Dates and bag limits for South Carolina’s 2013-14 waterfowl season, approved this week by the Natural Resources Board, are good news for hunters.
An increase in waterfowl numbers is combined with an increase in possession limits from twice the daily bag limit for ducks and geese to three times the bag limit in the season structure approved by the Board, according to Dean Harrigal, waterfowl coordinator for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
“These are the good old days for a lot of South Carolina sportsmen,” Harrigal said. “We've had several good seasons in a row during the last seven or eight years.”
North American waterfowl populations this year are some of the highest on record, but hunters know that winter weather is the key to whether that translates into exceptional duck hunting in South Carolina.
“We are so weather-dependent,” Harrigal said. “The number of birds that show up in South Carolina depends on either cold weather to the north and west, extremely dry conditions to the north and west, or snow.”
In the 1980s, Harrigal noted, South Carolina hunters enjoyed some years of very good waterfowl hunting even though North American populations were down because of weather conditions to the north and west of the Palmetto State. Winter weather has helped in recent years, too, he said.
“The states have been asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to examine possession limits and their role in the waterfowl harvests,” Harrigal said. “A prime example is the hunter who goes to Arkansas to hunt for three or four days. A traveling sportsman needs the ability to bring home more than twice his daily bag.”
Under the new federal regulation, a hunter traveling from his home state to hunt waterfowl could return home with his entire limit of 18 birds for three days of hunting.
“So, if you hunt out of state for four days, now you only have to eat six birds before coming home, instead of 12,” Harrigal said.
Other changes from last year include a reduction in the bag limit for scaup from four to two birds, he said.
Seasons and limits approved by the DNR Board at their August meeting include:
· DUCKS (excluding sea ducks) – Nov. 23-Dec. 1, Dec. 7-Jan. 26;bag limit: six, which may include up to four mallards (two can be hens), two pintails, one fulvous whistling duck, one black-bellied whistling duck, three wood ducks, two redheads, two canvasbacks, two scaup and either one black duck or one mottled duck; possession limit: 18 total, which may include a combination of no more than 12 mallards (six hens), six pintails, three fulvous whistling ducks, three black-bellied whistling ducks, nine wood ducks, six redheads, six canvasbacks, six scaup and any combination of three mottled ducks and/or black ducks.
· MERGANSERS – Nov. 23-Dec. 1, Dec. 7-Jan. 26; bag limit: five (which may include only one hooded merganser); possession limit: 15 (which may include only three hooded mergansers).
· SEA DUCKS (eiders, scoters, long-tailed ducks) – Oct. 12-Jan. 26; bag limit: seven (but no more than four scoters); possession limit: 21 (no more than 12 scoters); sea ducks taken outside of the regular duck season may be hunted only in Atlantic Ocean waters separated from any shore, island or emergent vegetation by at least one mile of open water.
· COOTS – Nov. 23-Dec. 1, Dec. 7-Jan. 26; bag limit:15; possession limit: 45.
· CANADA GEESE/WHITE FRONTED GEESE –Nov. 23-Dec. 1, Dec. 7-Jan. 26, Feb. 6-Feb. 15; bag limit: five (may include two white-fronted geese); possession limit: 15 (including up to six white-fronted geese). This goose season excludes all of Clarendon County, that portion of Orangeburg County north of SC Highway 6 and that portion of Berkeley County north of SC Highway 45 from the Orangeburg County line to the junction of SC Highway 45 and State Road S-8-31 and that portion west of the Santee Dam.
· BLUE and SNOW GEESE – Nov. 23-Dec. 1, Dec. 7-Jan. 26; bag limit: 25; no limit on possession.
· BRANT –Dec. 28-Jan. 26; bag limit: two; possession limit: six.
· HARLEQUIN DUCKS – No open season.
Hunting hours for all waterfowl except early season teal are 1/2 hour before sunrise until sunset statewide. SCDNR warned that wildlife law enforcement officers will pay special attention to “late shooting violations,' so hunters need to check local newspapers for daily sunrise and sunset times.
Nov. 16, 2013, and Feb. 1, 2014, are designated as Federal Youth Days. Only hunters 15 years old and younger may hunt waterfowl (ducks and geese) on these days. Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old, who is not allowed to carry a gun or hunt, and does not have to be licensed. Regular duck season limits apply.