Summary Overview

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has the responsibility and authority in the U.S. to establish annual hunting seasons for migratory birds. This authority is granted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The FWS sets outside parameters called frameworks (opening and closing date, daily bag and possession limit, season length) within which states must select their hunting seasons.

The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) has the authority in Canada to establish annual hunting seasons for migratory birds under the same Treaty.

Hunting seasons are closed each year until formally opened by the FWS and CWS.

The FWS publishes a Notice of Intent to Establish Open Seasons in the Federal Register in January. It also discusses leading issues and the potential for major changes.

The Flyway Technical Committees and Council meet in March to consider changes in hunting regulations for migratory shore and upland game birds ( mourning dove, sandhill crane, snipe, woodcock, etc. ) and some waterfowl seasons. This meeting focuses on Early Seasons that open in September. In recent years, the regulatory packages of Adaptive Harvest Management for the regular duck hunting season have also been considered at this time. The Council forwards its recommendations to the Service Regulations Committee (SRC) of the FWS. The SRC consists of 4 Regional Directors of the FWS plus a Chairperson.

The FWS publishes specific proposals for Early Seasons in the Federal Register in July. Public comments are accepted on these proposals and a Final Rule published, usually in August.

States select their hunting seasons for Early Seasons in August within the framework provided by the FWS. A state can be more restrictive but not more liberal than the federal framework.

The Flyway Technical Committee and Council meet again in July to consider Late Seasons which include the regular duck and goose hunting seasons. Late Seasons open as early as the Saturday nearest October 1. Council again forwards their recommendations to the SRC.

The FWS publishes specific proposals for Late Seasons in the Federal Register in August. Public comments are accepted and a Final Rule is published in September.

States select their hunting seasons in September for Late Seasons from the frameworks provided by the FWS. A state can be more restrictive but not more liberal than the federal framework.

Surveys to determine population status of migratory birds are conducted throughout the year. Some of these data are a year old when used in consideration of hunting regulations. Others, such as the May Breeding Pair and Habitat Survey for ducks are used in the year they are collected. While annual changes in some populations are potentially important, long- term trends are given more weight.

The CWS produces a status report in November and hunting season proposals in December for the following year. A public comment period occurs in January and February, final proposals are due in March and final rules are selected in June. The reason for earlier selection of hunting seasons in Canada is that essentially all migratory bird hunting seasons begin in early September.