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smokepole
08-12-2009, 05:03 AM
Steve Hickoff: Migratory game-bird seasons are coming

Got ducks? Like many of you, I've seen mallard ducklings with their supervising adult hens in a bunch of places this summer. Overall, spring breeding conditions were favorable again this year, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game Waterfowl Biologist Ed Robinson.

Ducks Unlimited field biologists confirmed as much in their recent report, stating that: "While spring was unseasonably cold across the region (Atlantic Canada), field staff observed good numbers of early nesting mallards and black ducks, indicating that the weather did not affect waterfowl breeding efforts. Water levels were generally good in the region, and typical waterfowl production is expected."

This should mean that the so-called "grand passage" of migrating birds will be steady here in New England.

The Quebec breeding areas just to our north also did well, according to DU biologists, where: "A rapid runoff followed by above average spring precipitation created good wetland conditions across Quebec. Numerous breeding pairs were observed on suitable habitats, indicating that a strong nesting effort was underway."

Both areas provide waterfowl for New Hampshire hunters and for birders to observe.

On this former note, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has finalized the 2009 hunting season dates and bag limits for early season migratory game birds. The first thing many of us look for is the first opportunity to get out there. That chance would be for "resident" Canada (not "Canadian") geese.

The bag limit is five birds per day, statewide, during the September season, which extends from the day after Labor Day (Sept. 8) through Sept. 25. New Hampshire's resident Canada goose population continues to grow and has north-to-south Granite State distribution. (Need help with this management challenge? Shoot me an email, and I'll bring my honker decoys!)Parents and youth mentors are often interested in the youth waterfowl weekend an early chance at the ducks. This season, the youth weekend falls on Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27. All regular season waterfowl regulations, including bag limits, shooting hours, use of non-toxic shot, etc., apply during the youth weekend. Do you enjoy your waterfowl hunting on the open ocean? Sea duck season runs from Oct. 1, 2009-Jan. 15, 2010. Bag limit is 7 birds per day, with no more than 4 scoters, 4 eiders or 4 long-tailed ducks (formerly "oldsquaw"). For those of you who don't know, only the drake has a long tail; the hens have short, stubby posterior feathers that fan out on wall mounts like the one above my woodstove.

Come October, upland bird hunters will have their attention on an eight-ounce species as well, as much for the dog work on these tight-holding game birds as the "here today, gone tomorrow" aspect of the tradition and the pretty places where timberdoodles are found. Woodcock season runs from Oct. 6-Nov. 4. Bag limit is three birds per day.

Snipe, also part of the approach for the hardcore marsh walker, is set for Sept. 15 to Nov. 4. Bag limit is eight birds per day. The snipe I've hunted hold tight in low marsh grass, flush low, complaining with that classic "scaip!" as they wing off. Crazy thing is, often they'll fly a football field away, silhouetted by the sky, only to turn, and return like a fluttering bat to a nearby location. It's fun.As mentioned in this space last week, crow hunting season runs from Saturday to Nov. 30; next spring's two-week crow season will be March 16-31, 2010.

Hunters of all migratory game birds must have a 2009 New Hampshire hunting license and are required by federal law to register for the National Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP). In New Hampshire, this includes all who hunt ducks, geese, snipe, woodcock and coots. Separate HIP permits are needed in each state. (It's easy; took me five minutes online this past week.)

Licensed hunters should call 1-800-207-6183, or go to the "Buy Your License Online" section of the Fish and Game website www.huntnh.com, to receive a permit number (there is no charge). This number should be written on the hunting license. Harvest information from HIP helps Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service make more reliable estimates of the number of all migratory birds harvested. Each year, a random selection of hunters is asked to complete a voluntary harvest survey.

Waterfowl hunters must also obtain a Federal duck stamp (just dropped $15 for mine at the Portsmouth post office this past week), and a New Hampshire Migratory Waterfowl hunting license. There's a meeting you may wish to attend as well, if only to hang out with like-minded sportsmen, and to speed the approach of opening day. Late-season waterfowl dates for the upcoming season in New Hampshire will be finalized after a public hearing on Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m., at N.H. Fish and Game headquarters on Hazen Drive in Concord. Similar duck and goose seasons will be offered in 2009 as have been in effect in the recent past. Duck seasons will include 60 days and a 6-bird limit, and the Canada goose season will be 60 days and a two-bird daily bag limit.

Some other odds toward ends: Hunters are asked to report all banded birds by calling toll-free to 1-800-327-BAND. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will send a certificate with information about the bird. For more information on waterfowl hunting in New Hampshire, visit www.huntnh.com.

Steve Hickoff writes about the outdoors for Foster's Sunday Citizen. Contact him at hickoff@comcast.net.