Duck hunting falls within the scope of waterfowl hunting for sustenance or sport.
Since prehistoric eras, when hunters used shotguns laden with black powder to hi-tech gear favored by the contemporary hunter, the main question is always when is duck season?
Hunting of ducks in the United States is believed to have been propagated by European immigrants. Expedition crews brought with them rudimentary firearms commonly used to source for food. And waterfowl like ducks provided the much-needed nourishment.
Journals of explorers like Lewis and Clark document the importance of duck hunting during their quests.
But first, let us address the elephant in the room. Why do people hunt ducks? What are the duck seasons? Are they necessary? And, importantly, when is duck season?
Why Do People Hunt Ducks
There are several reasons why the ancient tradition of duck hunting is still preserved and levered up to date.
Duck hunting can be traced back to ancient hunter-gatherer tribes. Murals and paintings found in the caves and tombs of forgotten societies is indisputable proof.
The practice is often passed down between kith and kin, turning into a family custom for many. It’s commonplace to find up to three generations of the one lineage in the same hunting party. Fathers, sons, and daughters bond and forge lasting memories from duck hunting.
Source of food
Hunting of ducks for meat dates back thousands of years. The fowl is a protein in nearly all cuisines, much influenced by the farm-to-table trend. And our desire for epicurean delights plays a significant role.
Nature dictates everything that goes into your mouth has to die at some point. Hunting duck has a lucrative payoff. It is possible to get an ample harvest in one hunting trip. Well worth all the hours you spend in freezing temperatures and high winds, waiting for the opportune moment.
Abundance of species
There are numerous species of duck that make up wild game in many parts of the world. Varieties like mallards, northern pintails, redheads, and Harlequin ducks are prevalent in the US.
To learn when is duck season and the available varieties of duck you’ll be hunting, visit the particular state’s wildlife agency offices or website. They will also inform you of any upcoming duck seasons and existing government regulations.
Sport and competition
Some people prefer the outdoors and love to be one with creation, while others just want to shoot a gun. Whatever the reason, duck hunting can be a fun venture.
In some places, hundreds of anxious hunters turn up during peak duck seasons to compete against each other. Prizes are awarded, and trophies are won. Good sportsmanship is also cultivated among hunters.
Who Determines When the Duck Season Starts?
Hunting is regulated in many parts of the world, not just the US. The fundamental goal is to conserve wildlife and maintain ecosystems at a balance.
In the United States, hunting conservation is supervised by the federal government. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determines essential duck hunting elements in conjunction with state authorities.
A few decades back, seasons were set at the state level. Timings and bag limits differed from place to place. This led to indiscriminate overhunting, which disrupted the bird’s migratory routes. The ecosystem changes and the fowl abandon their usual breeding grounds.
Between Canada and the US, there are four established Flyway Councils. Each administrative unit manages migratory birds in their territory.
These committees evaluate species distribution and human interaction. They then provide recommendations or suggest regulations that influence the scheduling of duck season.
After proposals are approved, they are made available for public comment before being published. The Individual States then choose dates of their liking based on this data.
How Are the Seasons Set?
To answer the question, when is duck season, we must understand how the hunting seasons come to be. The process follows a legal, biological, and administrative process.
Federal authorities base their decision on recommendations from experts of bio- and ecosystems. The flyway councils, Mississippi, Atlantic, Pacific, and Central, represent the States participation. Influencing factors include:
Duck population and habitat conditions
Crews of biologists are deployed to collect data regarding duck breeding and habitat. These surveys are usually carried out in spring. Aerial and ground teams gather information which is then statistically analyzed to make the report more accurate.
Habitat conservation is a growing concern among local, regional, and global jurisdictions. As long as hunting continues, there is a need to manage this wildlife resource.
The USFWS can track harvest figures by analyzing past seasons’ HIP records.
States provide a HIP number to each hunter, which helps them regulate the hunter’s harvest. Compiling these figures gives a clear image of the current duck population.
By September, the relevant authoritative bodies have finalized regulations for both early and late seasons. The framework is published after the public opinion is documented.
Each state then picks hunting dates, sets bag limits, and schedules shooting hours. They send a selection letter to the USFWS, which publishes every States’ duck season in the Federal Register. Then, the public is notified via advertisements, relevant licenses are dispensed, and hunting begins.
Where Can I Find Local Information About My Duck Season?
The best place to access facts about duck season in your area is through the State Wildlife agencies. The kind of questions they will answer include:
When is duck season?
To facilitate effective planning, state agencies declare their season dates and advertise to the public early.
Where can I hunt duck?
The agency in your state designates precincts open to hunting while stipulating which ones are closed. You will also learn about available species.
What are the rules and regulations?
Other than the federal laws, each state may impose additional regulations during duck hunting. Ensure you stay within these limitations to avoid breaking the law.
Which documents do I need?
The state wildlife agency is the licensing board. You will need a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number for every state you hunt, and a Duck Stamp. Make sure you are compliant.
How To Track Duck Migration?
Ducks still follow the same migratory routes (flyways) they used years ago.
In summer, ducks move to northern regions, then south, where it is warmer during winter. They move in search of food, habitat, and to reproduce.
Research bodies carry out extensive studies to define migratory patterns of ducks. For instance, they fix a device on a bird, which transmits radio impulses to a receiver giving directional information. The technology, however, does not provide details of distance and is limited by range.
New technologies continue to provide innovative solutions to counter the limitations of radio-tracking methods and the expensive satellite trackers. Currently, geolocators and Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT) tags are utilized.
Data collected from these investigations is analyzed before being published for the public. And you can keep track of duck migration from the comfort of your home or office using technology.
Trackers fitted on the traveling waterfowl provide real-time data that is represented on migration maps. These maps not only monitor but help predict bird movements. You can obtain this information via any GPS-enabled device. These migration tools are available from multiple online resources.
What You Need For Duck Hunting
Contrary to popular belief, duck hunting is not a gear-intensive endeavor. With just the essentials, you might have the best duck season yet. Let’s take a look at what you need.
The rules vary between states and may change from year to year. Conduct research to know local laws, season dates, designated hunting zones, and permits required. Local law enforcement may ask to see your gun and hunting licenses at will.
Personal preference will guide what you choose to wear. However, the essentials include a camo jacket and pants, boots, socks, hat, insulated overalls, gloves, and a rain suit. Extra layers of clothing under the jacket keeps you warm and dry.
Federal laws regulate the number of shells to three. As such, any model and action that allows a third shot can be considered. Depending on how good your aim is, pick your gauge. Use only non-lead shells. Add a choke and an arm sling, and you’re ready to hit fast-flying stuff.
Either a double or single reed call can be used to lure out ducks. The majority of duck species trust mallard calls. Potholers may favor a whistle call to attract wood ducks and teal.
If hands and feet are freezing from the cold water, you cannot focus on the task at hand. Unless you’re hunting in dry fields, a reliable pair of waders will keep you dry and insulated.
A few decoys set up in the right place will work wonders. They can be purchased brand new from stores or online. A cheaper alternative is buying used and refurbishing them.
A high-quality floatable blind bag will protect your things from moisture damage. Various camouflage designs that blend with different environments are available.
After reading this piece, you can now easily find out when is duck season and what new regulations are in place for this year from your local wildlife offices.
If you have a hunting dog, ensure you have the proper gear for them too.