MADISON - Duck hunters in the Southern and Mississippi River zones can expect wetter conditions than usual when these seasons open one-half hour before sunrise on Saturday, Oct. 1.
"Good spring breeding counts and higher water levels have created the potential for good waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin," said Taylor Finger, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources assistant migratory game bird ecologist.
The Southern Zone will run from Oct. 1-9, close for a five-day split, and remain open from Oct. 15 to Dec. 4. The Mississippi Zone will be open Oct. 1-7, close for a seven-day split, and re-open from Oct. 15 to Dec. 6. Opening day shooting hours will begin one-half hour before sunrise.
Waterfowl hunters should note that the goose season in the southern portion of the Exterior Zone will also be closed during the five-day split in October, while hunting in the Horicon Zone will not be affected. Also, hunters should note that goose season in the Mississippi River Sub-zone will not open until Oct. 1 and is closed during the seven-day split in the Mississippi River Zone.
"Continental breeding surveys that have been ongoing for 61 years reported record high or near record high duck numbers this spring. However, even with promising breeding indications, local conditions and scouting will be the most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall," said Finger. "Since Wisconsin has experienced extremely wet conditions leading up to the duck season, scouting this fall will be particularly important to identify areas that are holding birds."
The daily bag limit statewide is six ducks, including no more than:
Five mergansers may be harvested daily, of which no more than two may be hooded mergansers; 15 coot may be harvested daily.
Licenses and stamps required for duck hunting include a Wisconsin small game license, a Wisconsin waterfowl stamp, and a federal migratory bird stamp. The federal duck stamp will now cost $25 (an increase from $15 dollars) - a change suggested and supported by waterfowl hunters nationwide. There has not been an increase in the federal waterfowl stamp since the 1990s - a $10 increase will help protect additional upland and wetland waterfowl habitat. The federal stamp can be purchased at a U.S. Post Office. Hunters will also have the option of purchasing the federal stamp privilege at DNR license vendors for an additional $2.50 surcharge. The purchase will be noted on their license, but the stamp itself will arrive weeks later in the mail.
Waterfowl and other migratory bird hunters must also register each year with the federal Harvest Information Program, which places them on a list of hunters that may receive a mailing asking them to provide a summary of their harvest. HIP registration is free and can be done at the time hunters purchase their licenses, but can always be added later on if a hunter decides they may pursue migratory game birds.
State licenses and stamps, permits, and HIP registration are also available online through Go Wild.
For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search keyword "waterfowl."
With the Exterior goose season opening in the Mississippi River Zone on Oct. 1, there have been some important changes concerning the transition to Go Wild. The Canada goose harvest registration phone number is now consistent with all other species registered in Wisconsin -- this new system also provides for online registration. Hunters can now register online at gamereg.wi.gov or via phone at 844-426-3734 (844 GAME-REG).
In addition, Early, Exterior and Horicon Zone goose permits are now printed on regular white paper, rather than green thermal paper. While afield, hunters must carry their Canada goose harvest permit -- department staff encourage hunters to carry these permits in a plastic bag to shield it from any adverse weather conditions.
For more information regarding Go Wild, visit gowild.wi.gov [EXIT DNR].
Many fall hunting and trapping seasons in Wisconsin are just around the corner, and the 2016 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF] is now available.
Several federal agencies are working in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to collect samples related to the research and surveillance of avian influenza in wild birds. This surveillance will help monitor for the virus during fall migration.
Avian influenza is a viral disease common in wild bird populations with many different subtypes - most do not cause obvious signs of disease in wild birds or have the ability to infect animals other than birds. While strains currently detected in the U.S. have caused mortality of domestic birds, they have not resulted in any illness in humans.
Samples will be collected from live-captured birds during DNR banding efforts and from hunter-harvested dabbling ducks, such as blue-winged teal, mallard, wood duck and Northern pintail. Federal staff will also be located at boat landings and other hunter access points this fall to sample ducks from willing hunters.
To learn more, search keywords "bird diseases."
Volunteers also have documented the growing presence of once rare native birds including peregrine falcons, bald eagles and trumpeter swans.
