Bird seasons on the way for hunters

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 31, 2011

Christopher Hester of Brookhaven unloads his harvested ducks at the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge last duck season. Early migratory bird seasons for the 2011-2012 season were announced by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks July 19. (File photo)

NATCHEZ — Although the summer sun continues to beat down on Adams County residents, signs of fall are starting to appear. One of those signs is the July 19 release of the open seasons for migratory game birds by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

The start of migratory bird season is the first sign that the fall hunting seasons are approaching, said Houston Havens of the MDWFP’s waterfowl program.

“Early migratory bird seasons are very important to Mississippi hunters, because they basically mark the start of all hunting seasons for the year,” he said. “The opening weekend of dove season is likely the most popular time of early migratory game bird hunting.”

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Havens said the September teal season is also popular.

MDWFP will have a 70-day, 15-bird-per-day bag limit for doves. Natchez is located in the North Dove Zone and the season dates are Sept. 3 to Sept. 25, Oct. 8 to Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 to Jan. 15, 2012.

The early teal hunting season is Sept. 10 to Sept. 25. The season for resident Canada geese is Sept. 1 to Sept. 15. The season for rails, moorhens and gallinules is Sept. 24 to Dec. 2.

The season for snipe is Nov. 12 to Feb. 26, and the season for Woodcock is Dec. 9 to Jan. 22. Each species has its own specific bag limit that can be found on the MDWFP website.

“Seasons and bag limits are designed to allow hunting opportunity and harvest of these natural resources, while preventing negative population effects from over-harvesting,” Havens said.

Havens said the season dates for each species are based on migratory patterns, and bag limits are based on population monitoring. This year’s season dates are very similar to last year’s, he said.

Havens said there is some red tape that hunters must go through to be able to harvest migratory birds.

“All migratory game bird hunters must posses a valid hunting license, and must also take the Harvest Information Program survey,” he said. “The HIP survey asks questions about the hunter’s harvest from the previous year. In addition, waterfowl hunting requires a state and federal duck stamp. For early seasons, duck stamps would be required for September teal and Canada goose hunting.”

Havens said there are several local places hunters can go to harvest migratory birds.

“St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Natchez offers hunting opportunity,” he said. “Also, areas in and around the Mississippi River can offer good migratory bird hunting. Dove hunters can often find private landowners who are willing to allow hunting on harvested crop fields.”

St. Catherine Creek Refuge manager Bob Strader said migratory bird season doesn’t really get big at the refuge until duck season, but some of the early migratory birds are harvested in small numbers earlier in the year.

“Duck hunting is the most popular throughout the season,” Strader said. “Mallard, wood ducks and Woodcock are the most popular. There are a host of species they hunt here, but primarily those are the ones that are harvested.”

Strader said the refuge also has species of teal that are harvested.

The refuge is only open to hunting on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday during the season, and mornings only. Also, hunting is restricted to Butler, Swamp and Gilliard Lakes, Strader said. Hunters need to purchase a permit to harvest at the refuge and can do so weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the refuge, Strader said.

Strader said the state seasons established by MDWFP apply to the refuge as well, except Woodcock season is delayed until Jan. 1 at the refuge.

Strader said the popularity of migratory bird hunting at the refuge largely depends on the season, and he expects a good one this year.

“The forecast is for a really incredible fall flight, with 40 percent more ducks than the long-term average,” he said.

Last year the first duck season started in late November. This year the proposed dates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are between Sept. 24 and Jan. 29. Mississippi will set its 60-day duck season within those dates.

Havens said the specific dates for the bird seasons are selected using a three-step process.

“First, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sets a framework with beginning and ending dates from which states can select seasons,” he said. “Secondly, we select specific dates for species based on the times of year they are most abundant. Finally, we attempt to provide maximum weekend hunting opportunity, while staying within the federal framework.”

More information about this year’s early migratory bird seasons can be found at