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Looking not too far ahead to another waterfowl-hunting season, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has proposed the following season dates, bag limits and restrictions for the 2005 hunting season. (Hunters should keep in mind that these are proposed dates and may be amended at any time by the MDIFW or the federal rule-making authority. Check the latest regulations schedule published by the MDIFW for the final word on season dates and bag limits statewide.)
As proposed, the hunting season for ducks (not including mergansers) is: NORTH ZONE: October 3 through December 10, 2005. SOUTH ZONE: October 3 through October 29, 2005 and November 14 through December 24, 2005.
The daily bag limit is 4 birds with a possession limit (after opening day) of 8 ducks, but there is a closed season for harlequin ducks. Also, the daily bag limit for black ducks, pintails, canvasbacks, mottled ducks and fulvous tree ducks is 1 bird, with a possession limit of 2.
The daily limit for hen mallards, wood ducks and redhead ducks is 2 birds, with a possession limit of 4.
In addition to the daily limit of 4, two additional teal (blue-winged teal or green-winged) may be taken per day. A possession limit of 12 is permitted providing that it includes 4 or more teal.
For scaup, the daily bag limit is 3 and the possession limit is 6 birds.
The hunting seasons for mergansers and American coots are the same as for ducks. The daily bag limit for mergansers is 5 in the aggregate (meaning all species of mergansers except hooded mergansers); and the possession limit is 10. The daily bag limit on hooded mergansers is 1 bird with a possession limit of 2. The daily bag limit on coots is 5 birds, with a possession limit 10.
The special Canada goose early season is from Sept. 6 through Sept. 24, 2005. The daily bag limit is 4 birds, with a possession limit of 8.
The regular goose season, is: NORTH ZONE: October 3 through December 10, 2005.
SOUTH ZONE: October 3 through October 29, 2005 and November 14 through December 24, 2005. The daily limit is 2 birds, with a possession limit of 4.
The snow goose season is from October 3, 2005 through Jan. 31, 2006. The daily limit is 15 birds with no possession limit.
Managed as a migratory bird, the woodcock season opens October 1 and closes October 31, 2005. The daily bag limit is 3 birds, with a possession limit of 6.
The special Youth Waterfowl Hunt will be held Sept. 24, 2005. Bag limits during the special youth hunt are as noted above and youth hunters may take 1 black duck. Special restrictions apply to youth hunters and their accompanying adult, so check the final published regulations (available from the MDIFW later this month) before heading for the marsh.
Maine waterfowl hunters must possess a valid 2005 hunting license, a federal duck stamp and a state duck stamp. Also, only non-toxic or steel shot is allowed for migratory waterfowl. This does not include woodcock, however, and a good thing, too. Steel shot loads at 20 yards would pretty well pulverize the average woodcock.
In our area, the logical choices for most waterfowling are paddling down streams and rivers to jump-shoot birds resting or feeding in secluded backwaters, or else setting up decoys in marshy areas on lakes, ponds and major rivers. Pass shooting is also an option early and late in the day. You can take up a position on a point of land along a river or lakeshore and shoot at ducks and geese as they pass by enroute to feeding or roosting sites. That sudden spatter of shooting you hear at dawn or dusk in October and November is undoubtedly duck hunters making the most of a pass-shooting situation.
It's one of the interesting aspects of the sport that all duck hunting must end at sunset. Well, the odd thing is that most ducks and geese will leave the water just minutes before legal shooting time ends. I have taken many a black duck, mallard, wood duck and Canada goose off back-country beaver flowages just five or 10 minutes before sunset, and in most cases I had no certain idea that there was a duck or goose within 20 miles of me up till the point I heard the splash of water and the whistle of wings indicating the birds had left the marsh.
It doesn't take much of a “marsh” to make a duck hunt. During the fall, when thousands of ducks and geese migrate through Maine to coastal or more hospitable southern climes, most of the lakes, ponds, rivers and beaver flowages in our area will hold at least a few birds (certainly the “daily bag limit”). I have had red-letter days on some pretty nondescript potholes around here, and we have miles of lake shoreline and riverbanks that are open to hunting.
In fact, you can find some great duck hunting on some of the smaller streams here as well. I don't know how many limits of mallards I've shot while wading the Sebasticook out of Dexter, where the stream isn't much more than a trickle on its way to Corinna. I'd find ducks loafing at every bend in the stream, and the occasional beaver backup would contain enough black ducks, wood ducks and mallards to make a day of it.
Back when the daily limit was two mallards and one black duck, I parked the truck, walked down the stream, fired three quick shots and was back to work in downtown Dexter before my lunch hour was over. That's pretty good duck hunting, and we're not even in the part of the Atlantic Flyway that Ducks Unlimited considers “significant.” You can't do much better than the daily bag limit, and if you can do it in your own back yard on your lunch hour, why bother with the expense and aggravation of a trip to some “prairie pothole” in South Dakota?
For more information on Maine's 2005 waterfowl hunting seasons, log onto the MDIFW's Website at http://www.state.me.us/ifw.
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