before the regular season starts. These youth dates are one week after the youth pheasant and youth deer dates. Avoiding overlap of these youth hunts will provide more opportunity in the field for young hunters and their mentors.

Southeastern Zone

Regular Duck Season Dates:

Saturday, October 7 - Sunday, October 15
Saturday, November 11 - Saturday, December 31

Youth Season Dates:

Saturday, September 17 - Sunday, September 18

The Southeastern Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on March 11, 2017, to develop recommendations for the 2017-18 waterfowl hunting season dates. They provided the following rationale for the above dates:

  • The following date configurations for the first split were discussed and considered by the task force:
    • 9/30-10/9
    • 9/30-10/15
    • 10/7-10/15
    • 10/14-10/23
    • 10/14-10/29
  • Ultimately, the group decided on 10/7 - 10/15 because:
    • it avoids the opening of archery deer season (October 1)
    • it avoids the opening of small game seasons (October 1)
    • it provides opportunity to harvest early migrating species (wood ducks and teal)
    • it is closer to the traditional opening date of the 2nd Saturday in October
    • it potentially provides the opportunity to capture short distance migrations in response to hunting pressure in the Northeast Zone
  • The following date configurations for the second split were discussed and considered by the task force:
    • 11/4-12/24
    • 11/6 - 12/26
    • 11/11-12/31
  • The group chose 11/11- 12/31 because:
    • it includes the holiday season and the following week when many hunters have vacation and schools are on winter break
    • most larger or fast moving river systems (Hudson, Mohawk, Delaware, etc.) will likely be ice-free into late December
    • it captures the peak of mallard and black duck migration in late November and into December

Youth Season Rationale:

  • Allows time between the youth hunt and the regular duck season opening for disturbed ducks to return to normal movement patterns.
  • Sept. goose season is open allowing for some adult mentor opportunity.
  • Avoids the youth deer and pheasant season dates.

Northeastern Zone

Regular Duck Season Dates:

Saturday, October 7 - Sunday, October 29
Saturday, November 4 - Sunday, December 10

The Northeastern Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on March 18th, 2017, to develop recommendations for the 2017-18 waterfowl hunting season dates.

  • The following date configurations for the first split were discussed and considered by the task force:
    • ​10/7 - 10/15
    • 10/7 - 10/29
    • 10/7 - 11/12
  • ​​Ultimately, the group decided on 10/7 - 10/29 because:
    • it ​follows the traditional, 1st Saturday in October format
    • it includes Columbus Day weekend
    • it maximizes opportunity to harvest early migrating species (wood ducks and teal) and locally produced mallards and black ducks
    • it minimizes the time when the task force believes the best hunting occurs (throughout the entire month of October). A 9/30 opener was briefly discussed, but the group felt the earlier opener would force them to close the 1st split too early in October. The lost late October days was unacceptable to the group.
  • The following date configurations for the second split were discussed and considered by the task force:
    • 10/21 - 12/10
    • 11/4 - 12/10
    • 11/18 - 12/10
  • The group chose 11/04 - 12/10 because:
    • this season maximized holiday (Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving) and weekend days
    • the split avoids 5 week days because week days typically are utilized less than weekend days by hunters
    • traditional closing date
    • it was consistent with input received by the DEC and task force members

Youth Season Dates:

Saturday, September 23 - Sunday, September 24

  • Allows time between the youth hunt and the regular duck season opening for disturbed ducks to return to normal movement patterns
  • September goose season is open, which allows for some adult mentor opportunity
  • Avoids the youth deer season

Long Island Zone

Regular Duck Season Dates:

Thursday, November 23 - Sunday, November 26
Monday, December 4 - Sunday, January 28

The Long Island Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on March 4,2017, to develop recommendations for the 2017-18 waterfowl hunting season dates. They provided the following rationale for the above dates:

  • Allows for the traditional Thanksgiving weekend split.
  • Allows for long "late and straight" second split.
  • Allows for the season to be open when peak dabbling, diving, and sea ducks are present.

Youth Season Dates:

Saturday, November 11 - Sunday, November 12

  • Avoids Southern Zone deer season opening dates.
  • Allows mentors to participate in both the deer season and youth hunt on Long Island.