COLUMBUS, OH - Hunting seasons for ducks, coots, mergansers, geese and brant open statewide October 21, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
Season dates and daily bag limits vary by region of the state. Special hunting regulations apply on selected wildlife areas in the North Zone and in the mandatory goose harvest reporting zones that are located on the Crane Creek/Ottawa and Mosquito Creek public hunting areas. Waterfowl hunters are required to have a federal duck stamp, a state wetlands stamp endorsement and a Harvest Information Program (H.I.P.) certification in addition to a valid Ohio hunting license.
As with last year, Ohio retained its 60-day split duck hunting season with a daily bag limit of six ducks. The daily bag limit may not include more than four mallards (of which only one may be a hen mallard), three scaup, three mottled ducks, two wood ducks, two redheads, one black duck, one pintail, or one canvasback.
A daily limit of five mergansers, including not more than one hooded merganser, may be taken in addition to the daily limit for ducks. Hunters also may take a daily limit of 15 coots. Possession limits after the opening day of the season are twice the daily bag limits.
Ducks, coots and mergansers may be hunted in the North Zone October 21 through November 26 and December 8-30. Duck season dates in the South and Ohio River zones are October 21-31 and December 4 through January 21.
The peak abundance of migrating ducks present in Ohio's North Zone generally occurs from mid-November through mid-December. Much of the hunting success, however, will be dependent upon prevailing weather patterns as arctic cold fronts are necessary to help propel migration.
Ohio's premier duck hunting locations are situated in the marsh region of northwest Ohio on and near Lake Erie. Hunters also may enjoy good duck hunting opportunities elsewhere in the state on some of the larger reservoirs and rivers.
Populations of most species of ducks remain unchanged from last year, according to the Division of Wildlife. Hunters took an estimated 158,000 ducks in Ohio last year, an increase of six percent over 1998. Approximately 35,000 hunters pursued waterfowl in Ohio last season. Mallards, wood ducks, blue-winged teal, gadwall and green-winged teal were the most common species taken by hunters last year.
Canada geese and brant may be hunted in the Lake Erie Goose Zone October 21 through November 4 and December 16-30. The daily limit is one Canada goose and two brant. Elsewhere in the North Zone, geese and brant may be hunted October 21 through November 26 and December 8 through January 9. These season dates for the Ohio River and South zones are October 21-31 and December 4 through January 31. The daily limit outside of the Lake Erie Zone is two Canada geese and two brant.
New for this year, the bag limits and season dates for the Lake Erie Goose Zone will apply only to the taking of Canada geese and brant. Hunters will be permitted to take light-geese (snow, blue, and Ross' geese) and white-fronted geese within the boundaries of the Lake Erie Goose Zone during the open goose season for the remainder of the North Zone season (October 21 through November 26 and December 8 through January 9). The bag limits are 10 light geese (snow, blue, Ross') and two white-fronted geese.
"The Lake Erie Goose Zone was implemented in the early 1990s to minimize harvest of the Southern James Bay Population of Canada Geese (or SJBP), which have been experiencing poor reproduction and gosling survival since about 1989," said state waterfowl biologist Steve Barry. "High populations of snow geese have caused severe damage to much of their arctic nesting grounds. We regret that we have to limit opportunities to hunt our resident giant Canada geese within the Lake Erie Zone, but it is not possible for hunters to differentiate a Southern James Bay Canada goose from an Ohio Canada goose - so we have to limit the harvest of all Canada geese in this region where the Southern James Bay geese tend to congregate. If we do not minimize our harvest of SJBP geese, then Ohio could end up like the Atlantic Flyway states did in the mid-90s and lose our regular goose season completely."
Barry cautions hunters to know the difference between snow geese and swans. "All swan species in Ohio are protected by state and federal law. We definitely don't want anyone mistaking a trumpeter swan for a snow goose," Barry said.
Hunters took approximately 74,000 Canada geese last year in Ohio, a decrease of nine percent from the 1998 season. Although two thirds of the total goose season harvest occurs during the split 70-day fall season, nearly one third of the total harvest is taken during the 15-day September season. Ohio also has a special late winter season which will be open in selected counties January 13 through February 1.
"With 107 total days of goose hunting in the state, Ohio has one of the longest goose hunting seasons in the entire country," said Barry.
Additional information about Ohio's waterfowl seasons and survey data can be obtained by visiting the ODNR web site at www.dnr.state.oh.us