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2007-08 Migratory Bird Season
Information and Population Status

by Ted Nichols
Waterfowl Ecology and Management Program Biologist
August 22, 2007

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife recently set the state's 2007-08 migratory bird hunting season regulations. Major changes for the upcoming season include the following:

  • Special regulations are permitted during the September Canada goose season (September 1-29, 2007) only - Electronic calls, shotguns capable of holding no more than 7 shells, and hunting hours extended to 1/2 hour after sunset are permitted.
  • The canvasback bag limit was increased to 2 birds.
  • New Jersey's HIP certification procedure has changed and a nominal $2.00 fee will be charged. HIP certifications can be obtained via license agents, the division's license Web site or via telephone at 888-277-2015.
  • The brant season will be closed during part of the duck season in all zones.
  • The daily bag limit for scaup remains at 2 birds per day.

Resident Population Canada geese are overabundant throughout most of the United States and cause significant damage problems. In the fall of 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) completed an Environmental Impact Statement that included a multi-faceted approach for managing resident Canada geese. Included in this approach was the expansion of hunting methods during September seasons. At the recommendation of the Atlantic Flyway Council, the Service approved the use of special regulations beginning in 2007 to help curb the growth of these geese in the eastern US. The following new regulations are allowed in New Jersey:

  • Electronic calls are permitted.
  • Shotguns capable of holding no more than 7 shotshells (including magazine and chamber) are permitted.
  • Hunting hours: ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset. Note that this allows hunting ½ hour later than during previous years.

HUNTERS NEED TO REMEMBER THAT THESE SPECIAL REGULATIONS ONLY APPLY TO THE SEPTEMBER CANADA GOOSE SEASON (September 1-29, 2007). Hunters that choose to use unplugged guns during the September Canada goose season must reinstall magazine plugs before pursuing other game species. During all other waterfowl seasons, including ducks, brant, regular and winter Canada goose and snow goose, "standard" regulations apply. "Standard" regulations include: electronic calls prohibited, shotguns may not be capable of holding more than 3 shotshells and hunting hours end at sunset.

The 2007 September Canada goose season bag is 15 birds per day. Although these special regulations and liberal bag limits alone are not expected to solve the resident Canada goose overabundance problem in New Jersey, they remain part of an integrated approach to Canada goose management.

In 2007, the status of ducks and their habitats in mid-continent and eastern North America are sufficient to justify a liberal duck hunting season framework. In Atlantic Flyway states like New Jersey, this will be the 11th consecutive year with a 60-day duck season.

Sportsmen who are willing to travel will be able to hunt ducks in at least one of New Jersey's three waterfowl zones from October 13, 2007 until January 22, 2008. If hunters also consider Canada geese, rails and snow geese, there will be potential migratory bird hunting opportunity available from September 1 through March 10.

Canada geese with young
Although the breeding pair estimate increased for Atlantic Population Canada geese in northern Quebec, gosling production was very poor.
Click to enlarge

Each year, the Service develops migratory bird hunting regulations after input and consultation with the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyway Councils. The Flyway Councils are comprised of representatives from state and provincial wildlife agencies that work together with the Service to cooperatively manage North America's migratory bird populations.

Duck hunting regulations are based on biological population assessments using the Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) process, which has been developed cooperatively by the Service and flyway councils. AHM is an objective, science-based regulation-setting process. During 2007, the AHM process suggested that a liberal duck hunting season in all flyways was consistent with the long-term welfare of North American waterfowl populations.

Although population models indicate that Eastern mallards, which drive duck hunting regulations in the Atlantic Flyway, can sustain these liberal seasons, there remains concern over the impact of liberal seasons on less abundant species such as black ducks, pintails and scaup. Within the near future, waterfowl managers in the Atlantic Flyway will review the impact of duck hunting regulation packages on all duck stocks in the Atlantic Flyway and recommend any changes as necessary.

Hunter with brant and black ducks
Brant, and black ducks, can be plentiful in the Coastal Zone
Cliick to enlarge

Most species of ducks in the eastern and mid-continent survey areas were near or above their long-term averages; however, managers remain concerned about some species. For example, scaup populations have remained depressed for more than 20 years and in 2007 were 33% below the long-term average. Due to the continued poor status of scaup, bag limits remain restrictive at 2 scaup per day. The Service has asked the Flyway Councils to seriously consider additional restrictions on scaup seasons in the future. The Service and Flyway Councils continue work on a long-term harvest strategy for scaup.

