SI Vault
Richard Alden Knight
October 12, 1959
A fierce storm of protest has been raised by gunners on all flyways against the 1959 waterfowl regulations—the most sweeping changes in the past decade, mostly the result of the Canadian drought. Season-length cutbacks of 20 days on the Atlantic and Central flyways and 30 days on the Mississippi flyway have disgruntled waterfowlers; and Pacific Coast flyway gunners, although they lose but one shooting day, are outraged by any restrictions. The severity of this national discord was expressed last week by Parker Smith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife official in Atlanta. "I guess we are the nerve center of the biggest outdoor bellyache in the history of the Atlantic seaboard," Smith said. "From the tremendous and continuous clamor of complaints that have poured in from hunters, I believe we would have been far better off to discontinue the 1959 season altogether, rather than to reduce the bag limits and shooting days so drastically."
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October 12, 1959

The Battle Of The Bag Limits

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With all the facts at hand, the best forecast for the Central flyway is poor.



The Mississippi flyway stands to be the hardest hit of all the areas. Catering as it does, both by geographic location and feeding facilities, to puddle ducks rather than diving species, this flyway suffered a severe setback in bird count, with the late-hatching broods in the lower provinces crossing the border in pinfeathers.

Mallard and pintail make up a good percentage of the shooting available to gunners in the states fed by the Mississippi flyway. These two species, along with two diving ducks (canvasback and redhead), were the principal drought victims of the Canadian provinces this past spring. The divers, restricted last year, had limits cut to one of either species.

Although gunners in this area do not subscribe to the slashes in their season and bag limits, the facts seem to be against them. In fact, at one point there was considerable doubt on the part of wildlife observers in the province regions that the young birds would be in feather and able to fly at all by the time the ice and snow of an early winter set in.



Gunners on the Eastern seaboard have a curious season ahead of them. Faced, as are their contemporaries on the remaining flight paths, with drastic cutbacks in season rather than in bags, they still can point with some justice to the possibility that this year may be better than last.

Last year a near-disastrous million-bird drop in the transient waterfowl along the Atlantic flyway gave observers reason to fear an even worse reduction this year. Unlike other flyway habitants, the species using the Atlantic route follow the same pattern every year. Fewer birds this year would spell lasting danger. But aerial surveys and on-the-spot bird counts in key regions indicate that the Maritimes—a section of Canada normally not considered as a huge reserve of waterfowl—came forward to partially offset the drought in the customary breeding regions. A certain amount of refugees filtered into this region—birds moving with the water. These immigrants combined with the normal population and, enjoying normal water levels and food, produced a better-than-average hatch and assured gunners on the Atlantic coast birds for sport this year. But this fact has been greeted with more complaint than acclamation because of cutbacks few felt were necessary.

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