The recent cold snap has my hopes up: Maybe we won’t be swatting mosquitoes in the duck blind all season long again.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a good push of birds right off the bat.
There certainly seem to be plenty of woodies around, at any rate.
Last week about two dozen flocks of fast-moving, low-flying wood ducks zipped over my head as I sat in a deer stand near the Santee River. I bet there were 150 or more birds, in all.
That got my attention.
Late-season waterfowl hunting starts this Saturday, and you can bet the pre-dawn waters of the ACE Basin and Santee Delta will be swarming with blind-covered john boats.
With any luck, I’ll be out there, too, either wading through flooded timber or tucked in the blind on my buddy’s decked-out War Eagle.
Rules and regs
The duck and goose seasons run Nov. 23-Dec. 1, then Dec. 7-Jan. 26.
There’s a Feb. 6-Feb. 15 extension for Canada and white-fronted geese. (There are exclusion for Clarendon County and parts of Orangeburg and Berkeley counties, so check online at dnr.sc.gov.)
Shooting hours are from half-hour before sunrise until sunset, and those times vary slightly depending on geographic location (check the state’s Migratory Game Bird Hunting Guidebook for a chart).
Waterfowl hunters must use loads with nontoxic shot and plug their guns so they hold only three rounds.
They must carry a state Migratory Waterfowl permit ($5.50), a federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp ($15, signed across the face of the stamp), a state Migratory Bird Permit (free) and a basic hunting license. If you’re hunting waterfowl on Wildlife Management Area, you’ll need a WMA permit, too ($30.50).
The daily per-person limit is six ducks. This aggregate limit can include any combination of teal, gadwall, ringnecks, shovelers and other common duck species.
However, your take must include no more than four mallards (two hens), two pintails, one fulvous whistling duck, one black-bellied whistling duck, three wood ducks, two redheads, one canvasback, four scaup, and one black duck or one mottled duck.
Separate total possession limits apply (for multi-day trips, for example), so check online.
Mergansers, sea ducks, geese, brant and coots have their own limits or seasons, so again, check DNR’s site or pick up a copy of the hunting guidebook.
The daily bag limit for coot is 15. The possession limit is 45. The merganser daily bag limit is five, not to include more than one hooded merganser. The possession limit is 15, not to include more than three hooded mergansers.
The daily bag limit for blue and snow geese is 25. There is no possession limit.
The daily bag limit for Canada and white fronted geese is five, not to include more than two white-fronted geese. Possession limit is 15, not to include more than six white-fronted geese.
For more details, check out the waterfowl hunting section at dnr.sc.gov. You’ll find some great guides there, including:
“S.C. Migratory Game Bird Hunting Handbook”
“S.C. Waterfowl Hunting and Baiting Brochure”
“Ducks at a Distance: A Waterfowl Identification Guide”
Dove season opens up
The year’s remaining dove season segments will run Nov. 23-30 and Dec. 19-Jan. 15. Shooting time is half-hour before sunrise until sunset.
The daily bag limit is 15 mourning doves per person. There’s no limit on Eurasian collared doves.
For special regulations apply for WMAs, so check dnr.sc.gov.
Reach Matt Winter, manager of niche content and design and editor of Tideline magazine, at 843-937-5568 or mwinter@ postandcourier.com.