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Ducks May Be In Row But Not In The Bag, Yet

Thu., Sept. 25, 1997

FROM SPORTS REPLAY (September 27, 1997): Replay The general Eastern Washington goose hunting season opens a half-hour before sunrise on Oct. 11. The date was incorrectly reported in Thrusday’s Hunting ‘97 special section.

Regional waterfowl biologists are predicting terrific hunting for duck hunters this fall and winter.

If they prove to be right, will the hunting be exceptional?

Not necessarily. Every veteran gunner knows that weather patterns often dictate hunting conditions and hunter success.

Remember what happened in Eastern Washington and North Idaho last November? Snowstorms quickly covered the birds’ food and sub-freezing temperatures put ice caps on lakes and ponds. Ducks departed for the lower Columbia River and points south.

But waterfowlers are optimists. They’ve got to be. Ducks and geese may not be particularly smart, but, after a few of their number have been shot, they become extremely wary. Getting them to respond to decoys, especially on blue bird days, can be frustrating.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that more ducks will migrate this fall than any year since 1970. It’s predicting a migration of 92 million birds

The flight will include an estimated 14.4 million mallards, up from 12.6 million last year. Mallards are the most popular ducks with Inland Northwest hunters.

Numbers for other species: pintails, 3.56 million, a 30 percent increase from 1996; gadwall, 3.9 million, up 31 percent; green-winged teal, 2.5 million, no change; shovelers 4.1 million, up 19 percent; redheads, 918,000, up 10 percent; wigeon, 3.1 million, up 37 percent.

Ducks Unlimited says this year’s welcome figures are the result of above-normal precipitation on the prairies, where most ducks breed; wildlife-friendly agriculture programs like the federal Conservation Reserve Program, and habitat-focused conservation programs by DU and others.

The FWS decided, after surveys indicated big increases in duck numbers, to loosen basic hunting rules. Both Washington and Idaho, as a result, established more liberal seasons and bag limits than have been in effect the last few years.

Both states will open their duck season on Oct. 4 and close it on Jan. 17. The 107-day season is the longest in years.

Both will spend one of their federally allotted waterfowling days on a youth hunt set for Sept. 27.

Bag limits for all hunters will be the same in both states: seven per day, 14 in possession, with no more than two hen mallards, three pintails, one canvasback or two redheads in the daily bag.

Biologists have reported that ducks and geese produced exceptional numbers of young birds in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. The locally produced birds will provide nearly all the shooting during the first part of each season. Migrations out of Canada will start about the second week of November and peak by mid-December.

Ducks will be widely distributed in Eastern Washington on opening day, biologists have predicted. Potholes that usually are dry this time of year still hold water as the result of heavy spring rains. Many birds, particularly mallards, will be on those small waters.

Hunters should bag good numbers of wood ducks in Pend Oreille, Stevens and Spokane counties. Usually, the early migrators have left the region by the traditional opening day the second week of October. Mallards, pintails, teal and gadwall are plentiful.

Lakes and potholes throughout the Columbia Basin will provide good shooting on opening weekend.

Large numbers of ducks nested on most of North Idaho’s lakes and ponds this year. Those birds will provide outstanding hunting the first part of the season. The most popular area, as usual, will be the Killarney Lake area.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Waterfowl seasons North Idaho Ducks: Oct. 4-Jan. 17. Youth waterfowl: Sept 27 for kids 12-15 accompanied by adult. Geese: Oct. 4-Jan. 11.

Eastern Washington Duck: Oct. 4-Jan. 17. Canada goose: Oct. 4-Jan. 18. Youth duck: Sept. 27 for kids under 16.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Waterfowl seasons North Idaho Ducks: Oct. 4-Jan. 17. Youth waterfowl: Sept 27 for kids 12-15 accompanied by adult. Geese: Oct. 4-Jan. 11.

Eastern Washington Duck: Oct. 4-Jan. 17. Canada goose: Oct. 4-Jan. 18. Youth duck: Sept. 27 for kids under 16.


 
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