While representatives of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, waterfowl organizations, interested hunters and the public met this week to discuss the status of the Atlantic Flyway populations and proposed preliminary federal frameworks for the 2013-14 regular waterfowl hunting seasons, the agency announced Pennsylvania's early migratory bird seasons have been approved for mourning doves, Canada geese, woodcock and other migratory bird species.
This year's seasons break down similarly to last year, but 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 and take place across the board in the early 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 October 26 to November 30 and from December 26 to January 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.
September's statewide season for resident Canada geese also will open September 2, and continue through September 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 September 14 and September 21, when the season overlaps with youth waterfowl hunting days. On those days, shooting hours end at sunset.
Pennsylvania's spring resident Canada goose population was estimated at 279,212, which is statistically similar to the recent eight-year average of 265,905. This population remains significantly more than the management goal of 150,000.
Youth waterfowl days are open to licensed junior hunters between the ages of 12-15 and 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.
Pennsylvania's woodcock season retains its longer format this year, opening October 19 and closing on November 30. The daily limit remains three, but the possession limit increases to nine.
Migratory game bird hunters, including those afield for doves and woodcock, are required to obtain and carry a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license, as well as a hunting license. All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older also must possess a federal migratory game bird and conservation stamp.
"Pennsylvania 2013-14 Guide to Migratory Bird Hunting" brochure will be posted on the PGC website at http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/ in mid-August. Hunters can report leg-banded migratory game bird recoveries online at http://www.reportband.gov/, or use the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND).