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September 15, 2015

MADISON - Hunters looking to head out into the wetlands for the North Zone duck season should find good numbers of ducks when the season opens Sept. 26, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff.

"Although a few areas in the southern half of Wisconsin have begun to dry out, areas in northern Wisconsin have received abundant rainfall recently, and waterfowlers should have potential for a good hunting season," said DNR migratory game bird ecologist Kent Van Horn. "Continental breeding surveys reported a record numbers of ducks this spring - these surveys span 60 years. However, even with excellent continental breeding indications, local water levels and scouting will be the most important factors when pursuing ducks this fall."

New in 2015, opening day shooting hours will now begin one-half hour before sunrise (previously 9 a.m.) - this change is a result of a shift in public desires.

Many of the ducks harvested in Wisconsin are produced from locally nesting ducks breeding in the state's wetlands. According to Van Horn; mallards, wood ducks, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal are the four most abundant ducks in Wisconsin's fall hunting harvest.

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. For 2015, the possession limit has been increased to three times the daily bag limit.

The duck season in the northern zone opens on Sept. 26 and continues through Nov. 24.

"As always, hunters who do the early legwork - scouting for good wetland conditions and observing what areas birds are using -- will have the most success," said Van Horn. "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."

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 through Wisconsin's Online Licensing Center.

For more information regarding waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin, search the DNR website,, for keyword "waterfowl."

Avian Influenza in Wild Birds

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. Wild birds from targeted areas throughout the state will be sampled between now and spring 2016.

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."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory game bird ecologist, 608-266-8841

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 15, 2015

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