MADISON - For many hunters it's time to oil the shotgun, dust off the decoys and dig out the dented old thermos that makes such a fine companion in the chilly hours before dawn.
The autumn duck hunt is approaching and hunters in Wisconsin will again enjoy the maximum 60-day season allowed by federal regulations.
"Wisconsin waterfowlers should have a good hunting season," said Kent Van Horn, migratory game bird ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources. "Overall, populations of waterfowl game species are healthy and abundant."
The duck hunt in the northern zone opens at 9 a.m. Sept. 27 and continues through Nov. 25.
In the southern zone, a split season opens at 9 a.m. Oct. 4, runs through Oct. 12, reopens at correction half an hour before sunrise on Oct. 18 and closes at sunset on Dec. 7.
The two main changes this year are a closed season for canvasback ducks and dual framework for scaup, also called bluebill, with a daily bag limit of one scaup for 40 days and two scaup for 20 days.
In the northern zone, the daily bag limit is two scaup from Oct. 18 through Nov. 6. In the southern zone, two scaup are allowed in the bag each day from Nov. 1 through Nov. 20.
The closed season on canvasback ducks makes it all the more imperative that hunters identify species as well as gender before firing, said warden supervisor Steve Dewald. This is especially true in the dim light before dawn when hunters often take their first shots. Other than on opening days, the hunt begins a half hour before sunrise.
The daily bag limit for the full 60 days is six ducks, not to include more than four mallards of which only one may be a hen, three wood ducks, one black duck, two redheads, one scaup for 40 days and two for 20 days as noted above, and one pintail.
The daily bag limit for mergansers is five to include no more than two hooded mergansers. The daily bag limit for coot is 15.
Trying to predict how weather patterns will affect hunting is a tricky business.
"Breeding and brood rearing habitat in Wisconsin was good this year, but lately conditions have become drier," said Van Horn. "As always, hunters who do the early legwork, scouting for good wetland conditions, current duck use and securing landowner permissions, will be the ones having a good hunt."
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.
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 post office. This year hunters also have the option of purchasing the federal stamp privilege at license vendors for a $2.50 surcharge. The purchase will be noted on their license. The stamp itself will arrive weeks later in the mail.
Waterfowl hunters must also register for the Harvest Information Program (HIP), a federal program that helps the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitor the harvest of migratory bird species by randomly selecting a sample of HIP registered hunters and asking them to participate in a harvest survey. HIP registration is free and available at all locations where hunting licenses are sold.
Bag checks will be performed at select hunting locations in the state again this fall. Avian influenza testing will also occur at these sites. More information is available on the Waterfowl in Wisconsin pages of the DNR Web site.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn - (608) 266-8841 or James Christopoulos - (608) 261-6458