Duck season in western North Dakota’s high plains unit officially ended earlier this month, yet the proposed federal frameworks for the coming season have already been announced.
This is a new way of doing business as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has changed the way waterfowl hunting seasons are decided.
Starting with the 2016-17 hunting seasons, according to the USFWS announcement, the previous two-cycle regulatory practice is now compressed into a single, annual process.
Federal officials said the biological data from the past year is now used to set hunting season dates and to project appropriate harvest limits for each game species.
Mike Szymanski, North Dakota Game and Fish Department migratory game bird management supervisor, said the streamlined process to set migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits provides more time for public comment on proposed rules, and gives biologists more time to analyze population and harvest data.
“We will still need to collect information like we’ve always done,” Szymanski said. It’s just that surveys will be used to set regulations for future situations, a year in advance. It is worth noting, though, that if major red flags are shown in the data, current year information could be used to make emergency changes to regulations.
According to the proposed framework, 2016-17 waterfowl hunting seasons in North Dakota will mirror those of 2015, including season length and bag limits. While season dates won’t be finalized until April, those dates will be set well ahead of past years when dates became official in early September.