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Waterfowl Season Setting Process

Process for Setting Duck Seasons for 2019 and Beyond

Female duck hunter with harvested ducks and retriever

Choosing the "best" duck season dates has long been a contentious topic amongst duck hunters. Depending on which species you're interested in pursuing or the types of habitat you hunt (e.g., shallow marshes, deep water, fields, etc.), the "best" dates for each zone can vary from person to person. DEC and the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University developed a new process that includes input from a greater number of duck hunters to determine the optimal duck season dates in each zone.

Surveys and Collaborative Research

Last fall, Cornell University surveyed about one-third of the duck hunters in New York State (6,000 of about 18,000; see below for more details). The survey was sent a random selection of duck hunters and aimed to identify what duck hunters value and what drives their duck hunting satisfaction. The survey asked hunters to rank, in order of importance, the following six key objectives that were developed by the Waterfowl Task Force and DEC biologists:

  • Seeing and shooting wood ducks and teal (being able to hunt when wood ducks and teal are most abundant)
  • Seeing and shooting mallard and black ducks (being able to hunt when mallards and black ducks are most abundant or most susceptible to decoying)
  • Seeing and shooting diving ducks (e.g., scaup, redheads, common goldeneye) (being able to hunt when diving ducks are most abundant or most susceptible to decoying)
  • Seeing and shooting any ducks (regardless of species) (being able to hunt when abundance of ducks (any species) is highest, or when the variety of duck species is greatest)
  • Having maximum opportunity to go hunting duck hunting (including the most weekend days and holidays in the season)
  • Minimizing overlap of waterfowl and deer hunting seasons (minimize duck season overlap with the first week of firearms deer season and avoiding opening duck season on the same day as youth big game seasons)

In addition to the hunter survey, DEC worked with the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to develop zone-specific migration information and relative abundance estimates for each week for 12 species of ducks that frequently occur in the hunter's bag. During the summer of 2018, DEC worked with the waterfowl task forces in each zone to develop 5-10 unique season date "alternatives" (i.e. different season dates that would accomplish each of the above objectives described above). DEC and Cornell University will use the results of the survey in conjunction with the migration and abundance data to determine which of the alternatives developed by the hunter task forces best matches the values of duck hunters in their zone.

2019-2024 Duck Season Structures

The season date structure for the next 5 duck seasons (2019-2020 through 2023-2024) in each zone, barring any changes to the number of days allowed by the federal framework (i.e. if the season length is shortened). For detailed information on how these season date structures were identified, please click on the handouts below for your specific zone.

  • Western Zone - Beginning the 3rd Saturday in October, running 23 days, ending on a Sunday and a second split beginning on the last Saturday in November, running 37 days, and ending on a Sunday (e.g. Oct 19, 2019 - Nov 10, 2019 and Nov 30, 2019 - Jan 5, 2020). See more details in the Western Zone Structured Decision Making Analysis and Results (PDF).
  • Northeastern Zone - Beginning on the 1st Saturday in October, running for 23 days, ending on a Sunday, and a second split beginning the 1st Saturday following the closure of the 1st split, running 37 days, and ending on a Sunday (e.g. Oct 5, 2019 - Oct 27, 2019 and Nov 2, 2019 - Dec 8, 2019). See more details in the Northeastern Zone Structured Decision Making Analysis and Results (PDF).
  • Southeastern Zone - Beginning the 3rd Saturday in October, running for 44 days, ending on a Sunday, and a second split beginning the 1st Saturday following the closure of the 1st split, running 16 days, and ending on a Sunday (e.g. Oct 19, 2019 - Dec 1, 2019 and Dec 7, 2019 - Dec 22, 2019). See more details in the Southeastern Zone Structured Decision Making Analysis and Results (PDF).
  • Long Island Zone - Beginning on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, running for 9 days, ending on a Sunday, and a second split running for 51 days, opening on a Saturday, and ending on the last Sunday in January (e.g. Nov 23, 2019 - Dec 1, 2019 and Dec 7, 2019 - Jan 26, 2020). See more details in the Long Island Zone Structured Decision Making Analysis and Results (PDF).

Tentative season dates for all migratory game birds will be posed on the Waterfowl Hunting Seasons webpage in early April and finalized in federal regulation by mid-summer. Please check the DEC website prior to going afield for final season dates.

2017 New York State Duck Hunter Survey

Duck hunter mean importance ranking of 6 factors that influence satisfaction with duck hunting season dates
View a full size graph of Mean Importance Rankings of Factors
that Influence Satisfaction with Duck Season Dates (PDF).

During fall 2017, DEC and Cornell University sent out a survey to 6,000 randomly-selected New York duck hunters to better understand factors that influence hunter preferences for the timing of waterfowl hunting seasons. Duck hunters seized the opportunity to provide their feedback on what they value with nearly 50% completing the survey (2,791 duck hunters). Hunters in all zones consistently ranked seeing and shooting mallards and black ducks as the most important factor influencing their satisfaction with duck season dates in their zone, followed closely by seeing and shooting any duck (regardless of species). Click on the figure to the right for detailed information on hunter preferences in each zone.

