Montana's Fish & Wildlife Commission is seeking comment on proposed 2014-15 waterfowl seasons.
The seasons must be set within a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service framework. Under these guidelines 105 days are available for general waterfowl hunting in the Pacific Flyway while in the Central Flyway 97 days are available for ducks and coots and 105 days for geese.
Commissioners are seeking comment on a new zoned split season for the Central Flyway waterfowl seasons with different zone boundaries for duck hunting and goose hunting. While the Central Flyway has used zones with different dates for ducks before, this is the first time zones have been proposed for goose hunting to provide more late-season days in several counties for Central Flyway hunters.
The counties currently in Zone 2 are Big Horn, Treasure, Rosebud, Custer, and Prairie. The commission is proposing to add Carbon and Yellowstone counties to Zone 2 for goose hunting only. Zone 1 is the remainder of the Central Flyway portion of the state. Federal frameworks allow changes in duck zone boundaries every five years, with the next opportunity for change in 2016, but goose zones are not so constrained.
Proposed duck, coot, and tundra swan season dates for Zone 1 in the Central Flyway are Oct. 4–Jan. 8, 2015 while in Zone 2 they are Oct. 4–19 and Nov. 1 – Jan. 20, 2015.
Goose hunting proposed dates for Zone 1 are Oct. 4–Jan. 11, 2015 and Jan. 17–21, 2015. In Zone 2, the proposed dates are Oct. 4–19 and Nov. 1–Jan. 28, 2015. The commission is also proposing to add Carbon and Yellowstone counties to Zone 2 for goose hunting only. Carbon and Yellowstone counties would not be part of Zone 2 for duck hunting.
Pacific Flyway dates for ducks and geese are similar to last year, with a split near the end to provide an additional weekend of hunting. For both ducks and geese in the Pacific Flyway the proposed dates are Oct. 4–Jan. 11, 2015 and Jan. 17–21, 2015. Proposed dates for swan hunting in are Oct. 11–Dec. 1.
Duck daily bag limits proposed are very similar to last year except that the canvasback daily bag would be one instead of two. The basic daily bag limit for the Central Flyway is six and for the Pacific Flyway it is seven. For each flyway there are some species and sex restrictions within the basic bag limit.
Something new for hunters in the Central Flyway this year is a proposed "bonus teal" bag that would allow two additional blue-winged teal in the daily bag for the first 16 days of the season, Oct. 4–19.
Goose bag limits are proposed to be the same as last year for both flyways. Possession limits are proposed to be three times the daily bag limit for both ducks and geese.
The two-day Youth Waterfowl Season for those age 12 through 15 is proposed for Sept. 27-28.
The annual spring population survey conducted by the USFWS found record high populations of total breeding ducks, 43 percent above the 1955-2013 average. Mallards were 42 percent above the long-term average and blue-winged teal were 75 percent above. Canada goose populations remain high.
Comments on waterfowl regulations must be received by 5 p.m. Aug. 22. Comment via FWP's website at fwp.mt.gov . Click Hunting. Or mail to: FWP – Wildlife Bureau, Attn: Public Comment, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701. For more information, call: 406-444-2612. Final approval of the proposed 2014-15 late season migratory bird regulations is scheduled for Aug. 26 via a F&W Commission conference call.
For online information on the federal duck and wetland report, visit flyways.us.