Duck Season Forecast

Hat Trick Legal On Woodies

At last: The bag limit on wood ducks has been raised to three birds per day!

In a state where wood ducks are No. 1 in the harvest, and where most hunters have only woodies to hunt in a beaver-pond swamp, that’s great news.

“Historically, the No. 1 question we heard from duck hunters is why is the wood-duck limit only two,” said WRD Waterfowl Biologist Greg Balkcom. “The wood-duck population has been increasing. New data analysis has finally allowed the Fish and Wildlife Service to be comfortable with a three-bird limit. For the average duck hunter in Georgia, that’s huge good news.”

Greg said the state anticipates an increase in wood-duck harvest of 13.9 percent. Last year, according to FWS estimates, Georgia waterfowlers killed 61,743 woodies. A 14 percent increase in harvest would raise that number by about 8,600 ducks.

“The increased limit for wood ducks is a double-edged sword,” said Greg. “Every state north of us also has the three-bird limit, so hunters may actually see a few less birds.”

Greg thought the local nesting season had gone reasonably well for woodies.

“I just got my wood-duck banding data back and have not figured the adult/juvenile ratios,” he said. “But I think it was an OK season. We may be down slightly due to the drought, but not significantly.”

On the bad-news side, canvasback season has been closed after a two-bird per day limit last year. Statewide, the closure will have little impact, but at Lake Seminole, where most Georgia canvasbacks are killed, the impact will be significant to the hunter/tourism business around the lake.

Overall, duck numbers should be similar to last year. Weather, however, is the wild card. If strong early winter storms cover northern states with ice and snow, that usually pushes more ducks to the South.

If you hunt ducks at Rhetts Island at Altamaha WMA this fall, you can expect to see drag-lines working on the dikes on the south side of Pond 3. According to Greg, a contractor has been working most of the summer rebuilding the dike. Ponds 1 and 2 are in good shape and should attract plenty of ducks and hunters. Rhetts is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays during waterfowl season.

Last year, according to Fish and Wildlife Service estimates, approximately 13,500 Georgia waterfowl hunters killed about 119,500 ducks.

After woodies, ringnecks were a distant second in harvest at 9,632 followed by green-winged teal (7,656), and blue-wing teal (5,433). Mallards ranked in a tie for fifth with lesser scaup at 3,211 killed.

Georgia hunters killed 22,400 Canada geese last year.

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