Atlantic Flyway Goose Seasons Shortened, Mallard Limits Reduced for 2019-2020

Atlantic Flyway Goose Seasons Shortened, Mallard Limits Reduced for 2019-2020

Atlantic Flyway waterfowlers in the United States will have reduced bag limits on geese and mallards during the 2019-2020 season. The mallard limit will drop to two daily, only one of which may be a hen, while Canada goose seasons in the Atlantic population zones will run just 30 days with a restrictive harvest. The Atlantic Flyway Council approved the regulations in September, and they were formalized by the USFWS Service Regulations Committee on October 16 and 17.

Canada goose hunters in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia face a limit of one bird daily, while the rest of the flyway’s Atlantic population zones will be permitted two daily. The move was largely spurred by poor Canada goose production in spring 2018, plus a 30 percent decline among Atlantic population Canadas in the most-recent breeding population survey.

“Atlantic Flyway biologists estimate it was the worst Atlantic population Canada goose production in 22 years,” said John Devney, Delta’s senior vice president, who attended the Atlantic Flyway Council meeting. “The collaborative Atlantic population banding effort accounted 30 juveniles for the 3,000 geese banded. That is abysmal.”

Atlantic population goose regulations are governed by a three-year average population estimate. The threshold for conservative regulations is 150,000 birds, and while this year’s estimate was 155,000, poor goose production compelled the Atlantic Flyway Council to act.

“Unlike most ducks, Canadas generally have lower reproduction potential and there is a relationship between hunter harvest and survival,” Devney said. “So, with an estimate that’s close to the edge with poor production on top of that, it’s appropriate for the Flyway Council to be cautious. Nobody wants to revisit the days when there was a moratorium on Canada goose hunting on the Delmarva Peninsula.”

The reduced mallard limit is in response to a longer-term issue. Population surveys indicate breeding mallards in the northeast United States have declined about 20 percent since 1998 (despite increasing 7 percent in this year’s survey to 482,100, they are 32 percent below the long-term average).

The original proposed action to reduce mallard harvest was a limit of two mallards, both of which could be hens. Delta did not dispute the need to take action, but advocated for consideration of a limit of three mallards and one hen — potentially providing more opportunities for hunters while reducing adult hen mortality. The effort did not succeed.

However, surveys by the USFWS found that Atlantic Flyway hunters favored further restricting the hen mallard limit to one daily. And in May, Delta Waterfowl delivered a survey to all Atlantic Flyway members, which found 17.9 percent supported a limit of two mallards with one hen, while only 6.6 percent preferred a limit of two mallards with two hens (63.9 percent favored a limit of 3 mallards, one hen). Ultimately, given the hunter-feedback, the Council settled on a daily bag of two mallards, only one of which can be a hen.

“I credit Atlantic Flyway duck hunters for being vocal and the Flyway Council for considering their wishes,” Devney said.

Notably, Atlantic Flyway duck hunters will retain a 60-day duck season for 2019-2020, as determined by a multi-stock harvest model employed by the Council for the first time. Previously, Atlantic Flyway duck season lengths and overall bag limits were set using a mallard-based model — as they continue to be in all other flyways. Now, the flyway’s frameworks will be established based on the aggregate population status of four key Atlantic species: green-winged teal, ring-necked ducks, wood ducks and goldeneyes. Mallard and black duck limits will be considered independently, just as scaup, canvasbacks and pintails are elsewhere.


Although eastern mallards are declining, mallards occupy a smaller percentage of the Atlantic Flyway harvest than elsewhere, and the breeding habitat of eastern mallards is distinct from other major species important in the Atlantic Flyway.

“If you looked at the estimate of breeding mallards and breeding mallard habitat in the Central Flyway in a given year, it’d be pretty descriptive for all prairie-nesting ducks,” Devney said. “But mallards are a less appropriate surrogate for the habitat and breeding biology of the important eastern ducks considered in the multi-stock harvest strategy.”

Delta Waterfowl believes the multi-stock harvest model will result in better long-term outcomes for hunters.

“The Atlantic Flyway Council, especially, and also the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, deserve a great deal of credit for getting out of a difficult situation, performing really strong technical work and delivering a solution that equally considers ducks and duck hunters,” Devney said. — Kyle Wintersteen



  1. William Hopkins October 23, 2018 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Why are only a few hunters required to kill 1 goose, while others in the same flyway kill 2? That makes no sense to me. 1 for all hunters or 2 for all hunters

  2. Paul Henry October 23, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    I would still like to see the states that have liberal bag limits on Canada geese in March to really consider giving this season up for a short term or cutting back the daily bag limit. I really think if you think about it,this March season that some states have has to be shooting some migratory birds heading back to breeding grounds. Just a thought

  3. Gordon Martin October 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    How about a reduced price for hunting license?

