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2018-19 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 22, 2018) and must end no later than the last Sunday in January (January 27, 2019).

Youth Days: Any 2 weekend days or holidays, up to 14 days before or after any regular duck season framework (between Sept 8, 2018 and Feb 10, 2019). 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 states. Youth hunt days should not overlap with Youth deer hunting weekend. Sea ducks and mergansers may be taken as part of the daily bag limit for ducks (species specific bag limits apply).

Western Zone

Regular Duck Season Dates:

Saturday, October 27 - Saturday, December 8
Wednesday, December 26 - Friday, January 11

Youth Season Dates:

Saturday, October 13 - Sunday, October 14

The Western Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on April 7, 2018, to develop recommendations for the 2018-19 waterfowl hunting season dates. They provided the following rationale for the above dates:

  • The 12-member Task Force (TF) considered a range of options including the following combinations of days in the first and second splits: 45-15, 44-16, 42-18, 41-19, 40-20, 30-30, and 16-44.
  • The following date configurations for the first split were discussed and considered by the task force:
10/20 - 11/4 10/27 - 12/5
10/20 - 11/18 10/27 - 12/7
10/20 - 12/3 10/27 -12/9
10/27 - 11/25 11/3 - 12/13
  • The following date configurations for the second split were discussed and considered by the task force:
11/24 - 1/6 12/26 - 1/10
12/8 - 1/6 12/26 - 1/13
12/15 - 1/13 12/26 - 1/14
12/26 - 1/9 12/27 - 1/13
  • Ultimately, the group decided on a compromise of a 43-17 split designed to accommodate the 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 consensus of the TF members was for a traditional split. For the early split, 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 for the WZ, but acknowledges that there could be 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 slowing of opportunity between when locally produced mallards and wood ducks leave and mallard migrants pick up was a consideration in the October 27th start.
  • Another significant consideration for the October 27th 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 27, 2018).
  • The task force focused on providing weekend opportunity where possible. Eight full weekends of hunting opportunity are provided. The first split provides 43 days with 6 full weekends, one additional Saturday, and the Thanksgiving holiday. The second split provides 17 hunting days, 2 full weekends, and 3 additional weekdays in the Christmas-New Year's week.
  • Opening day is scheduled for a Saturday as surveys have shown a weekend opening date is preferred by most hunters in the Western Zone. The second split opens on a Wednesday within the Christmas to New Year's week. Hunters have expressed preference for this time when many hunters will be off from work and school, or are 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-December to mid-January nearly as important as late October to mid-November.
  • Youth Days are October 13 & 14 (Sat and Sun) and will provide a break of 12 days before the regular season starts. This year, the youth dates coincide with the youth pheasant dates, but begin one week after the youth deer opportunity on Columbus Day weekend. Avoiding overlap of the deer and waterfowl youth hunt days will provide more opportunity in the field for young hunters and their mentors.

Southeastern Zone

Regular Duck Season Dates:

Saturday, October 6 - Sunday, October 14
Saturday, November 10 - Saturday, December 30

Youth Season Dates:

Saturday, September 22 - Sunday, September 23

The Southeastern Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on March 24, 2018, to develop recommendations for the 2018-19 waterfowl hunting season dates. They provided the following rationale for the above dates:

  • 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 group chose 11/10 - 12/30 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
  • September 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 6 - Sunday, October 28
Saturday, November 3 - Sunday, December 9

The Northeastern Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on March 10th, 2018, to develop recommendations for the 2018-19 waterfowl hunting season dates.

  • ​​Ultimately, the group decided on 10/6 - 10/28 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).
  • The group chose 11/03 - 12/9 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

Youth Season Dates:

Saturday, September 22 - Sunday, September 23

  • 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 22 - Friday, November 23
Saturday, December 1 - Sunday, January 27

The Long Island Zone Waterfowl Hunter Task Force met on March 29, 2018, to develop recommendations for the 2018-19 waterfowl hunting season dates. They provided the following rationale for the above dates:

  • allows for a Thanksgiving opener
  • allows for long "late and straight" second split

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