Although pintails remained below their long-term average, 2007 population indices indicated that pintails could sustain a 1 bird per day bag limit through the 60-day duck season.

Black ducks are a "bread and butter" duck in the Atlantic Flyway, particularly in states with abundant salt marsh habitat like New Jersey. Recent assessments have suggested that the harvest potential for black ducks may be declining, possibly due to a reduced breeding effort that might be related to large scale landscape changes. Although no changes are proposed for 2007, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, and Flyway Councils are examining the affect that this reduced reproductive effort might have on black duck harvest management.

In 2007, the canvasback population reached a record high. Given this population increase, the canvasback bag limit was increased to 2 birds in Atlantic Flyway states.

This year, the daily bag limit in New Jersey will be 6 ducks and may not include more than 4 mallards (including no more than 2 hens), 4 scoters, 2 scaup, 2 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 1 pintail, 2 canvasbacks and 1 black duck. Merganser bag limits will remain at 5 birds per day with no more than 2 hooded mergansers. Merganser bag limits are in addition to regular duck bag limits.

A total of 195,700 breeding pairs of Atlantic Population (AP) or "migrant" Canada geese were estimated from surveys during June, 2007 on the Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec. This estimate is 22% greater than 2006. Breeding pair estimates have increased an average of 13% per year during 1998-2007. Although the breeding pair estimate is improved, northern Quebec experienced one of the latest springs on record. As a result, the reproductive effort will be poor and an AP goose fall flight similar to last year is expected. As a result, the regular season for Canada geese in New Jersey will be maintained at 45-days with a 3-bird bag limit.

The Special Winter Canada Goose Season will be held January 21 to February 15, 2008 in two zones with the same hunt area boundaries as last year and a bag limit of 5 Canada geese per day. Both the September and Special Winter seasons are targeted at Resident Population Canada geese that number about one million birds in the Atlantic Flyway.

Since Atlantic brant breed in remote wilderness of the Canadian Arctic, their status is measured during January surveys on their Atlantic Flyway coastal wintering grounds. In the 2007 Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey, 150,000 brant were counted. As a result, the brant season length was increased to 50-days; the bag limit was maintained at 2 birds.

Snow goose populations remain high and biologists are concerned about the impacts snow geese have on fragile Arctic nesting habitats. Serious damage to Arctic wetlands has already been documented in several key snow goose breeding colonies. This damage impacts the snow geese themselves, as well as other wildlife dependent on the Arctic ecosystem. Serious damage to agriculture also occurs in migration and wintering areas. The season length for snow geese is already 107 days, the longest allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Bag limits will remain liberal this year with 15 snow geese per day and no possession limit.

Each of New Jersey's three waterfowl zones will have a Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day during a Saturday in October. Dates will be October 6, October 13, and October 27, in the North, South, and Coastal zones, respectively.

All hunters pursuing migratory birds including ducks, geese, brant, coot, woodcock, rails, snipe or gallinules, need to obtain a Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification. The process is the same as in 2006. Migratory bird hunters can get their HIP certification one of three ways: online by visiting the division's license sales web site, at any license agent, or by calling the toll-free NJ telephone sales line at 888-277-2015.

Hunter in blind with geese
Jim Hartobey enjoys the September season.
Click to enlarge

Online and license agent HIP certifications will cost $2.00 while telephone HIP certifications will include a shipping/handling fee and cost $5.13. HIP certifications obtained from license agents and through the telephone system will be printed on durable green license stock while internet HIP certifications can be printed on a home computer. Regardless of the method used for HIP certification, hunters will be able to go hunting immediately after registering. HIP certification should be carried in the hunter's license holder. HIP certifications are valid from September 1, 2007 to March 10, 2008.

Additional information on the status of waterfowl and habitat conditions can be viewed on the Service's web site at: www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/.

The 2007-08 New Jersey migratory bird hunting season dates follow. The 2007-08 Migratory Bird Regulations booklet will be available at Division offices and license agents throughout the state in September.

2007-08 Migratory Bird Regulations Booklet (pdf, 84kb)
2007-08 Migratory Bird Regulations Summary (pdf, 10kb)
NJ Waterfowl Information
Three Youth Waterfowl Hunt Days in 2007
Harvest Information Program (HIP) Certification Information

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: August 21, 2007