Identify your ducks before you shoot

It’s duck season everywhere in the state right now. But there are a few sneaky rules about how many ducks of certain species you can get. Do you know how to tell them apart before you pull the trigger?

Waterfowl hunting is a lot of fun, and ducks and geese can make for great meals. But it’s not very hard to screw up when you’re duck hunting. A former game warden once told me anyone who says they’ve never broken a rule while they’re duck hunting either is a liar or hasn’t gone duck hunting very much. There’s a lot of truth to that, even if you only consider the regulations on the kinds of ducks you can or can’t shoot. There’s also the added confusion of the two flyways in the state, both with different season dates. In the Central Flyway, there are two Zones, and one of those zones is divided yet again.

But back to those duck variety restrictions. Take the Central Flyway, as an example. You can shoot six ducks, but of those six, no more than five can be mallards, and of those, only two can be hen mallards. You can’t have more than one pintail, three wood ducks, two canvasbacks or two redheads. In the Pacific Flyway, the daily limit is seven ducks, but those same species limits apply. That’s a lot to follow, so don’t just take my word for it. Check your regulations carefully before you head to the marsh.

And even if you’re hunting an area where you don’t have to worry about whether what you’re drawing a bead on is a canvasback or a mallard, you still have to know that it’s a duck, and not a nasty-tasting merganser.

Spend some time with an old classic. The Ducks at a Distance guide, put together by the Department of the Interior back when I first took Hunter Safety, is still a great study aid. You can get a copy at your Game and Fish regional office, or visit CowboyStateNews.com and find the link to the .pdf.

Know your ducks, and have a great hunt!

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