Breaking News: Pintail Limit to Drop to 1 Daily, Black Ducks to Increase to 2 Daily
By Kyle Wintersteen, Managing Editor
Based on spring 2016 breeding population surveys, hunter harvest estimates and other data, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued its 2017 Adaptive Harvest Management Report, which includes regulatory frameworks for the 2017-2018 duck season.
Duck hunters in all four flyways will again enjoy liberal season dates: 60 days in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway. The frameworks include a seven-duck limit in the Pacific Flyway, and a six-duck limit across all others.
However, there’s disappointing news for hunters who like to shoot pintails: The limit has been cut to one bird daily in all flyways due to several springs of lagging production. The 2016 breeding population survey estimated 2.62 million pintails, which is 34 percent below the long-term average, a 14 percent drop from 2015, and the fifth straight survey in which pintails have declined. The population estimate falls well within the USFWS Adaptive Harvest Strategy’s threshold for reducing the daily limit, while maintaining a liberal season length.
It’s the first time since 2008 that Pacific Flyway waterfowlers are faced with a one-pintail limit.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, because we see so many pintails in the Pacific Flyway and certainly here in Utah,” said Jeff Adams, chairman of the Willard Peak Chapter of Delta Waterfowl in Brigham City, Utah. “It’s a revered duck that shows up here before the season starts and can be found until the last days. But most of us understand the population estimate is a survey of North America, not just our backyards.”
Still, not everyone who’s learned of the reduction is happy.
“There’s been plenty of griping among hunters and on internet forums,” said Adams, who paused while talking — ironically to call at a flock of pintails. “In my opinion, some hunters don’t have a broad perspective of the resource. They see piles of pintails and canvasbacks and wonder why they can’t shoot more.”
Arguably the most exciting change for next season — especially for Atlantic Flyway waterfowlers — is the increase to two black ducks daily. The move marks the first time in decades that hunters are permitted more than one black per day.
USFWS calculated several factors in making the change, notably the 2016 Eastern Survey Area estimate of 612,000 black ducks (a 13 percent increase), the risk of competition on the breeding grounds from an estimated 409,000 eastern mallards and ongoing monitoring of the black duck hunter harvest. Despite doubling the daily bag limit, modeling estimates that the hunter harvest will only increase by a sustainable 30 percent.
“I trust the science behind the service’s decision and I think this is a great opportunity for hunters to put an extra duck in their bags,” said Chris Williams, Delta Waterfowl senior regional events director for the Atlantic Flyway. “The black duck is a big-time trophy here in the Atlantic and it’s been a lifelong dream of many hunters to see the limit increase.”
Williams has heard from hunters who are concerned that the increased limit goes too far. While Delta has never shied from voicing disagreement over waterfowl regulations — notably when the bluebill limit was disproportionately slashed in 2008 — USFWS modeling clearly supports the change.
“The service tends to be conservative with its regulations, and I’m confident it has done its homework,” Williams said.
Additional species-specific regulations include two canvasbacks and two redheads daily in all four flyways. Four mallards may be shot daily in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, five in the Central and seven in the Pacific, only two of which may be hens. The daily limit on bluebills is three in all flyways except the Atlantic, where two are permitted.
Who were the smart individuals that allowed 10 pintails when the point system was in effect? JMHO
Pintails are struggling because of modern farming practices and nesting conditions. Not because of an obsolete point system dropped 35 years ago.
I live in Virginia the area we used to hunting the black population is way down early 90’s you could have shot 20 a day now we don’t see 20 a season I hope you’ll are making the right decision
The problem is the pintails are being slaughtered in Mexico. Until we have a better agreement with the Mexicans we will continue to have a pintail and red head problem. Might need to put President Trump on this when he gets that wall built.
35 years of duck hunting I have harvested 1 Black duck and countless pintail. That makes sense. Why 107 days in the pacific flyway? Do the start earlier or go longer because here in Mississippi the ducks don’t get here until January. It sure is hard watching the migration happen after season closes. Been that way for decades. I understand about the pairing that begins in February but one week at the first of February could make the whole season worthwhile.
I totally agree with Mr.Crawford. But in the same token, we don’t need a six bird bag limit . Drop it down to four birds & give us another week in February. Who goes out & shoots there limit of six birds anyway ? Not I !!!!
well its a good thing if pintails are hurting in numbers but here on the texas gulf coast we dont see a big number of black ducks so if they want to give a extra bird they need to give us one that is common to our area like here redheads are one of our common birds we kill on the bay
I live on the coast of Maine My family has hunted here for 4 generations out of the same blind, which was recently rebuilt. They grew up shooting black ducks, that’s all they ever shot. I’ve hunted out of that same blind for 15 years. Most days I could easily shoot 20 black ducks some stormy days over 50, that is all we ever see. Were lucky to see a mallard or a goose. We all shoot our black duck at dawn. And sit till noon looking for mallards in the flocks. Flock after flock land in your spread and it’s all black ducks! It is very frustrating, to see over 1000 black ducks per day and only shoot 1. Most hunters have given up because of this. The new bag limit is a great idea for the saltwater hunters in Coastal Maine. In parts of Canada their allowed bag limits of up to 4 per day. Allowing us 2 per day Is a sound decision, and long overdue.
Perhaps what you are really seeing is Mallard ducks, extremely similar, not Black ducks.
You do not get it . Management is based on macro( North American) population conservation the micro
issues (local wetland blind shoots) are not taken into consideration at the time of policy creation . If it’s lacking either work to improve your habitat conditions for the waterfowl you are pursuing or find the area that will provide the hunting experience you want. Wisconsin has little to no snow goose hunting in the last 20 years I want no empathy from other hunters. It’s a result of a management decision we live with it among a lot of other feel good ideas.
Post the historic Pintail numbers by flyway, Pintail are a primary duck of the Pacific flyway. The adaptive harvest management plan and North America management plan is akin to Global warming.
The Gulf Coast of Texas is covered with pintails for most of the season and enjoys the two bird limit which was increased from one bird several years ago. I see no need to reduce the limit to one pintail based on a macro count by USFWS. The number of waterfowl hunters has been on the decrease for several years and will be perpetuated by actions of the USFWS like this.
I think the USFWS Adaptive Harvest plan needs to be reviewed. How can you have a liberal season for over twenty years. Something seems wrong. Conditions change every year. Look back before the USFWS Adaptive Harvest plan started.
I think it’s good to be responsible and preserve pintail. We have lots of them here in Oregon. Thankful we can harvest some.
I hunt in the Northern Sacramento Valley of Ca. We have zillions of Sprig. Rice fields covered with them. Sprig is our #1 bird until late late season when the Widgeon and teal show up. Wow, USFWS just put a hurt on us. Bad. Perhaps there is an upside, that is driving more hunters out of the sport (a no brainer) and reducing the cost and increasing the availability of blinds and refuge reservations? I remember 4 duck limits, I remember when steel shot came into play. I remember 1 sprig/day the first time we played this game. Tons of guys quit. It is perhaps what USFW wants. I will be out there until they totally outlaw the taking of waterfowl, or I die. Which ever comes first.
The rules cannot be set based on every hunters little hunting area. While we have an incredible number of pintail in my hunting area in Washington state. A little further South you can hunt the entire season and see few pintails. The rule cant be that in my county we should be able to shoot 3 while in there county the numbers are low so you can only shoot one. doesn’t work that way…
Just be thankful you live in a country where you can go enjoy the morning in a duck blind.
Also I like the 4 bird limit because it reduces the number of hunters significantly… and when you hunt public that’s a big deal.