Strong duck numbers allow hunters a 107-day season

Duck hunters will have a 107-day season, thanks in part to a record number of ducks counted on the northern breeding grounds this year, with bag limits for most species similar to last year.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission set the waterfowl hunting season dates and bag limits when it met Aug. 8-9 in Olympia.

Hunters should expect most hunting opportunities to be similar to last year. That includes a statewide duck season starting Oct. 11-15 and continuing Oct. 18-Jan. 25. A special youth hunting weekend is scheduled Sept. 20-21.

Limits for mallard, pintail, scaup, redhead, goldeneye, harlequin, scoter and long-tailed duck will remain the same as last season, according to a department news release. The commission did, however, reduce the daily bag limit for canvasback to one per day, citing a decrease in numbers throughout North America.

Goose hunting seasons will vary , but most hunt-management areas will open in mid-October and run through late January. Limits for most geese did not change, except the commission did increase the daily bag limit from three to four for cackling geese in southwest Washington.

The commission also increased the overall harvest quota for dusky Canada geese in southwest Washington from 45 to 85 birds, according to the release. As in previous years, hunters are limited to one dusky Canada goose a season in southwest Washington.

The commission based its decision on state and federal waterfowl population estimates and guidelines. According to those estimates, a record number of ducks – approximately 49 million – were on the breeding grounds this spring in Canada and the United States.

Details on the waterfowl hunting seasons are available online http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ .

In other action, the commission approved a new regulation that requires hunters to leave on site the hooves of any elk taken in southwest Washington. The move is meant to minimize the spread of a disease that affects the region’s herds, mainly those around Mount St. Helens and the Willapa Hills.

The nine-member commission also approved the purchase of two parcels totaling nearly 2,900 acres of shrub-steppe in Yakima County. The land, about five miles west of Naches, is critical habitat for a variety of wildlife and is an important connection between summer and winter range for the Yakima elk herd.

The two parcels will be bought in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and the state Department of Ecology. The 2,588-acre property will cost $1.38 million, while a 305-acre property will be $170,000, according to the news release.

The Ecology Department and the Kennewick Irrigation District are providing the funding for the two parcels to mitigate the loss of shrub-steppe habitat converted to agricultural land. The properties will be managed as part of the fish and wildlife agency’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area.