DWR Recommends Rules for 2016 – 2017 Waterfowl Hunting Season

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DWR Press Release

Utah’s waterfowl hunt just started, and it’s already time to start talking about the 2016 – 2017 season.

Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state wildlife agencies have reached an agreement. The agreement will allow rules for an upcoming season to be approved months in advance. Approving the rules early will allow the agencies to print and distribute information about the season roughly four months before it starts.

“This new approach means we’ll discuss and approve rules, including bag limits, before we have the latest survey data regarding how waterfowl populations are doing,” Stringham says. “The survey, which includes counting the number of ponds available to breeding ducks, and the number of pairs of breeding ducks on the ponds, is conducted in the spring.”

Stringham says biologists are comfortable, though, using data from the spring of one year to set hunting regulations for the fall of the following year.

“After decades of study,” he says, “we’ve learned that hunting has less effect on waterfowl populations than we originally thought. Habitat conditions are the major, deciding factor. For that reason, we’re comfortable using information, which might be a little dated, to set waterfowl regulations. We think letting hunters know what the rules are—months in advance—is worth it.”

So what changes is the DWR recommending for Utah’s 2016 – 2017 waterfowl hunting season? Allowing those 17 years of age and younger to participate in the state’s Youth Waterfowl Hunt, and two goose hunting changes, top the list.

Biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources will present the recommendations at public meetings in November. Yu can review the recommendations at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings/rac/2015-11_rac_packet.pdf.

Learn more, share your ideas

After you’ve reviewed the ideas at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings/rac/2015-11_rac_packet.pdf, you can let your Regional Advisory Council members know your thoughts by attending your upcoming RAC meeting or by sending an e-mail to them.

RAC chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board will meet in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2 to approve rules for Utah’s 2016 – 2017 waterfowl hunt.

Dates, times and locations for the RAC meetings are as follows:

Northern Region
Nov. 10
6 p.m.
Shepherd Union Building, Room 400
Weber State University
3848 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden

Central Region
Nov. 12
6:30 p.m.
Springville Civic Center
110 S. Main St.
Springville

Southern Region
Nov. 17
5 p.m.
Cedar City Middle School
2215 W. Royal Hunte Dr.
Richfield

Southeastern Region
Nov. 18
6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
1765 E. Main St.
Green River

Northeastern Region
Nov. 19
6:30 p.m.
DWR Northeastern Region Office
318 N. Vernal Ave.
Vernal

E-mail

You can also provide your comments to your RAC via e-mail. E-mail addresses for your RAC members are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.

The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each person’s e-mail address. You should direct your e-mail to the people on the RAC who represent your interest.

Allowing more young people to hunt

If approved by the RACs and the Wildlife Board, starting with the 2016 – 2017 season, those 17 years of age and younger can hunt during the state’s Youth Waterfowl Hunt.

In the past, only those who were 15 years of age or younger could hunt that day.

Stringham says, prior to the 2016 – 2017 season, federal law prevented the states from allowing 16 and 17 year olds to hunt during youth waterfowl hunts. “We appreciate the USFWS changing that rule,” he says. “We’re excited to give more young people a chance to hunt.”

Sept. 17, 2016 is the proposed date for Utah’s next Youth Waterfowl Hunt.

Change in Northern Goose Area

After extensive hunter surveys and input, the DWR is recommending a dark goose hunting change in northern Utah. The change would allow Canada goose hunting to take place later into the winter across most of the northern part of the state.

The change would take most of northern Utah out of the Northern Goose Area and place it in the state’s General Goose Area. The hunt across most of northern Utah would start Oct. 1 and run until Oct. 13. Then, the season would close until Oct. 22, when it would reopen and run until Jan. 22.

In the Northern Goose Area, which would be much smaller than it currently is, the dark goose hunt would begin Oct. 1 and run until Jan 14.

Stringham says hunters approached the DWR this past spring, asking for the change. “These hunters have had a lot of success taking geese later in the winter,” he says. “They wanted the hunt in northern Utah to be the same as the rest of the state—a split season where hunting stopped for a period in October but then resumed and ran later into January.”

Hunters who belong to private clubs near the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge were against the change. “The water on the clubs’ marshes usually freezes by January,” Stringham says. “Very little goose hunting is available then. To give their members the best chance to hunt geese, the clubs wanted the season to remain open through October.”

Stringham says the compromise biologists found should meet the needs of both parties. And, in the process, public hunters will have more chances to hunt geese in northern Utah than ever before.

“If you’re a public hunter,” he says, “you can still hunt geese at the Bear River Refuge during the October period when the rest of northern Utah is closed to goose hunting. Then, when the refuge closes to goose hunting in January, you’ll have two more weeks—which you didn’t have before—to hunt dark geese across the rest of northern Utah.”

Better chance to take light geese

Another goose hunting change should increase your chance to take light geese.

In the fall, Stringham says most light geese pass through Utah from late October through the middle of November. “Then,” he says, “they return to Utah in late winter, on their way to their northern breeding grounds. Modifying the hunt dates will give hunters a better chance to take light geese in the fall and the winter.”

The DWR is recommending that Utah’s light goose hunting season run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 30, 2016 and Jan. 16 to March 10, 2017.

Millard County is among the exceptions, though. There, the season would also be closed from Feb. 6 – 28.

“A popular wildlife viewing event, called the Snow Goose Festival, happens at a reservoir near Delta in February,” Stringham says. “Closing the hunt during most of February would reduce conflicts between hunting and the festival.”

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