Pennsylvania’s 2018-19 migratory game bird seasons have been selected.
Annual migratory game bird seasons are selected by states from frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Game Commission selections were made after reviewing last year’s season results, population survey data, and input gathered from hunters and the public.
“Under the USFWS regulatory schedule in place since 2016, states now make season selections in early spring rather than late summer,” said Ian Gregg, chief of the Game Commission’s Game Management Division. “Thus, they can be announced and published alongside other hunting season dates, providing hunters additional time to plan their vacations.”
The 2018-19 waterfowl seasons are very similar to those selected in 2017-18. However, hunters will enjoy longer seasons for doves, woodcock, and other “webless” migratory game bird species this year.
“For states where Sunday hunting is closed by state law, the USFWS recently approved compensatory days for webless migratory game bird hunting,” said Gregg. “This provision, which had already been in place for waterfowl, exempts Sundays from being counted against the total number of hunting days allowable under federal frameworks.
“Using doves as an example, in 2017-18, Pennsylvania could only use 78 of the allotted 90 hunting days under the frameworks due to the lack of compensatory days,” Gregg said. “With the change, we are now able to provide 90 actual hunting days for doves.”
Webless Migratory Game Bird Seasons
As usual, Sept. 1 will mark the beginning of dove season statewide. The first segment of the season will run through Nov. 24. It will then re-open on Dec. 18 and run through Jan. 5.
Hunters are reminded that, through a regulation change approved by the Board of Game Commissioners in April, hunting hours are now one-half hour before sunrise to sunset throughout the entire dove season.
In previous years, hunting hours during the early portion of the season did not open until noon.
For both dove-season segments the daily bag limit is 15, and the possession limit is 45.
Pennsylvania’s woodcock and common snipe seasons now have two segments. For both species, the first segment opens on Oct. 13 and closes on Nov. 24, and the second segment opens on Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 18. Daily limits are three woodcock and eight snipe, with possession limits three times the respective daily bag limits.
Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 21. 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. 21, 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 ($3.90 for residents, $6.90 for nonresidents), as well as a general hunting, combination or lifetime license.
Hunting hours for woodcock, snipe, rails, and gallinules are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
Federal regulations posted on Game Commission’s website
In addition to posting the migratory game bird seasons on its website, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has posted a synopsis of federal regulations that govern migratory game bird and waterfowl seasons to assist hunters in finding answers to questions.
To review the information, go to www.pgc.pa.gov, put your cursor on “Hunt/Trap” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Hunting,” scroll down and click on “Waterfowl Hunting and Conservation,” then scroll down and click on “Federal Waterfowl Regulations” in the “Waterfowl Hunting Regulations” section.
Additional information can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, www.fws.gov/hunting/whatres.html, where a complete version of the federal regulations (50 CFR Part 20) is posted. When state law differs from the federal law, hunters must comply with the more restrictive law.
Hunters encouraged to report banded birds
Migratory game bird hunters are encouraged to report banded ducks, geese, doves and woodcock they harvest online at www.reportband.gov.
“Telephone band reporting has been eliminated by the federal Bird Banding Laboratory due to cost and data-quality concerns,” said Stempka. “Hunters encountering older bands inscribed with the 1-800-327-BAND telephone number can still report them, but will need to use www.reportband.gov to do so. Callers to the 1-800 number will receive a recorded message directing them to the website.”
Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species of migratory birds were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory birds.
Stempka also stressed that reporting leg-bands helps the Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learn more about migratory bird movements, and survival and harvest rates, which are critical to population management and setting of hunting regulations. Each year, nearly 380,000 ducks and geese and 30,000 mourning doves are banded across the United States and Canada. Last year, over 6,000 migratory game birds, including more than 5,000 waterfowl, were banded in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania continues to monitor migratory game bird populations in cooperation with other wildlife management agencies across North America,” Stempka explained. “Information provided by hunters is essential to manage migratory game bird populations and support hunting opportunities through time. By reporting the recovery of a leg-band, hunters not only assist in managing the resource, but also have an opportunity to learn interesting facts about the bird they harvested.”
Stempka noted that modern band-reporting systems have produced big dividends. Under the old reporting system, used until the mid-1990s, only about one-third of recovered banded birds were reported by hunters. Since initiation of the online and toll-free methods, band reporting rates have improved to more than 70 percent. This has improved greatly migratory bird management while reducing monitoring costs.
View waterfowl season highlights and the 2018-19 migratory game bird seasons and bag limits.