Temperatures have plummeted well below freezing, and the Monroe County woodlands are beginning to display a blush of autumn color. To a small but dedicated group of Monroe County hunters, these signs point to the “real” opening of the 2019-20 Waterfowl Hunting Season.
While it is true duck and goose hunters were given the opportunity to hunt green-winged and blue-winged teal as well as Canada geese during brief seasons held weeks ago, most local waterfowlers don’t hunt for waterfowl until November.
The remainders of both the duck and goose seasons are divided into two segments. The first portion opens Nov. 23 and closes nine days later on Dec. 1. The final segments commence Dec. 12 and wind down Jan. 31.
There have been some changes in the daily bag limits for a few species of waterfowl this year, however, the limit for geese (Canada, snow and white-fronted combined) remains at five.
This season the total daily bag limit for ducks is six. Population surveys necessitated that the bag limits for some species be lowered this year. For example, a bag cannot contain more than two mallards (only one can be a hen) and one pintail.
Here are the daily bag limits for other species Monroe County duck hunters might see zipping over their decoys this fall and winter: black duck - 1, canvasback - 2, redhead - 2, scaup (lesser and greater combined) - 2, wood duck - 3, teal (green-winged and blue-winged combined) - 6, mergansers (not more than 2 hooded mergansers) - 5, gadwall - 6, northern shoveler - 6, long-tailed ducks - 4, ring-necked duck - 6, and eiders - 4.
With the exception of the harlequin duck, the daily bag limit for all other ducks is six. The season is closed for the harlequin duck. The daily bag limit for American coot is 15.
In addition to a current hunting license, the law requires any Georgia hunter age 16 or older who hunts ducks and geese and coots possess a valid Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (popularly referred to as a duck stamp) and a Georgia Waterfowl and Migratory Bird Stamp. Keep in mind you must complete a Migratory Bird Hunter questionnaire when you pick up your Georgia Migratory Waterfowl and Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp.
As for legal weapons and ammunition, hunters are required to hunt with 10-gauge or smaller shotguns loaded with federally approved nontoxic shot of size “F” or smaller pellets. While hunting ducks and geese it is illegal to possess any shot whatsoever.
The legal waterfowl shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Each year far too many duck hunters are caught hunting ducks past official sunset. With that in mind, if you hunt ducks in the afternoon, it is always best to check the time the sun will set in your neck of woods.
If you happen to bag a banded duck or goose, please report the band number to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Simply call 1-800-327-BAND. When you make the call, you will be asked for the band number as well as how, when and where it was recovered. This entitles you to receive a Certificate of Appreciation that will include information regarding the bird such as the date and location where the bird was banded. You may also report the band recovery via the Internet at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl.
If you plan on hunting ducks and geese on the Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area, you can only do so Wednesday through Sunday during the state waterfowl season. In a departure from the statewide legal shooting hours, you can only hunt ducks and geese on the Rum Creek WMA from 30 minutes before sunrise until noon.
In addition, remember the MARSH Project and other areas west of Juliette Road are closed to waterfowl hunting.
If you would like additional information regarding waterfowl hunting on the Rum Creek WMA and other state and federal lands, as well as waterfowl hunting laws and regulations, consult the Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations Guide (available at your local license dealer). The guide can also be viewed online at www.GoHuntGeorgia.com.
Terry Johnson is retired Program Manager of the Georgia Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program. He has written the informative column ‘Monroe Outdoors’ for the Reporter for many years. His book, “A Journey to Discovery,” is available at The Reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.