Oregon waterfowl hunters will see their record run of long duck seasons reach 14 this fall as another maximum hunting season looms.
Solid duck counts along the Pacific Flyway, as well as decent local duck production, means Oregon hunters again will have 107 days of duck hunting this fall and winter.
Duck numbers in major breeding areas of Alaska, Canada, Montana and the Dakotas are up 21 percent compared with the long-term average, with redheads and green-winged teal still hovering at near-record levels.
Counts in Alaska and the Canadian provinces are major drivers in whether the flyway gets the maximum 107 days of hunting allowed by treaty, or whether the season gets tamped down to 86 days — the next option based on season frameworks.
"We weren't even close to hitting the 86 days," says Brad Bales, who runs the migratory bird program for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"Population counts in western states and provinces are really driving hunting seasons now," Bales says.
Similarly good goose counts means Oregon will continue its 100-day goose season, with hunting dates staggered around the state.
The seasons, based on frameworks crafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, were adopted Friday in Salem by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The duck and merganser season opens Oct. 9 and runs through Nov. 28 in Zone 2, which includes Klamath and Lake counties, as well as most of Eastern Oregon. After a short break, hunting resumes Dec. 1 and runs through Jan. 23.
Duck hunting in Jackson County and the rest of Western Oregon opens Oct. 16 and runs until Oct. 24. Hunting then reopens Oct. 27 and runs through Jan. 30. The daily limit remains seven ducks.
As in past years, the season sports 105 shooting days for adult waterfowl hunters, with the final two days set aside for the annual federal waterfowl youth hunt set for Sept. 25-26.
The commission set the seasons based on a traditional framework that back-loads hunting dates to focus more effort in January and less in October.
The commission considered a request by some hunters to add more October shooting dates based on a belief that October hunting in recent years has outstripped January success.
However, the staggered seasons are designed to make better use of weather conditions for hunting in the different zones.
A review of hunting success at the Columbia River's Sauvie Island Wildlife Area concludes that hunters historically kill more ducks per day in January than in October, though last year's poor January showing was likely due to bad weather.
"In Western Oregon, the vast majority of people are always wanting late hunting," Bales says. "In places like Klamath Lake and Summer Lake, they want some earlier opportunities. That's one of the reasons we have zones, and people can travel back and forth to hunt."
The daily limit of pintails in Oregon will again be two this year, while hunters also will be allowed one canvasback.
For Rogue Valley goose hunters, the resident Canada goose season opens Sept. 11 and runs through Sept. 15. The bag limit remains five geese per day.
In the Southwest Oregon region — which includes Jackson and Josephine counties — the regular goose season opens Oct. 16 and runs to Dec. 3, then reopens Dec. 11 and runs to Jan. 30.
Klamath County's season for geese runs Oct. 9 through Nov. 28, then Dec. 13 through Jan. 20. The goose season for Lake, Harney and Malheur counties runs Oct. 9 through Oct. 24 and Dec. 13 through Jan. 30.
The goose bag limits will vary, with four dark geese and six white geese the most common, just like last year.
All the changes will be printed in the game-bird hunting synopsis available as early as this weekend, says Michelle Dennehy, the ODFW's Wildlife Division spokeswoman.
Oregon's waterfowlers increased 3.4 percent last year, when 51,636 hunters bought the state's waterfowl validation stamp. And though their numbers remain somewhat small, they continue to be a dedicated lot.
About 18,700 hunters spent more than 147,600 days afield last year, killing about 361,000 ducks in Oregon. According to results from the Harvest Information Program, 10,100 Oregon hunters spent 66,700 days hunting geese and killed about 61,000 birds, of which 89 percent were Canada geese.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.