Pennsylvania's early migratory bird seasons have been approved, and changes this year give dove hunters about three additional weeks to spend afield.
Federal frameworks have increased the total season length for mourning doves from 70 to 90 days.
In Pennsylvania, that means the first segment of dove season will expand substantially, opening on Monday, Sept. 1 and running through Saturday, Nov. 15.
Traditionally, the first segment started and ended in September, and much of October was closed to dove hunting.
Ian Gregg, who heads up the Game Commission's game birds section, said channeling the additional dove-hunting days to the early season segment was done with hunters in mind.
"Pennsylvania dove hunters who responded to a recently completed survey indicated they generally prefer as many dove hunting days in early autumn as possible," Gregg said. "As a result, the additional days have been routed to the early season segment to create two and a half months of continuous dove hunting."
Hunting hours during the longer first segment are from noon until sunset from Sept. 1 through Sept. 25. Then beginning on Sept. 26, and through Nov. 15, hunting hours begin at one-half hour before sunrise and end at sunset.
Two short-season segments around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays also have been retained. Gregg said this also is in response to the survey results, which showed these later seasons are popular and productive times for the most avid dove hunters to be afield. The later season segments will run from Nov. 22 to Nov. 29 and from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, with hunting hours during those segments set at one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
The daily bag limit in each dove-hunting segment has been set at 15, with a possession limit of 45.
The September statewide season for resident Canada geese also will open Sept. 1, and continue through Sept. 25. The September season retains a daily bag limit of eight Canada geese, with a possession limit of 24.
Shooting hours during the September goose season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, except when the season overlaps with youth waterfowl hunting days. On those days, shooting hours end at sunset.
There are special regulations - including smaller bag limits and possession limits - in a couple of areas of the state.
In most of the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, and on the Pymatuning Reservoir and the area extending 100 yards inland from the shoreline of the reservoir, excluding the area east of state Route 3011 (Hartstown Road), hunters will have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of nine.
Also, in a portion of western Crawford County, the daily bag limit is one goose and possession limit is three geese. That area begins south of state Route 198 from the Ohio state line to intersection of state Route 18, then follows state Route 18 south to state Route 618; follows state Route 618 south to U.S. Route 6; U.S. Route 6 east to U.S. Route 322/state Route 18; U.S. Route 322/state Route 18 west to intersection of state Route 3013; and state Route 3013 south to the Crawford/Mercer County line. The exception to the rules in this area is State Game Lands 214, where September goose hunting is closed. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular season regulations apply.Kevin Jacobs, a waterfowl biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, noted that recent liberalizations in Canada goose hunting opportunities, along with control programs being implemented by many municipalities and public and private landowners, appear to be stabilizing the growth of the state's resident Canada goose population. The 2014 Pennsylvania spring resident Canada goose population was estimated at 241,732, which is statistically similar to the recent 10-year average of 266,306 geese.
However, populations remain significantly above the management goal of 150,000.
The first youth waterfowl hunting day will be held statewide on Sept. 20, and the second day will vary by duck-hunting zone and will be announced when late migratory game bird seasons are selected in mid-August.
Youth waterfowl days are open to licensed junior hunters who are 12 to 15 years old. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During those hunts, youth can harvest ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens, and both youth and licensed adults can harvest Canada geese.
During youth waterfowl days, youth and adults have the same daily limit for Canada geese in the area being hunted. Bag limits for ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens will be consistent with the limit for the regular season, which will be announced in mid-August, after the annual Waterfowl Symposium on Aug. 8.
Pennsylvania's woodcock season retains its longer format this year, opening on Oct. 18 and closing on Nov. 29. The daily limit remains three, with a possession limit of nine.
The season for common snipe also will run from Oct. 18 to Nov. 29, which is the same structure as previous years. The daily limit is 8, and the possession limit is 24.
Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 8. Bag limits, singly or combined, are three daily and nine in possession. The season for king and clapper rails remains closed.
Hunting for moorhen and gallinules also runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 8, and the bag limits are three daily and nine in possession.
Migratory game bird hunters, including those afield for doves and woodcock, are required to obtain and carry a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license ($3.70 for residents, $6.70 for nonresidents), as well as a general hunting, combination or lifetime license. All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older also must possess a federal migratory game bird and conservation (duck) stamp.
Hunting hours for all migratory birds close at sunset, except for September Canada geese, as noted above, and the snow goose conservation season.
Annual migratory bird and waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The "Pennsylvania 2014-15 Guide to Migratory Bird Hunting" brochure will be posted on the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) in mid-August.
Hunters are encouraged to report leg-banded migratory game bird recoveries online at www.reportband.gov, or use the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND). Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory game birds.