  4. NY hunter October 23, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    😲 Really, let’s hunt NY, in the area I hunt there is so many Mallards. Mid season all we see it’s high numbers of huge flocks flying. I could see and understand our “late season” and hens, but this is taking it to far. 🙄

  5. Steve Ballas October 24, 2018 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Would cutting out of the September resident season help !

  6. Mark Blackiston October 24, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

    It a shame the decision doesn’t treat Md. fairly. All states in the flyway should be equal. If you think Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey along with other states in the Atlantic flyway aren’t a larger part of the issue you are not doing your research. Hunter blogs and post from these areas tell the real story. The pictures and stories from these areas of people posting kill numbers like a trophy is disgusting.
    Next, there are more breeding pairs and offspring in my area then I’ve seen in 25 years. Fact the bird will breed where they want to and just because the traditional ground are lacking does not mean there is a problem. You cant make a bird migrate if it doesn’t want to or need to go as far.
    My last comment is that changing limits only affect hunters who obey the law. Maybe look into adding a rotating closed day for over hunted days like Fri and Sat. similar to commercial crabbing. This would allow DNR to concentrate there efforts to ensure and protect water foul hunting for all.

    • John Liebherr November 1, 2018 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      I got the chance to hunt Maryland a couple years back and I was amazed at all the Canada’s I seen. I was even more astonished to see that hunters were only allowed 2 birds per day. I’m from SC and our daily limit was 5 except for early season it was 15. I totally agree with you that we should all be held to the same number.

  7. Robert Frohock October 25, 2018 at 10:07 am - Reply

    I believe in trends and feel a need to understand them. I also beleave in first hand observation. I have been hunting ducks in northern Vermont for 40 years. The mallard population is higher than ever. So I just don’t get it. Going from 4 to two seems a bit over the top. There will still be a 2 bird limit on Blacks, Pintails and Redheads? Are they saving the Mallard population is at the same level as theses other duck species?

    Is Canada taking the same steps in reducing the Mallard bag limit? Do the beleave the trends?

    With that said I would hope the people making the changes are in the field making first hand observations and not settling behind a desk crunching numbers.

  8. Steven Shurak October 25, 2018 at 5:10 pm - Reply


  9. Jim Bellinghiri October 28, 2018 at 10:51 am - Reply

    As conservationist and preservationist, we as duck hunters can do our part by not harvesting hen mallards. My experience of years of waterfowling the northern Lake Champlain region is that typically we see a 70-30 or 60-40 ratio of drakes to hens. We can help close that gap. Also supporting Delta Waterfowl is very important. They are doing amazing work.

  10. kevin j ladd October 29, 2018 at 8:27 am - Reply

    First question is how did we get to this point? The population didn’t just drop in one breeding season. In NY we have 3 and 5 bird zones during the regular season, drop the five limit down. September season is 15 bird limit, unplugged guns, and e callers. The last week and half to two weeks of the September season guys are taking huge limits of migrators, why does nobody address this? The 8-10 day 5 bird limit March season set up to reduce the local population is doing the opposite, migrating pairs are being harvested. Personally I believe poor management on the Feds is a big part of this decline.

  11. Steve B October 29, 2018 at 9:01 am - Reply

    This makes no sense at all. The count and breeding statistics have been available since the mid-summer. If the harvest needs to be reduced, then it should have been implemented in the 2018/2019 season, not 2019/2020. So, now hunters can continue to take birds and further reduce the population making a bad situation worse. On the other hand, what happens if the 2019 breeding season is a huge success and the numbers return to the previous counts? Will they eliminate the reduced season and bag limits? Probably not. Makes absolutely no sense.

  12. KC Farrell November 1, 2018 at 11:55 am - Reply

    What a drastic change in the mallard bag limit. Didn’t they see this coming?? With all the money the Feds receive from our now $25 duck stamp and all thier claims about preserving wetlands you’d think we’d see new projects in our area. I think it’s time for the money to be accountable. We all hear about the grand projects in the Midwest that are happening, but here in the Fingerlakes projects are few and far between. Going from 4 to 2 mallards is a big hit for the guys that put so much time and effort into this sport/passion. My family manages 3200 acres along the Geneseo river and we’ve been doing our part with improving habitat for our local ducks. We maintain 30 or more mallard nests and about the same number in wood duck boxes. With all this hard work we’ve done we’ve seen a great improvement in broods in our area, and when I told my family about the governments decision to cut our limit in half it left them speechless. I think cutting the season shorter or even dropping it to 3/day would be less of a sting for all of us. And as for the geese stop the march season because what we see here at that time is all migratory birds.

  13. scott Wuebber November 27, 2018 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Ive seen dramatically reduced bag limits in my past… many quit hunting, quit buying duck stamps, quit supporting conservation groups.
    Be one of people who stay active and when numbers rebound you can be proud of your efforts.

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