There will be some big changes in hunting seasons next year, including duration and starting dates and license year beginning and ending dates. I'll cover all that as soon as the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has solidified and makes public the changes and new dates.
In the meantime, let's turn to a few migratory bird subjects, since the goose season in much of the state opened this past Monday, Sept. 1. To participate in the September early Canada goose season you must have a 2012-2013 hunting license. Of course you're aware you'll also need a Migratory Bird Stamp. That's a federal requirement; these stamps can usually be purchased in almost any post office for $15.
Then you'll need a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number. That is free and can be secured by mail, telephone or on-line. The HIP number became a requirement here in New York state back in 1998. Your personal HIP number is valid from Aug. 1, 2013 through April 16, 2014.
New regulations start after that date (which coincides with the ending of the bonus snow goose season April 15, 2014. You'll probably have to get a new HIP number after April 16. The entire process of getting a HIP number involves answering a few questions and takes five minutes or so.
You'll need that HIP number while hunting geese, ducks or even woodcock, though the requirements for woodcock hunting are a bit different, but you can get all that in the 2013-2014 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide booklet you received when you purchased your new license. Keep that HIP number with you anytime you're hunting migratory birds, including woodcock (timberdoodles). Write the number on the back of your hunting license since you should always have that with you as well.
Remember, there's a requirement that you use non-toxic shot when hunting waterfowl, but not for timberdoodles. Incidentally, non-toxic shot can generally be defined as anything other than lead or steel. I prefer bismuth but there are many others that fit the definition.
Since lead shot was banned in 1988 manufacturers have come up with a number of alternatives, all of which seem to work adequately, and while they were relatively expensive at first the price of these alternatives has come down considerably. Steel is still allowed but you generally need a separate barrel for that, since steel can wreak havoc with conventional barrels.
15 GEESE A DAY
The DEC has also promulgated some additional changes in the early Canada goose season, due to the burgeoning population. These changes are primarily in bag limits and a few other items. When the DEC established the September goose season in the early 1990s New York state's resident goose population numbered around 130,000 birds, but that has now expanded to more than 200,000 birds.
As a result, during most of September goose hunters are now allowed to take up to 15 Canada geese per day. The previous limit was eight per day. It's hoped these modifications will help hunters remove some 85,000 birds from the population. The only place where this increased bag limit will not be in effect is in the Lake Champlain Zone.
Three other changes are in effect as well: shooting hours are extended to one-half hour after sunset rather than closing at sunset; hunters are now allowed to use electronic calls for Canada geese; and hunters may now use shotguns capable of holding more than three shells at a time (but no more than seven).
The only time and place where these three measures will not be allowed are during Sept. 21-22 in the Northeastern Waterfowl Hunting Zone, during Youth Waterfowl Hunting Weekend. Remember, if you do any hunting prior to Oct. 1 you must have your 2012-2013 hunting license with you.
The updated regulations are posted on the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor. Read them carefully before venturing out.