Choosing Duck Season Dates
New York has five waterfowl zones, which allow DEC flexibility to select duck season dates that match hunter values and duck migration in each zone. In 2019, DEC implemented a new process for selecting duck seasons that pairs input from a large portion of New York duck hunters with data of duck movements and in-season patterns of duck abundance. Duck season frameworks are set on a 5-year cycle. The 2023–2024 duck season is the final year of the cycle.
During the winter of 2023, DEC surveyed all duck hunters that registered for HIP via an email survey to re-assess what factors are the most important to duck hunters in each zone. DEC added questions to understand the relative importance of icing (freezing of smaller ponds, lakes, and streams) in relation to hunter satisfaction with season dates. Icing concentrates duck activity on larger lakes and rivers with open water and may be viewed positively or negatively by hunters depending on the types of equipment (i.e. boat) duck hunters use or the habitats in which they typically pursue ducks. The survey also specifically asked duck hunters about which species are most important to them.
This spring, DEC met with the Waterfowl Hunter Task Force in each zone to develop a list of possible season date options that might meet the range of varying hunter objectives. These season options will be evaluated relative to data trends (abundance, migration timing, ice/temperature) and important hunter values identified in the survey to determine which season date option best aligns with what hunters value. The results of the process will be used to set the duck season dates for each zone from 2024–2029.