Bird hunters to notice few changes

Posted Sept. 10, 2010, at 8:21 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:26 p.m.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife recently released its 2010 migratory game bird hunting schedule, and the state’s bird group leader says hunters will notice few changes from last year.

“It fairly closely emulates 2009’s hunting season,” said Brad Allen of the DIF&W. “We tweaked a couple of the dates, which we always do, based on input from the public that comes to the waterfowl hearing.”

Allen explained that each year, federal fish and game agencies set a framework that states must abide by. States then set their own season dates according to the federal guidelines.

“The feds are the ultimate authority on migratory birds. We’re the authority on migratory birds when they’re in Maine. So it takes Big Brother to capture the big picture,” Allen said. “Based on the data that they collect on the breeding grounds and the status of populations, they give us federal frameworks that set the sideboards for our hunting seasons. We can [make rules that are] more restrictive within those, but we can’t be more generous for our hunters.

“What [the Maine seasons] are for this year are a 60-day season and a six-bird [daily] bag limit, and it has to be sometime within Sept. 24 and Jan. 31,” Allen said.

Allen explained that the birds are migrating from colder states to warmer ones set the stage for staggered seasons up and down the flyway.

“If you’re a northern state, you put the season as early as possible, because you’ll be frozen out by January,” he said. “If you’re a southern state you put your season as late as possible because that’s when the migratory birds arrive there.”

Maine is large enough that there are a couple of sticking points, among hunters in different parts of the state, however.

“The only thing we have in Maine that challenges us is that people way up in Aroostook County get frozen out early. They get frozen out by the first of November, so they effectively have a 30-day season,” he said. “And then we have people in southern Maine, some of which like to hunt on beautiful, glorious October days, and some of [whom] like to hunt in a driving snowstorm around Christmas. So to please the northern hunters and to please both types of southern Maine hunters, we usually debate when those [open] dates should actually be.”

The migratory game bird schedule is available at www.mefishwildlife.com and in paper form from town offices and ticket agents.

Allen said that when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and millions of gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, federal wildlife officials considered taking action that would discourage migratory waterfowl from flying to the Gulf. Those plans have since been scrapped, he said.

“We’re pleased to report that there doesn’t appear to be a lot of oil floating around in the Gulf waiting for the birds to get there,” Allen said. “The [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service considered trying to short-stop the birds [by] spreading rice and vegetable matter in wildlife refuges to try to get the birds to stop the birds there to eat. But they realized that short-stopping 13 million waterfowl that have been doing this [migration] for centuries is kind of just a small drop in the bucket.”

Charity shoot set

If you’d like to help support Operation Game Thief and have some fun in the process, you may want to mark Sept. 19 on your calendar.

That’s the date of the third annual Harvest Fun Shoot at the Hermon Skeet Club, which serves as a fundraiser for the OGT program.

Operation Game Thief, which can be reached at 800-ALERT-US, accepts anonymous tips and offers rewards to those who provide information that leads to the prosecution of those who break the fish and game laws in Maine.

All proceeds from the shoot will support OGT, which is a nonprofit organization.

The cost of the shoot is $50, which includes a raffle ticket for a number of great prizes. Shooters can preregister or register on the day of the event between 8 and 9 a.m.

For more information, call Joel West at 989-6082.

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