Congressional bills call for broadened duck season framework
Legislation could increase conservation, state revenue
By Brian Broom
Mirror bills have been introduced in Congress which, if passed, will allow states to end duck seasons later and extend opportunity for youth, veterans and active military personnel into February.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) introduced S. 2942 and representatives Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) introduced H.R. 6013 which mirrors Hyde-Smith's bill. Both bills, known as the Migratory Bird Framework and Hunting Opportunities for Veterans Act, call for extending the windows of opportunity for states to set seasons to January 31 as opposed to the current end set at the final Sunday in January. The bills also call for allowing youth hunters as well as veterans and active military personnel to hunt during the first weekend in February.
“My legislation is about states’ rights, establishing consistent closing dates, and showing a small gesture of appreciation to those who defend our country," Hyde-Smith said. "It would also have the added benefit of generating more revenue for conservation, habitat improvements, and hunter education.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t have any sound reason for not giving states the option to extend their duck season closing date to the end of January. Sportsmen in Mississippi and other states have for years sought this change, but to no avail. My bill would correct that.”
Ed Penny, Ducks Unlimited southern region director of public policy explained what the changes.
Better days ahead?
"What the bill does is it sets the framework in date — January 31," Penny said. "This would give states the flexibility to select January 31, but it does not mandate it.
"This is not giving any state more days, we'd just have the flexibility of ending the season when the states' hunters desire."
Penny said for northern states, the possible change would make little, if any, difference because waterfowl have migrated south at that time. For Mississippi, it's a different story because during most years it would allow more hunting when the most waterfowl are present. For instance, some years the last Sunday falls on January 25. So, on those years it would provide six additional days of prime hunting.
"The states that would benefit would obviously be Mississippi and states that are big wintering states," Penny said. "It will benefit Mississippi hunters. It will benefit southern states."
As Hyde-Smith stated, it could produce an economic benefit for conservation. By moving the season later when more ducks are present and allowing a special hunt on the first weekend in February, more licenses, duck stamps and shotgun shells could be sold. Each of those generates money for conservation.
There could also be an economic benefit for the state if it increases participation. According to the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine, hunting, fishing and wildlife watching generated an estimated $2.7 billion in Mississippi in 2017. Of that, $1.14 billion was attributed to hunting.
“A slight extension to the season is reasonable and one way to support hunting, which is more than a tradition in Mississippi," Hyde-Smith said. "It is an economic powerhouse.
“A few additional days of duck hunting for our military and veterans could generate additional economic activity in states that choose to extend duck season.”
Although the bills are in the early stages of the legislative process, a hearing on H.R. 6013 has been scheduled.
"Ducks Unlimited is actually testifying before the House Committee on Natural Resources on Tuesday," Penny said. "Dale Hall, our CEO, is testifying.
"We are working closely with state and federal partners to ensure it meets the authors' intents and is consistent with adaptive harvest management."