For more information, please see the complete Cornell University report of the 2017 Duck Hunter Survey - Understanding Factors that Influence Hunter Preferences for Timing of Waterfowl Hunting Seasons (PDF). This survey gave a representative, large number of duck hunters direct input into how season dates will be selected. Their input will be used in the decision-making process for selecting the optimal duck season in each zone.

2022 Waterfowl Season Task Forces

Below is the contact information for the 2022 task force members in the Western, Southeastern, Northeastern and Long Island Waterfowl Hunting Zones. The names and contact information for current task force members can be found below. Task Force members act as representatives of all duck hunters in each zone, and they meet each spring to make suggestions to DEC for Canada goose, brant, youth, and other special season dates.

There is no task force for the Lake Champlain Zone because seasons there are set by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Management Board, with consultation from DEC and input from hunters in New York and Vermont. Although there is no formal task force for this zone, interested hunters may send their input directly to DEC for consideration.

You can provide input on Canada goose, brant, youth season dates or any other general comments about waterfowl hunting in New York by:

  • directly contacting one of the task force members in your zone - the list of members can be found on the DEC website, or
  • sending an email to the Waterfowl Season Input Mailbox - suggestions sent to this inbox will be forwarded to all task force members in the zone

DEC Waterfowl Season Setting Team

Name DEC Region Address & Telephone
Kelly Hamilton
Region 1 50 Circle Road - SUNY
Stony Brook, NY 11790
Kevin Clarke
Region 3 21 South Putt Corners Road
New Paltz, NY 12561
Joe Nelson
Region 4 1130 N. Westcott Road
Schenectady, NY 12306
John O'Connor
Region 5 1115 Route 86
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Steve Heerkens
Region 6 207 Genesee Street
Utica, NY 13501
Tom Bell
Region 7 1285 Fisher Avenue
Cortland, NY 13045
Mike Wasilco
Region 8 6274 E. Avon Lima Rd.
Avon, NY 14414
Connie Adams
Region 9 700 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14209
Joshua Stiller
Central Office 625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4754
2019-20 Western Zone Task Force
Name Address Telephone & E-mail
Mike Wasilco
6274 E. Avon-Lima Rd.
Avon, NY 14414
Dave Erickson
(NYSCC - R7)
18 Second Avenue
Auburn, NY 13021
315-224-4494 (c)
Ron Falkowski
(Central NY Wildfowlers)
767 Nichols Point Road
Bridgeport, NY 13030
Jay Forster
(Lake Plains Waterfowl Assoc)
98 True Hickory Run
Rochester, NY 14615
585-865-8986 (h)
585-314-0566 (c)
Randy Holden
(South Central Area)
219 Breesport Road
Horseheads, NY 14845
607-739-6735 (h)
607-742-9886 (c)
Paul Niedzielski
(Canandaigua Lake Duck Hunters)
3896 Chatham Lane
Canandaigua, NY 14424
585-729-6600 (c)
Bill Howell
(Niagara Frontier Area)
5859 Stinson Road
Arcade, NY 14009
Darin J. Katta
(Southwestern New York)
10 Westerly Drive
Fredonia, NY 14063
Keith Tidball
(NYSCC - R8)
3735 N Hoster Rd.
Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Bill Kalwas
(Finger Lakes & WNY Waterfowl Assoc)
1264 School Road
Victor, NY 14564
Ken Zolnowski
(NYSCC - R9)
30 Danbury Drive
Cheektowaga, NY 14225
Jim Adriance 1930 Cole Place
Vestal, NY 13850
2019-20 Southeastern Zone Task Force
Name Address Telephone & E-mail
Bill Alexander
(Hudson River)
170 Clinton Corners Road
Salt Point, NY 12578
Tim Barnard
(NYSCC - R4)
21 Balsam Way
Albany, NY 12205
Josh Stiller
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12333-4754
Vince Olechnowicz
(Catskill Area)
258 Braymer Lane
Delhi, NY 13753
Luke Capria
(Central NY Wildfowlers)
970 Smith Ridge Road
Bridgeport, NY 13030
Nathan Pieruzzi
(Hudson River Waterfowlers)
58 Salvino Drive
Athens, NY 12015
Mike Podgorski
(NYSCC - R7)
2287 Ferndell Road
Cazenovia, NY 13035
Chuck Law
(Saratoga Lake - Upper Hudson)
1027 Hudson Avenue
Stillwater, NY 12170
Gary Will
(Chenango Valley area)
1019 River Road
Hamilton, NY 13346
Dan Spigner
(Waterfowl Improvement Assoc.)
9 Academy Street
Greenwich, NY 12834
2019-20 Northeastern Zone Task Force
Name Address Telephone & E-mail
Kevin Bodmer
(Central Adirondacks)
236 Keese Mills Road
Paul Smiths, NY 12970
Doug Carr
(Central NY Wildfowlers)
109 Roosevelt Avenue
Canastota, NY 13032
George Gedney
(Waterfowl Improvement Assn)
15 Stonehurst Drive
Queensbury, NY 12804
Tom Humberstone
(North Central Area)
2766 County Route 6
Hammond, NY 13646
Steve Heerkens
207 Genesee Street
Utica, NY 13501
Nick McNamara
(Northern WMAs)
1125 County Route 14
Rensselaer Falls, NY 13680
Kurt Snyder
(Oneida Lake Assoc)
6429 Long Point Road
Brewerton, NY 13029
James Tracy
(Upper Mohawk Area)
5525 Marsh Road
Lee Center, NY 13363
2019-20 Long Island Zone Task Force
Name Address Telephone & E-mail
John Adams
(South Shore Waterfowlers Assoc)
30 Diane Drive
Manorville, NY 11949
Robert Christensen
(Oyster Ponds Rod & Gun Club)
PO Box 14
Orient, NY 11957
Kelly Hamilton
50 Circle Road - SUNY
Stony Brook, NY 11790
William Spadafora
(Peconic River Sportsmans Club)
26 Croyden Avenue
Ronkonkoma, NY 11779
Ron Kee
(Smith Point Fish & Hunt Club)
11 Skyhaven Drive
Patchogue, NY 11772
Steve Laurino
(Manhasset Bay Sports Club)
9 Corchaug Avenue
Port Washington, NY 11050
Warren Ferdinansen
(Suffolk Co Alliance of Sportsmen)
10 Rockhall Lane
Rocky Point, NY 11778
Ron Sineo
(NYSCC - R1)
10 Rutherford Street
St James, NY 11780
Curt Matzinger
(Nassau Co Fish & Game Assoc)
32 Magro Drive
North Babylon, NY 11703
James Jankowski
(Pattersquash Gunners Assoc)
19 Woodland Park Road
Bellport, NY 11713
Frank Lopez
(Member at Large)
59 Radio Avenue
Miller Place, NY 11764
Sab Caponi
(Matinecock Rod & Gun Club)
2708 Elm Drive
North Bellmore, NY 11710
(Long Island Wildfowl Heritage Group)
Jack Passie
(Windy Guide Service)
8 South Fulton Street
Montauk, NY 11954

