Every year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts aerial surveys to estimate the breeding population of waterfowl across Canada and the northern United States. Hunting seasons and regulations are set for all four flyways, with the population estimate taken in to account.
In early August of this year, the final report was issued, and again, the news was superb! North American duck hunters can expect more feathered friends to chase around in the duck blind this year, but season lengths and bag limits will remain the same.
In the Eastern Flyway, hunters get 60 days each year, but states have a little bit of wiggle room to determine which days their hunters can hunt, with for the closing date, which is typically the last week of January.
The Flyway Council sets the bag limits in each of the four flyways. For the 2013-2014 season, duck hunters get another 6-duck limit, with certain restrictions on specific species. Before heading into the marsh, river or swamp, hunters should know what these species look like to make sure they only harvest the correct number for each. In addition to knowing the key feather patterns and colors, knowing the flight characteristics and vocalizations will assist hunters in identifying species of ducks entering shotgun range before the steel shot begins flying.
Again, hunters get the chance to hunt from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. Typically, sunrise changes just about every day, and it will be slightly different between the coastal region and the western limits of the states. Hunters should check the local sunrise tables to make sure what the legal times are on certain days they plan to hunt. The U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., tracks sunrise and sunset across the nation. The majority of the sunrise and sunset tables are based on the USNO’s datasets, but there are some differences in commercially-produced tables, and sometimes a few minutes at dawn will make a world of difference while waist-deep in a bone-chilling swamp and waiting to pull the trigger. To download the exact sunrise and sunset times for your neck of the woods, go to the USNO’s website at //aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneYear.php.