Waterfowl Zones Still Up for Discussion
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) establishes frameworks for migratory bird hunting seasons, and states must choose seasons within those frameworks. In Michigan, the DNR has been working with hunters serving on the Citizen’s Waterfowl Advisory Committee (CWAC), to come up with the annual proposal for waterfowl regulations for more than 30 years.
What is CWAC?
CWAC is comprised of 11 members-at-large and representatives from 8 waterfowl hunting and conservation organizations. The length of each term on CWAC is limited to three years. Members of CWAC are representatives from organizations directly interested in waterfowl hunting and representatives every part of the state. The distribution of CWAC members is based upon geographic representation of where waterfowl hunters live, based upon duck stamp sales. Recently, efforts have been made to include regional members who more closely resemble the average hunter or occasional hunter, rather than only avid waterfowl hunters. Anyone interested in becoming a CWAC member should work with their local DNR Wildlife Biologist to be added to the list of potential members.
Whether you serve on the CWAC or not, MUCC also encourages hunters to get to know your local DNR Wildlife Biologist. They can be a wealth of information on changes they are seeing in the wildlife populations, habitat management projects coming up in your area, and areas where volunteers could help. By developing this relationship, you can also share your hunting experiences and habitat priorities for the area.
Waterfowl Zone Discussion Coming Up
The number of geographic hunting zones and number of segments (split seasons) allowed for waterfowl seasons are part of the federal framework. States are allowed to make changes to duck season zones and splits every five years and these changes conform to one of several options offered by USFWS. An exception to this rule has been for states that had a zone/split season option “grandfathered” because an evaluation was conducted under previous criteria for these seasons. Michigan has long been a state with one of these “grandfathered” zone/split configurations as we have had three duck hunting zones with a split in each zone which has not been previously offered to other states as a standard option. A downside of our grandfathered status was that Michigan was not allowed to change duck zone boundary lines without losing grandfather status. Thus, we have elected to keep zone boundaries fixed to preserve the three zones with one split arrangement.
The USFWS is now offering states the opportunity to select our traditional zone/split arrangement along with the ability to modify zone boundaries without restrictions. When states make a zone change, it is for a five-year period, regardless of season lengths or daily limit changes during that period. States have the opportunity to make changes to their duck hunting zones including the following options:
- 3 zones, with the opportunity to have different duck season dates in each zone and to split seasons within each zone into early and late segments with a break between segments.
- 4 zones, with the opportunity to have different duck season dates in each zone but no opportunity to split seasons into early and late segments with a break between segments (continuous duck season dates).
- No zones, with the same duck season dates statewide and the opportunity to split the duck season into early and late segments with a break between segments.
- No zones with the same continuous duck season dates statewide (no season split into early and late segments with a break between segments).
The CWAC is devoting 2 hours to the discussion at their next meeting on Saturday, March 3rd at the RAM Center. Options being discussed include:
A) no changes,
B) keeping most of it the same but splitting Saginaw Bay between the Middle and South Zones,
C) moving all of Saginaw Bay into the Middle Zone, or
D) creating a new Southwest Zone (however you lose the ability to split seasons with option D).
Additional variations of boundary lines have also been proposed by individuals and groups from around the state.
Do you have any thoughts to share with MUCC’s CWAC representative?