By Jefferson Weaver
Between rising waterfowl populations, the Polar Vortex driving ducks south sooner, and popular TV shows, waterfowl hunting is more popular than ever this year.
The Wildlife Resources Commission wants duck hunters to enjoy the good shooting currently under way, but to keep the season safe, too. This year’s Home From The Hunt campaign is again emphasizing waterfowl hunters who use boats to exercise boating safety and hunting safety.
“Statistics show more waterfowl hunters die from hypothermia and drowning than gunshot wounds,” said Maj. Chris Huebner, the state boating safety coordinator. “Hypothermia is the loss of body heat and, left untreated, can prove fatal. Exposure to extreme cold, such as being in cold water or wearing wet clothes in cold conditions, can increase the chance of hypothermia.”
Wear protective clothing and watch the weather, he said. Let someone know where you are hunting and an approximate return time.
Additional boating safety tips include:
• Always wear a life vest.
• Don’t overload the boat, especially with passengers.
• Keep hunting dogs prone in the center of the boat.
In the event of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat. It will provide some flotation and will be the initial focus of a rescue attempt.
Waterfowl hunters should handle shotguns in a safe manner. Be aware of muzzle direction at all times. Never shoot while standing in an unsecured boat or move about a boat with a loaded shotgun.
Wildlife officers also warn hunters to be aware of what is under the water.
Hunting waterfowl over baited ponds is illegal. Shooting ducks and geese that are en route to a deer hunter’s corn pile can be actionable, under some circumstances. Duck-baiting is one of the main violations officers investigate every year, along with hunting without permission, improperly plugged guns, and a lack of licenses, including the federal waterfowl stamp.
Hunters have reported good flights in recent days, as frigid weather in the Midwest struck early again, sending waterfowl plummeting south along their migration flight paths. The area is currently in the November season, which ends Nov. 29. Waterfowlers may again pursue ducks, mergansers and coots starting Dec. 13. That season is the longest, and ends Jan. 24.
Bag limits are six per day per hunter, including no more than four scoters; four mallards with no more than two hen mallards; three wood ducks; two scaup; two redheads; two pintails; one canvasback; one black or mottled duck, and one fulvous whistling duck. The season on harlequin ducks is closed.
Light geese, including snow, Ross and blue geese, may be taken with electronic calls and unplugged guns from Feb. 9 – March 7. Dark geese – including nuisance Canada geese – may be taken under migratory hunting rules through Nov. 29, and from Dec. 13-Feb.7.
Steel or non-toxic shot is required for all waterfowl species, regardless of season. Hunting is allowed 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.
Go to www.ncwildlife.org/hunting or call 1-800-675-0263 for additional waterfowl hunting information.