Great news, pintail hunters: Although U.S. hunters will be restricted to one pintail daily for the current 2017-2018 season, the pintail limit likely will increase to two birds daily across all four U.S. flyways for the 2018-2019 season.
The recommendation is included in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Adaptive Harvest Management Report, which includes regulatory frameworks for the 2018-2019 season based on spring 2017 breeding population surveys, 2016-2017 hunter harvest estimates and other data.
The recommendations in the AHM Report still must go through several approvals and the federal rule-making process.
Duck hunters across the United States likely will again enjoy liberal season dates in 2018: 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.
Provided it’s approved, an increased pintail limit in 2018-2019 largely owes to a 10 percent jump in pintails noted in the 2017 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey. The estimate of 2.89 million breeding pintails meets the USFWS Adaptive Harvest Strategy’s threshold for allowing a two-bird daily limit while maintaining a liberal season length.
The Duck Hunters Organization welcomes the added opportunity for pintail hunters, and in fact, Delta questioned the need to reduce the limit to one bird daily for this season in the first place.
“There’s no data to suggest hunter harvest is having any effect on the size of the pintail population,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president and chief scientist of Delta Waterfowl. “I think reducing the daily limit was entirely unwarranted.”
While pintails are a critical species for western waterfowlers, the biggest news for Atlantic Flyway hunters is the likely continuation of a two black duck daily limit for the 2018-2019 season. This fall marks the first time since 1982 that hunters are permitted more than one black per day nationwide.
Breeding black ducks declined 11 percent in the eastern survey area in spring 2017, but the population remains stable. The increased limit is United States is due in part to declining hunter numbers. The black duck harvest has fallen from more than 300,000 birds per year in the late 1990s to fewer than 200,000 in recent seasons. USFWS modeling estimates that moving to a two-bird daily limit will only increase the black duck harvest by a sustainable 33 percent.
Also, bluebill regulations in 2018-2019 would mirror this season: A daily limit of three in all flyways except the Atlantic, where two are permitted. In the Pacific Flyway, bluebill hunters are allotted 86 days, whereas dates will run concurrently with regular duck seasons in the rest of the United States.
Stay tuned to DeltaWaterfowl.org and Delta’s social media channels for breaking news on additional species-specific bag limits, such as for canvasbacks and redheads, as they’re released by USFWS.