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Locked up and feet down, Iowa duck hunters are ready for opening day

Waterfowlers have waited all year for this: for the next three weekends in Iowa, there will be an opening day for duck and goose hunting. The north zone opens on Sept. 23, the south zone opens on Sept. 30 and the Missouri River zone opens on Oct. 7.

As in most years, scouting improves the chance for hunter success and this year, with the drought conditions over much of the state, it has added significance.  

“Wetland conditions are variable across the state. Hunters who hunt shallow marshes would be wise to check marsh conditions before leaving home rather than finding out opening day at 4 a.m. at the boat ramp that there’s not enough water to float their boat,” said Orrin Jones, state waterfowl biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The Iowa DNR has a wetland conditions survey and weekly migration report online at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting.

“There are pros and cons to hunting in drought years,” Jones said. “Cons are there’s not as many wetlands with water and it could be more difficult to access certain areas. The pros are that the birds are more concentrated. But when weather conditions and birds come together, we could have the opportunity for a good season. It’s really up to Mother Nature. It’s hard to predict what’s in store.”

Duck populations are strong and that’s good news for hunters. There are few changes to the duck bag limits from last year – pintail daily bag has dropped to one and back duck daily bag has risen to two. 

Goose Season

The opening of the Canada goose season coincides with the opening of duck season.

“There are a lot of young birds this year which usually means our goose hunters should have a great opening segment,” Jones said.

Iowa’s Canada goose population is usually highest in December with the peak occurring a little earlier in north and a little later in the south. Goose abundance is primarily influenced by weather in states to the north.

The daily bag limit for Canada geese is two. On Nov.1, the daily bag limit increases to three.

More information and season dates and bag limits is available in the 2017-18 Iowa Hunting, Trapping and Migratory Game Bird Regulations and online at www.iowadnr.gov/hunting.

Youth Season

The youth waterfowl season for the south zone is Sept. 23-24 and in the Missouri River Zone it’s Sept. 30-Oct. 1. Youth hunters in the north zone had their two day season last weekend.

“This is an opportunity for kids to hunt ducks on our premier marshes with a lot of birds on them and little competition,” Jones said. The bulk of the waterfowl in Iowa currently is blue wing teal, wood ducks and mallards.

Youth hunters during this special season are allowed to harvest Canada geese, if the opportunity presents itself, which is a change from last year.

“This is a great opportunity for our youth hunters to find success with Canada geese,” Jones said.

The bag limits during the youth season are the same as during regular season.

Waterfowl band

Reporting banded waterfowl changed in July when the toll free phone number printed on the bands was discontinued. The U.S. Geological Survey is responsible for the bird banding program and canceled the call center due to federal budget constraints.

The only way to reported banded ducks and geese is by logging on to www.reportband.gov

“Even if the bird band has a phone number on it, the only way to report it is via the website,” Jones said. “It’s a fast and easy way to report.”

Season Dates

North Zone

Ducks, Mergansers, Coots: Sept. 23 to Oct. 1, and Oct. 14 to Dec. 3

Canada Geese, Brant, White-fronted Geese: Sept. 23-Oct. 8, and Oct. 14-Jan. 1, 2018

South Zone

Ducks, Mergansers, Coots: Sept. 30-Oct. 4, and Oct. 21-Dec. 14

Canada Geese, Brant, White-fronted Geese: Sept. 30- Oct. 8, and Oct. 21-Jan. 15, 2018

Missouri River Zone

Ducks, Mergansers, Coots: Oct. 7-8, and Oct. 21-Dec. 17

Canada Geese, Brant, White-fronted Geese: Oct. 7-15, and Oct. 21-Jan. 15, 2018

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