EARLY MIGRATORY BIRD SEASONS SET
Dove season to overlap with all of early small-game season.
Pennsylvania’s early migratory bird seasons have been approved, and dove hunters will need to pay particular attention to the dates on which seasons start and end.
Dove-season segments have been restructured this year so that doves may be hunted throughout the early small-game season. But that means dove season will close briefly prior to the start of small-game season, then reopen.
Dove season will open on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and run through Oct. 10. It then will reopen on Oct. 17, which is the first day of the statewide openers for squirrels and ruffed grouse, and run through Nov. 28, which is the closing day for squirrels, grouse, rabbits, pheasants and quail. The final dove season segment runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.
Traditionally, the first segment started and ended in September, and much of October was closed to dove hunting. But for the second consecutive year, under season-setting guidelines adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014, Pennsylvania and other eastern states have been allotted additional dove-hunting days to make for a longer season.
Hunting hours are from noon until sunset from Sept. 1 through Sept. 25. Beginning on Sept. 26, hunting hours during open dove seasons begin at one-half hour before sunrise and end at sunset.
The daily bag limit in each dove-hunting segment has been set at 15, with a possession limit of 45.
The September statewide season for resident Canada geese also will open Sept. 1, and continue through Sept. 25. The September season retains a daily bag limit of eight Canada geese, with a possession limit of 24.
Shooting hours during the September goose season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, except when the season overlaps with youth waterfowl hunting days. On those days, shooting hours end at sunset.
There are special regulations – including smaller bag limits and possession limits – in a couple of areas of the state.
In most of the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, and on the Pymatuning Reservoir and the area extending 100 yards inland from the shoreline of the reservoir, excluding the area east of state Route 3011 (Hartstown Road), hunters will have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of nine.
Also, in a portion of western Crawford County, the daily bag limit is one goose and possession limit is three geese. That area begins south of state Route 198 from the Ohio state line to intersection of state Route 18, then follows state Route 18 south to state Route 618; follows state Route 618 south to U.S. Route 6; U.S. Route 6 east to U.S. Route 322/state Route 18; U.S. Route 322/state Route 18 west to intersection of state Route 3013; and state Route 3013 south to the Crawford/Mercer County line. The exception to the rules in this area is State Game Lands 214, where September goose hunting is closed. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular-season regulations apply.
The controlled hunting areas at the Game Commission’s Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Lands 46, will remain closed to September goose hunting to address the decline in the resident Canada goose flock.
And, in the area of Lancaster and Lebanon counties north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) and east of state Route 501 to state Route 419; south of state Route 419 to Lebanon-Berks county line; west of Lebanon-Berks county line to state Route 1053 (also known as Peartown Road and Greenville Road); and west of state Route 1053 to Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76), the daily bag limit is one goose, with a possession limit of three geese. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular season regulations apply.
Kevin Jacobs, a waterfowl biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, noted that liberal Canada goose hunting opportunities, along with control programs used by many municipalities and public and private landowners, have stabilized the state’s resident Canada goose population at nearly 250,000 total spring Canada geese in recent years. This is down nearly 90,000 Canada geese from the peak numbers of nearly 340,000 estimated in 2004 and 2005.
However, populations remain significantly above the management goal of 150,000.
“Hunting remains the most effective and efficient way to manage resident Canada geese, provided hunters can gain access to geese in problem areas,” Jacobs said.
The first youth waterfowl hunting day will be held statewide on Sept. 19, and the second day will vary by duck-hunting zone and will be announced when late migratory game bird seasons are selected in mid-August.
Youth waterfowl days are open to licensed junior hunters who are 12 to 15 years old. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During those hunts, youth can harvest ducks, geese, mergansers, coots and gallinules. Licensed adults can harvest Canada geese on Sept. 19, and on the second youth day if there is a general Canada goose season open in the area being hunted.
On youth waterfowl days occurring when there is a general Canada goose season open, youth and adults have the same daily limit for Canada geese in the area being hunted. On youth waterfowl days occurring when there is not a general Canada goose season open, accompanying adults may not harvest Canada geese, and the bag limit for youth hunters is the same as in the regular season for the area being hunted. Bag limits for ducks, mergansers, coots and gallinules will be consistent with the limit for the regular season, which will be announced in mid-August, after the annual Waterfowl Symposium on Aug. 7.
Pennsylvania’s woodcock season retains its longer format this year, opening on Oct. 17 and closing on Nov. 28. The daily limit remains three, with a possession limit of nine.
The season for common snipe also will run from Oct. 17 to Nov. 28, which is the same structure as previous years. The daily limit is 8, and the possession limit is 24.
Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 9. Bag limits, singly or combined, are three daily and nine in possession. The season for king and clapper rails remains closed.
Hunting for gallinules also runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 9, and the bag limits are three daily and nine in possession.
Migratory game bird hunters, including those afield for doves and woodcock, are required to obtain and carry a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license ($3.70 for residents, $6.70 for nonresidents), as well as a general hunting, combination or lifetime license. All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older also must possess a federal migratory bird hunting and conservation (duck) stamp.
Hunting hours for all migratory birds close at sunset, except for September Canada geese, as noted above, and the snow goose conservation season.
Annual migratory bird and waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The “Pennsylvania 2015-16 Guide to Migratory Bird Hunting” brochure will be posted on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us
) in mid-August.
Hunters are encouraged to report leg-banded migratory game bird recoveries online at www.reportband.gov
, or use the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND). Online reporting is preferred because it provides better data quality and lowers costs. Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory game birds.