Task Force Membership

  • The Bureau of Wildlife develops and maintains the TF membership lists of avid waterfowl hunters the represent the values and interests of duck hunters in the State.
  • To establish a membership list, the SST first looks to organized groups to provide a member to serve on a TF. Examples of types of these groups include:
    • organized, long-standing waterfowl hunting organizations;
    • NYS Conservation Council regional Waterfowl Committee representative;
    • county sportsmen's federations;
    • waterfowl interest groups; and
    • sportsmen's organizations with waterfowl hunting interests within their membership.
    • "At-Large" members may be chosen by several methods. Hunter interest groups may be asked to provide the SST with a person to serve on the TF (they may be asked for several names from which the SST may choose). The SST may select a member on their own, based on prior contacts with local hunters.

Duties of Task Force Members

  • The names, addresses, phone, and e-mail are made available to the public.
  • TF members are expected to actively solicit the opinions and desires of hunters in their zone.
  • They should be available to any and all hunters to receive their opinions.

Objectives and Expectations of the Annual Task Force Meeting

  • TF members are representatives for all hunters within the zone. They must be willing to sit with other members to discuss issues, negotiate and, ultimately, compromise in order to recommend season dates that all members can live with and that are satisfying to the majority of hunters in the zone.
  • All decisions are by consensus; there is no voting.
  • TFs will develop Recommendations for:
    • dates for youth waterfowl hunt dates; and
    • regular Canada goose hunting dates.
  • In all cases the final decisions for season dates and regulations are made by the BOW Chief and Commissioner.
  • The TFs may also be asked for opinions on waterfowl management issues (for example, preferences for alternative bag restrictions on a specific species) and used as a sounding board for hunter interests and concerns.

Responsibilities of Bureau of Wildlife

  • Develop the annual TF membership lists.
  • Provide public communications (news release, website) on the TF process, including names and contact information for all TF members.
  • Accept public input to be shared with all TF members.
  • Provide a facilitator to oversee the TF meeting.
  • Provide TF meeting locations.
  • Be available to answer all questions concerning the TF process and waterfowl management.
  • Provide a SST member to participate in the meeting to provide information and insight.
  • Provide harvest and management information to TF members.

Timing of Annual Meetings

  • Each TF meets one time, usually on a Saturday in February, March or April. TFs base their discussions on the anticipated upcoming federal frameworks. Recommendations from all TFs are reviewed by the SST and subject to approval by the Bureau Chief and Commissioner.
  • DEC submits final season dates to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for approval annually by late April.