Waterfowl and webless migratory bird regulations are already complete for the 2017-18 hunting seasons.
Montana’s migratory bird regulations, set within the federal frameworks, will be very similar to last year. The regulations are online at fwp.mt.gov/hunting/regulations and license providers.
Sandhill crane, mourning dove and snipe (webless migratory bird) regulations
Mourning dove season dates will be unchanged, Sept. 1 - Oct. 30, with the same bag limits as last year, while snipe season will be Sept. 1 - Dec. 16. For sandhill cranes, the over-the-counter permit season in the Central Flyway (CF) will be Sept. 30 – Nov. 26. For crane seasons regulated under special drawing permits, season dates will be Sept. 9 – Oct. 8, with the season a week longer than last year. The application deadline for the special crane hunting permits is July 27. Check the regulations for application details.
The hunting seasons for ducks, geese, swans, and coots have been set as well, for both the Pacific Flyway (PF) portion of the state (roughly the western half) and the Central Flyway (CF) portion (the eastern half). Regulations will be similar to last year, but one important change is that the daily pintail bag will be reduced from 2 to 1. Two CF zones for ducks and geese will provide a variety of hunting opportunities.
In the PF a split season for both ducks and geese, with dates of Sept. 30 - January 7 and January 13-17, will allow an additional weekend of hunting. PF swan season dates, for those areas open to swan hunting, will be Oct. 7 – Dec. 1.
In the CF, for Zone 2 (Big Horn, Carbon, Custer, Prairie, Rosebud, Treasure, and Yellowstone Counties), duck season dates will be Sept. 30 - Oct. 8 and Oct. 21 – Jan. 16, with goose season dates Sept. 30 – Oct. 8 and Oct. 21 – Jan. 24. Zone 1 (the remainder of the CF) will have a duck season Sept. 30 – Jan. 4 and goose season dates of Sept. 30 - Jan. 7 and Jan. 13-17. The CF tundra swan season will be Sept. 30 – Jan. 4.
Other than the reduced pintail daily bag from 2 to 1, duck and goose bag limits in both the PF and CF will be identical to last season, with restrictions on some species and sexes, and with a possession limit of three times the daily bag. In the CF, a “bonus teal” bag will allow two additional blue-winged teal in the daily bag for the first nine days of the season, Sept. 30 – Oct. 8.
The application deadline for a swan permit for both the CF and PF is Aug. 31. Check the regulations for application details.
Special youth waterfowl hunt
Youth 10 to 15 years old may participate in a special statewide two-day early hunt for waterfowl September 23-24. This is a great time to get the kids out, when they’re the only ones who can shoot, as well as giving your retriever a tune-up prior to the regular season. Consult the regulations for details.
Record or near-record duck numbers the last two years meant that a lot of ducks returned to breed this spring. Some major duck production areas in Saskatchewan and Alberta had extremely wet weather last fall, and that water carried over into the 2017 nesting season. There will be a lot of ducks produced in Prairie Canada. The Dakotas and Montana will be a mixed bag as far as duck production, with good production in some areas. Parts of the Dakotas and eastern Montana turned dry this spring, and duck production from these areas are expected to be only fair. Canada goose numbers remain high in Montana and surrounding areas.
For online information on the spring duck survey, you can visit flyways.us. Reports from the various pilot biologists are there now, and this site will have the Waterfowl Status Report giving the overall duck estimates and estimates by species by about Aug. 10. These survey results are anticipated by duck hunters and will be used in setting regulations for next year.