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Monday, September 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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State Officials Considering Early Opener For Duck Hunt

Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-R

Washington state hunters may start shooting ducks a week earlier than usual this fall.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission may vote on Aug. 9 to open the duck season on Oct. 4, instead of the second Saturday of October, the traditional opening date.

The Fish and Wildlife Department is recommending the opening of the duck season on Oct. 4 and the start of the goose season on Oct. 11.

If the department’s recommendations are approved, duck hunters also will be allowed to shoot two hen mallards and three pintails a day. Their daily limit the last few years could include no more than one hen mallard and two pintails a day.

The reason why the next season may be opened the first Saturday of October and limits include more hen mallards and pintails is that ducks have had a terrific nesting season, both in Washington and the Canadian provinces.

Idaho’s regulations also may be more liberal this year than the last few years.

“The recommendations for waterfowl seasons this year reflect continued excellent duck production,” commented Dave Brittell, assistant director of the Washington F&W agency’s wildlife management program.

“Prospects are outstanding for the fall flights and hunting seasons,” said Phil Cooper of Coeur d’Alene, a spokesman for the Idaho Fish and Game Department. “News is especially good for Idaho duck hunters.

“The southern Alberta pond count is the second highest ever, 22 percent higher than last year and 49 percent above the long-term average. The breeder count in Montana and the western Dakotas is 189 percent of the average.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service says a survey indicated the number of breeding ducks at 42.5 million, a 13 percent increase from last year and 31 percent higher than the long-term average.

Officials credited a combination of conservation measures and abundant rainfall for this year’s high production.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s survey showed the following results: Mallards, 9.9 million, up 25 percent from last year; pintails, 3.56 million, up 30 percent; gadwall, 3.9 million, up 11 percent; green-winged teal, 2.5 million, no change; shovelers, 4.1 million, up 19 percent; redheads, 918,000, up 10 percent; canvasbacks, 689,000, a drop of 19 percent; wigeon, 3.1 million, up 37 percent, and scaup, 4.1 million, a drop of 2 percent.

The Washington DFW is recommending that the daily duck limit be seven birds. Hunters would be permitted to take no more than two hen mallards, three pintails, two redheads or one canvasback. The possession limit would be 14 ducks.

An increase in the number of hen mallards and pintails will please the region’s duck hunters. It’s often difficult for hunters, when they’re in an area where there are mostly mallards, to take limits of drakes, and they’re less likely, in poor light conditions, to kill too many hens.

An early opening of the duck season almost certainly would improve Washington gunners’ chances of taking such species as wood ducks, blue-winged teal and even pintails. Woodies and the blue-winged teal migrate out of the Inland Northwest in September and early October. And many pintails have gone south by mid-October.

Because Idaho has opened its duck seasons early the last several years, hunters have bagged large numbers of wood ducks, especially at and near the lakes adjacent to the lower Coeur d’Alene River.

The Washington duck season would end Jan. 17. The goose season would end the next day. Incidentally, the goose limit will remain at four a day if the commission adopts the department’s recommendations.

Duck hunters, especially those who have been hunting the birds for several years, know that weather patterns usually play a big part in hunter success.

Most small lakes and ponds in northeast Washington were covered by ice by mid-November last year and ducks migrating out of Canada moved quickly to the Columbia Basin. Only about 2,260 ducks were killed in Pend Oreille County the last season, a drop of 42 percent from the previous year’s kill.

The kill in Region 1, however, totaled an estimated 53,433 last year, up 21 percent from 1995, thanks to big increases in kills in Walla Walla and Columbia counties.

Hunters thought they’d get fantastic shooting in the Basin, but the early winter caused most ducks to move to the Columbia River. Hunters bagged only about 120,000 ducks in the Basin last year, a drop of 11 percent from 1995.

For the first time, waterfowl hunters will have the choice of three different types of shot for their shells if the department’s recommendations are approved. They would be able to use the new tungsten-iron shot, as well as steel and bismuth-tin shot. Tungsten-iron shot contains about 40 parts of tungsten, 60 parts of iron and 1 percent residual lead.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

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