The survey, known as the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, is a follow-up to the first atlas survey from 1995-2000 that resulted in a reference book still used today to guide species conservation and land management planning.
"Our volunteer team grew to more than 1,100 people this year and their work is providing important information on shifts in bird populations that we need to know for future conservation efforts," said Nick Anich, DNR conservation biologist and lead survey coordinator.
For the first time ever, Mississippi kites, a raptor common in the southeastern U.S. that is known for its aerial acrobatics, have been found breeding in Wisconsin with confirmation of a pair raising one chick at a nest in Rock County.
"This discovery represents one of the northernmost breeding records in the Mississippi kite's range and perhaps the most exciting find of the atlas so far," said Ryan Brady, Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas science leader and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative bird monitoring coordinator.
Other new species confirmed include canvasback and blue grosbeak.
"Blue grosbeak is a rare breeder in Wisconsin, as we sit at the northern edge of this species' range. Canvasbacks, which mostly breed from the Great Plains northwest into Canada, are regular migrants but very rare nesters in Wisconsin," said Brady. "Mississippi kites, on the other hand, are definitely expanding their range north and west from their stronghold in the southeast U.S."
Surveyors have also documented increasing numbers of native species including peregrine falcons, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, orchard orioles and tufted titmouses compared to 20 years ago.
Millions of Birds Observed But Volunteers Still Needed
Volunteers observe birds and enter their sightings online into an eBird database developed for the survey project by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The records are reviewed by Anich, Brady, and other ornithologists from organizations leading the project, including the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.
With more than 54,000 checklists submitted to date, the survey has already amassed time and location information for 3,087,260 birds and has listed 239 of them as at least possible Wisconsin breeders, with breeding confirmed in 220 of those species.
"These are very impressive numbers, but there is still a lot of work to do -- we've got great volunteer coverage in more populated areas, but there are large swaths especially in the Driftless Area and across northern and central Wisconsin where we could really use help over the next couple of years," said Anich. "It's easy to participate and you don't have to be an expert birder to help the project."
The survey will continue through 2019, with a concerted effort in the next few years to fill coverage gaps by sending current volunteers into under-covered areas and tapping new volunteers that live there.
"We constantly get feedback from people that let us know how rewarding it is to get outside in nature and pay attention to things you may not usually notice - from skilled birders to folks just watching in their backyard, it's also kind of fun to see your sightings up on the map," said Anich.
While bird breeding activity for many species has slowed for the year, Anich encourages interested people to learn more about the effort now to get ready to join in next spring when the breeding season begins again.
"We encourage people at all skill levels of birding to participate," Anich says. "A good place to start is to visit our project website at wsobirds.org/atlas (exit DNR) and learn how to contribute your own observations." Regular training sessions also take place throughout the state, and a list of events can also be found at that site.
MADISON - Following the release of three early video segments from Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2016 with Dan Small in August, three more clips are now available to help hunters prepare for another fall deer hunt.
These additional "sneak peeks" give hunters some helpful information to use in the field before the full Deer Show airs later this fall. New segments include a deer season introduction, where to find a place to hunt segment and a GameReg overview. Hunters should stay tuned for the full program, which will air later this fall.
MADISON - In 2016, more than 70 landowners in 48 counties enrolled roughly 79,000 acres of hunting land to provide opportunities for more than 400 participants to take part in the gun deer hunt for hunters with disabilities.
This annual hunt, which runs from Oct. 1-9, gives landowners an opportunity to provide a positive experience for many hunters with disabilities throughout Wisconsin.
"This hunt relies upon the generosity of landowners and is a tremendous opportunity to provide a unique opportunity for hunters with disabilities," said Maggie Stewart, DNR assistant big game ecologist. "As in 2015, close to 400 hunters will partake in the disabled deer hunt this year, and we hope that level of participation continues into the future."
The gun deer hunt for hunters with disabilities is only open on properties enrolled in the program - hunters with a valid disabled hunting permit were required to contact a participating landowner before Sept. 1.
Landowners who are interested in enrolling their property to host a disabled deer hunt in the future are encouraged to contact DNR staff before June 1, 2017. For enrollment and program information, contact Maggie Stewart at 608-261-7588 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Weekly News is updated every Tuesday at noon.
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