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Prepare for waterfowls

OUTDOORS -

August 17, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

Maryland has a long tradition as one of the top hunting states for waterfowls in the country.

Hunters can begin preparing for the 2008-09 season with the announcement of official early-season dates. Dates for the late waterfowl seasons will be announced shortly.

The early season for resident Canada geese will be run Sept. 1-15 in the eastern zone. The western zone's season, which includes Washington County, runs Sept. 1-25.

The daily bag limit is eight geese per day. During the early resident Canada goose season, hunters may use shotguns capable of holding more than three shells, while legal shooting hours will be extended to one-half hour past sunset.

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Teal season is a traditional early-season favorite in September in Maryland. This season, which is only open east of Interstate 95, runs from Sept. 18-27. The boundary for the area open for the season has changed. Hunters are urged to check www.dnr.state.md.us/huntersguide/ewfchart.asp for details.

All migratory game bird hunters, including landowners who are license exempt, must obtain the Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit and the Maryland Migratory Game Bird stamp to go along with the general hunting license. In a recent change, hunters are no longer required to have a signed copy of the Maryland stamp, but are required to have a receipt for the purchase of the stamp.

In addition to all of the state licenses and stamps, waterfowl hunters age 16 and over must possess the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation stamp (Federal Duck stamp). Hunters are still required to sign the stamp and carry it while hunting waterfowl. Hunters may obtain federal duck stamps at U.S. Post Offices or order them online.

The liberal daily bag limit and other regulations are designed to significantly reduce the number of resident Canada geese, which have become quite a problem in many areas.

Local interest in goose hunting has increased over the past few years, but many hunters say they are discouraged by the need for specialized and expensive equipment. The equipment list can be a long one, including decoys, calls, special shotguns and other equipment to hunt waterfowl.

Resident geese are hunted using a variety of tactics, including jump shooting and the more traditional approach of using decoys and calls. Large numbers of decoys aren't needed in the early season. In fact, when hunting small farm ponds, as few as five or six decoys are enough. A lot of the early season flocks are made up of small family groups which will respond to small decoy spreads.

Generally, the places chosen to set up decoys is much more important than the total number of decoys. The best spots are feeding areas the birds are already using, along with loafing areas and resting areas.

The tremendous growth in the resident Canada goose populations has created a new and exciting opportunity for hunters. With a little preparation and equipment, you can be ready to take advantage of this opportunity.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at bill@weekend-sportsman.com

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