MADISON - Hunters looking forward to the opening of Wisconsin's 2012 duck season in the northern and Mississippi River duck zones on Sept. 22 should find good numbers of ducks, according to state wildlife officials.
"We will see what fall water conditions look like, but there is the potential for Wisconsin waterfowlers to have a really enjoyable hunting season," said Kent Van Horn, migratory game bird ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources.
"Continental breeding surveys that have been ongoing for 57 years reported record high numbers of ducks this spring. However, even with excellent continental breeding indications, local water levels and scouting will be the most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall, Van Horn said. "Though many areas are still dry, these conditions have promoted excellent growth of wetland vegetation. This means if water levels rise, migrating waterfowl will find plentiful food on the landscape. Wisconsin is fortunate to have 15,000 lakes and many miles of large rivers that will provide water for fall migrating ducks even during dry conditions."
Many of the ducks harvested in Wisconsin come from birds that breed in the state's wetlands. The four most abundant ducks in Wisconsin's fall hunting harvest are mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal, and blue-winged teal, Van Horn said.
The daily bag limit is six ducks in total, not to include more than four mallards of which only one may be a hen, three wood ducks, one black duck, two redheads, four scaup, two pintail, and one canvasback. The daily bag limit for mergansers is five to include no more than two hooded mergansers. The daily bag limit for coot is 15.
The duck hunt in the northern zone opens at 9 a.m. Sept. 22 and continues through Nov. 4 followed by a five-day split (closure) from Nov. 5-9. This Monday through Friday closure to the duck and goose seasons was proposed by hunters during the public involvement process in order to extend the end of the north zone duck season to Nov. to allow for late season hunting, Van Horn said.
"According to harvest data about 90 percent of the duck harvest in the north zone is over by Nov. 1, so the remaining hunters are those that are very passionate about duck hunting and this change came from those hunters. We will see how this season goes and we can decide next year if the hunters would like to continue with this change," he said.
The Mississippi River zone also opens on Sept. 22nd and runs through Sept. 30, followed by a 12-day split, reopening on Oct. 13 and running until Dec. 2. Aside from opening day in each respective zone, hunting hours begin 30 minutes before sunrise. The southern zone duck season will open at 9 a.m. on Sept. 29, run through Oct. 7, and then close and reopen Oct. 13 through Dec. 2
"As always, hunters who do the early legwork - scouting for good wetland conditions and observing what areas birds are using -- will be the ones having the best hunt. Hunter survey data in Wisconsin show that duck hunters who scouted three or more times harvested an average of 14.7 ducks while those who did not scout harvested an average of 4.8 ducks per season," Van Horn said.
Licenses and stamps required include a Wisconsin small game license, a Wisconsin waterfowl stamp and a federal migratory bird stamp. The $15 federal stamp can be purchased at a U.S. Post Office. Hunters will also have the option of purchasing the federal stamp privilege at 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 (HIP), 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 purchases 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 through Wisconsin's Online Licensing Center.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn, DNR Migratory Game Bird Ecologist - (608) 266-8841 or James Christopoulos, Assistant Migratory Game Bird Ecologist - (608) 261-6458