HARRISBURG – Waterfowl hunters – whether hunting from shore or from a boat – are urged to keep safety first and foremost in mind, said Keith Snyder, Pennsylvania Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief.
“Basic firearm and hunting safety are critical,” Snyder said. “Treat every firearm as if it is loaded and make sure that the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction. Never place your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire. Be aware of any companions’ locations at all times and maintain a safe zone-of-fire. Waterfowl action can be exciting, but never swing your barrel toward another hunter.
“Make sure firearms are unloaded prior to reaching your hunting location and immediately after you are done hunting. Also, if you are using a boat, remember state law requires all firearms be unloaded in any boat propelled by motor or sail, and should be cased with actions open.”
Snyder also noted that, in Pennsylvania, all those using a boat are required to have a properly-fitted personal flotation device (PFD) readily accessible. For more information on boating laws and regulations, as well as safety tips, please visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website (www.fish.state.pa.us). Better yet, take an approved boater’s safety course.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, every year several hunters die from drowning and hypothermia.
“When you have a crew of hunters, with decoys and equipment, and dogs, a boat can easily become unbalanced, especially if the wind comes up,” Snyder said, “Not only is it unsafe to overload a boat, exceeding the limits posted on the capacity plate is also illegal.
“Sudden immersion into cold water is one of the leading causes of boating fatalities in the Commonwealth. It places a severe strain on bodily systems that can lead to hypothermia or, worse, cardiac arrest. Survivors of cold-water accidents have reported their breath driven from them on contact with the water.”
Anyone falling into cold water should immediately ensure that their and any companions’ PFDs are intact, and work to find a way to exit the water or right the watercraft. Cover your mouth and nose – if possible – to prevent inhaling water.
If you can’t get out of the water immediately and the shore is too far, raise your knees and wrap your arms across your chest to help reduce heat loss through the body’s core. Don’t leave your watercraft and attempt to swim to shore. It’s probably further than you think. Experts recommend you stay with your boat until help arrives. If possible, try to climb back into your boat or on top of it.
“Most important,” Snyder suggests, “get into the routine of making the life jacket part of your hunting equipment, and wear it.”
Waterfowl Hunters Cautioned About Eating Mergansers
To minimize potential health impacts, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials recommend hunters do not eat merganser ducks, especially those harvested in the Lake Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania hunting zones.
“Studies conducted two decades ago on Pennsylvania and New York mergansers, especially common and red-breasted mergansers in the Lake Erie region, concluded they may have varying levels of contaminants, including PCBs,” said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian. “Mergansers consume fish and other aquatic organisms that may cause a concentration of contaminants in body tissue. As such, health officials have issued similar consumption advisories for certain species of fish found in these same waters.
“For this reason, hunters are cautioned to not consume any mergansers. Other waterfowl should be skinned and the fat removed before cooking. Stuffing should be discarded after cooking and should not be consumed.”
The Game Commission will be conducting a research project over the next two years to obtain additional information on contaminant levels in Lake Erie waterfowl, and the potential threats of those contaminants on wildlife and human health.
2011-12 Waterfowl Seasons and Bag Limits
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 24-Dec. 31.
North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 8-22, and Nov. 11-Jan. 4.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 8-Dec. 16.
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 15-22, and Nov. 15-Jan. 14.
Total Duck Bag Limits: six daily, 12 in possession of any species, except for the following restrictions: daily limit may not include more than four mallards including two hen mallards, one black duck, two pintails, one mottled duck, one fulvous tree duck, three wood ducks, two redheads, one canvasback, four scoters and two scaup.
Possession limit may not include more than eight mallards including four hens, two black ducks, four pintails, two mottled ducks, two fulvous tree ducks, six wood ducks, four redheads, two canvasbacks, eight scoters and four scaup.
Mergansers: five daily, 10 in possession (not more than two hooded mergansers daily, four hooded in possession).
Coots: 15 daily, 30 in possession.
Regular Canada Goose Season and Bag Limits (including White-fronted geese): All of Pennsylvania will have a regular Canada goose season; however, season lengths and bag limits will vary by area as follows:
Resident Goose Zone (RP)
It includes all of Pennsylvania except for the Southern James Bay Population and the Atlantic Population zone. The season is Oct. 22 – 29, Nov. 11 – 26, Dec. 20 – Feb. 25, with a five goose daily bag limit.
Southern James Bay Population Zone (SJBP)
The area north of Interstate 80 and west of I-79 including in the city of Erie west of Bay Front Parkway to and including the Lake Erie Duck zone (Lake Erie, Presque Isle and the area within 150 yards of Lake Erie Shoreline). The season is Oct. 22 – Nov. 26, Dec. 12 – Jan. 25, with a three goose daily limit.
Atlantic Population Zone (AP)
The area east of route state Route 97 from Maryland State Line to the intersection of SR 194, east of SR 194 to intersection of U.S. Route 30, south of U.S. Route 30 to SR 441, east of SR 441 to SR 743, east of SR 743 to intersection of I-81, east of I-81 to intersection of I-80, south of I-80 to New Jersey state line. The season is Nov. 15 – 26 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 25, with a three goose daily limit.
Exception: The controlled hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon-Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Land 46 (Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area), has a daily bag limit of one, and possession limit of two during the regular Canada goose season.
Atlantic Brant (All Zones): Oct. 8 – Dec. 5, two daily, four in possession.
Atlantic Population and Southern James Bay Population goose zones:
Regular Season: Oct. 25 – Jan. 25, 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Season: Jan. 26 – April 27, 25 daily, no possession limit. To participate, hunters also will need to obtain free conservation hunt permit and file a mandatory report of harvest/participation. Specifics will be announced later this year.
Resident Population Goose Zone:
Regular Season: Oct. 25 – Feb. 25, 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Season: Feb. 27 – April 27, 25 daily, no possession limit. To participate, hunters also will need to obtain free conservation hunt permit and file a mandatory report of harvest/participation. Specifics will be announced later this year.
Harlequin Ducks and Tundra and Trumpeter Swans: No open season.
Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area: shooting days are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, one-half hour before sunrise to 12:30 p.m.
Duck: Oct. 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17,19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29 and 31; Nov. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28 and 30; and Dec. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14 and 16.
Goose: Oct. 22, 24, 26, 28, 29 and 31; Nov. 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25 and 26 (youth-only day); Dec. 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 31; and Jan. 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23 and 25.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area: shooting days are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to 1:30 p.m.
Geese and ducks: Nov. 15, 17, 19 (youth-only day), 22, 24 and 26; and Dec. 17, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29 and 31; Jan. 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 14. Geese only: Jan. 17, 19, 21 and 24.
Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days (Statewide): Saturday, Sept. 17 and 24. Open to licensed junior hunters ages 12 – 15 years, when properly accompanied, for ducks, mergansers, moorhens and coots, and Canada goose as permitted. Same daily bag limits as regular season.
Youth Only Day at Controlled Hunting Areas: Middle Creek is Nov. 19, and Pymatuning is Nov. 26.