Changes in Arizona
Waterfowl Season
Arizona's waterfowl season opened October 18 this year. There are several changes to the waterfowl seasons in Arizona, including season extensions for both duck and geese to January 26, 2003.

"The most significant change for us waterfowl hunters this year is shifting the season one week later to start on October 18 so the season can stay open until January 26. This year we also aligned the goose and duck seasons so the opening and closing dates coincide," advised migratory bird specialist Sam Lawry.

In past years, the duck season opened in early October on the same date as the small game (quail) season. The goose season started later rather than coinciding with the duck opener. Aligning the goose and duck seasons with the same open and closing dates (October 18 to January 26), should also make life a lot simpler for waterfowl hunters. Having a later season should enhance opportunities.

Arizona Waterfowl Is Dependent On Weather

Lawry explained that Arizona's waterfowl hunting is dependent on available habitat, waterfowl migration patterns and weather. "Extending the end of the season one week later coincides with peak migration times, giving all of us waterfowl enthusiasts more opportunities for hunting when the birds are here," he said.

Lawry said it typically takes bad weather in the northern states to move waterfowl south to Arizona. Sometimes, that doesn't happen until the later part of the season. "Last year, the many northern states experienced a mild winter, so we experienced much lower densities of waterfowl coming to Arizona, especially in the early season."

Although overall numbers of the North American waterfowl breeding populations declined from last year, Lawry said, the current numbers still support the longer seasons and seven-bird bag limits that hunters saw last year. This year's regulations continue to allow a seven-bird bag limit with no more than two female mallards, two redheads and four scaup in the bag.

Canvasback Hunting Shut Down

However, the 2002 breeding population estimates for canvasbacks continued to decline, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed the season on canvasbacks in all four flyways, which means you can't harvest canvasbacks in Arizona either.

Pintail Hunting Still Restricted

The 2002 breeding population estimates for pintails is at an all-time low. "This is largely tied to Canadian habitat conditions being extremely poor for pintails," Lawry explained.

As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a restrictive package for pintail with a one-bird bag per day and a 60-day season. Arizona's pintail season is November 28 through January 26, with a bag and possession of one and two birds respectively.

Scout Major Waterways/Lakes

Lawry highly recommends that waterfowl hunters do some scouting this year. "Unless Mother Nature blesses us with a lot of rainfall very soon, we can expect a lot of our traditional wetlands to be dry due to the state's prolonged drought. Therefore, plan on scouting the river systems and the state's plentiful lakes," he advises.

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