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Hunting seasons for migratory birds in NH

CONCORD — Unlike deer and moose, migratory birds by their very nature do not stay in a limited area, so hunting dates and limits aren't set by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

Kent Gustafson, the department's Wildlife Programs administrator, said: “It's big picture management.” As a result, he said, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assesses the flyway population and determines how many days and bag limits are appropriate.

“There is some flexibility in that range,” said Gustafson. New Hampshire seasons and bag limits on a few migratory birds will be set shortly, he said. Based on the recent federal assessment of the North American Canadian geese population, he expects days and limits for those to be liberalized. “We're putting together the numbers for fall,” he said.

The department has released seasons and limits for a number of game birds, for which a hunting license, a migratory waterfowl license and a federal duck stamp are required.

Youths under age 16, who get one waterfowl hunting weekend, Sept. 27-28, need only the federal duck stamp. But they must bring along a licensed hunter, who can't hunt that weekend.

The season for resident Canadian Geese — resident is the key word — is Sept. 2-25, with a daily limit of five birds. Gustafson said the resident geese are a particular problem for golf courses, where they have a virtually unlimited area of grass for grazing and a plentiful water supply. Because they tend to return to the same locations, or stay, their populations are also a problem in parks and even private lawns and pools and goose droppings and feathers are a significant issue.

As for some other migratory game, for sea ducks, the season is Oct. 1 to Jan. 15, 2015, and the limit is seven, with no more than four scoters, four eiders or four long-tailed ducks. Woodcock season is Oct. 1 to Nov. 14, with a limit of three birds per day.

And contrary to what some people may think, based on childhood pranks. there really are snipes and there is a snipe hunting season, Sept. 15-Nov. 14, with a daily limit of eight birds, if you can get them. Gustafson suggests knowing the person well who sends you on “a snipe hunt.”

Gustafson said the waterfowl population is much larger than it used to be, but the number of hunters has stabilized. In particular, he said: “It's a rural tradition.”

Gustafson said: “The tradition goes back hundreds of years.” He said the hunters “love to see their retrievers” at work. It provides recreation opportunities and food. It's a form of recreation that can provide a bonus: a good meal.
The one bird for which there is no limit during the fall season, from Aug. 15 through Nov. 30, is the crow. The spring crow season will be March 16-31, 2015.

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