For many people, the migratory bird hunting season is a celebration of being able to spend time with family and friends and to partake of nature's bounty. (Read more about the Central Flyway philosophy About Hunting.) For migratory bird managers, it is, in part, the culmination of a long process that started in January. The process is slightly different for waterfowl (e.g., ducks and geese) than for webless (e.g., cranes, doves) birds in the US and different in the US than in Canada.
Frameworks are established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and contain the maximum daily bag limit, the maximum number of days a hunting season can be open and the earliest and latest dates a hunting season can be open. There are different frameworks in each of the four administrative flyways and they try to take into account differences in bird populations and hunter characteristics. States may select a more restrictive hunting season than contained in the federal frameworks but they can't be more liberal. For example, if the frameworks allow for a 74 days duck season, a state can allow 70 days but not 75.
From year to year, the most stable part of the frameworks has been the earliest opening and latest closing dates. The other features of frameworks (days and bag limit) have sometimes been stable for a period of years but over time (since 1918) have varied greatly.
For ducks, the earliest a hunting season could open has most often been in early October and the latest, in January. Similar dates have been in place for geese. A (more or less) traditional opening date for many webless birds has been September 1, the earliest date permitted under the Migratory Bird Treaty to open a hunting season on migratory birds.
Frameworks are an important harvest management tool for migratory game bird biologists. One of the most important features is to allow states to select a hunting season that will be best for their hunters. It makes more sense for North Dakota to select its season early in the frameworks than for Texas, which might select a season as late as possible. Generally, it also provides for bag limits to be the same for all states.
However, frameworks have been used in a number of innovative ways in the Central Flyway. One example is the additional days provided for duck hunting in the High Plains or western portion of the Flyway. By specifying in the frameworks that they must be taken starting no earlier than the Saturday nearest December 10, the harvest is directed at mallards as intended. Another example is when frameworks specified different season ending dates for different states for Canada geese. This approach was used when states were actively trying to increase their goose populations.
The Central Flyway Wildlife Biologist (Kammie Kruse), have provided historical frameworks for ducks, sandhill cranes and light geese in pdf format. Information is provided for ducks and geese from 1918 through 2012 and for cranes, from 1960-2012. Tables will be added for other species as they are compiled. A narrative of dark geese (Canada and white-fronted geese) frameworks was written by Marvin Kraft (retired-Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks).