BY THE IOWA DNR
Waterfowlers have waited all year for this: for the next three weekends in Iowa, there will be an opening day for duck and goose hunting. The north zone opens on Oct. 1, the central zone opens on Oct. 8 and the south zone opens on Oct. 15. Each zone is open seven days, then close for seven days, before re-opening.
Hunter success, of course, depends on migration and Mother Nature’s cooperation.
“We’re on track with our 10-year average for migration,” said Orrin Jones, state waterfowl biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The low temperatures we had mid-week likely spurred early migrants and its yet to be seen if it is a net gain or loss for us – hopefully we gain ducks ahead of the opener.”
As part of hunters’ preparation, Jones encouraged them to scout the areas they plan to hunt to check water levels and the status of the launches before opening day.
“Our water levels are variable across the state. Generally, northern Iowa east of the I-35 corridor is not in drought conditions, but there are pockets in severe drought, like in the Sioux City area of northwest Iowa, and in the southeast part of our state. I can’t stress enough how important scouting is ahead of time – nothing can replace putting your eyes on it,” Jones said.
Habitat conditions overall are good, he said, with lots of emergent vegetation, but additional rainfall would help.
As far as duck populations and what hunters can expect in the fall flight, Jones said the counts had been lower this year due to drought conditions in the northern prairie of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Manitoba in 2020 and 2021, but that same area had significant snow and rain in 2022.
“This is the first continental survey that was conducted since 2019 and while the counts were lower, the breeding conditions were good this year which hopefully equates to good productivity and good numbers of young birds in the migration,” he said.
The Iowa DNR conducts a migration survey each week and updates the information on its website, usually by noon on Friday. It also has a report on habitat conditions available. Both reports can be found at www.iowadnr.gov/waterfowl.
“We had the opportunity this year to re-evaluate and assess how we manage for Canada geese, which resulted in updating part our Canada goose management plan and led to changes for many of the areas closed to goose hunting and to the daily bag limits for geese,” Jones said.
The areas closed to Canada goose hunting in Dickinson, Lucas, Davis-Van Buren and Butler counties were eliminated, and the size of the closed areas in Worth-Winnebago, Guthrie, Adams, Jackson, Bremer and Union counties were reduced. The closed areas in Clay-Palo Alto, Emmet, and Monona-Woodbury counties remain unchanged. Canada goose information including the new maps can be found online at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Migratory-Game-Birds/Goose-Information.
The daily bag limit for Canada geese was increased from two to three birds per day beginning with the second segment of the regular season.