Arizona’s liberal 100-day duck season has some restrictions

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October 14th, 2008

Hunters are reminded that season is closed for canvasback ducks

Waterfowl season opened Friday, Oct. 3 in the mountain zone. The “liberal” season set by the federal framework and implemented by the Arizona Game and Fish Department is for a full 100 days, closing on Jan. 11 (in the mountain zone). However, duck hunters are reminded that the season is closed for canvasback ducks and there is a shorter season for scaup ducks for 2008-09.

Canvasback DuckCanvasbacks and redhead ducks are similar in appearance and are commonly misidentified in the field. To complicate the matter, both of these ducks inhabit the same habitats and hunting grounds.

Mike Rabe, waterfowl biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department explains, “In flight, canvasbacks and redheads are very difficult to tell apart. However, up close, the back on the canvasback is bright-white, where the redhead’s back is a dirty-grey.”

“Upon landing, the most notable difference is the shape of the head. The canvasback has a distinctively different head shape than any other duck. It has a dramatic pointy slant with a dark black bill; the redhead has a typical duck head and a grey-colored bill with a black tip.”

However, if you are uncertain, refrain from shooting either species. Hunters are encouraged to focus on pursuing more commonly identifiable ducks like teal, mallard, widgeon, and gadwall ducks to avoid accidently shooting a canvasback out of season.

In addition, there is a shortened season for scaup ducks. The season start date is delayed for both the mountain and desert zones, Oct. 18 and Nov. 1 respectively, with a bag limit of only two scaup permitted.

Regardless of zone, waterfowlers need to be aware of a duck that is slightly similar to scaups – the ring-necked duck. Their coloration is very similar, but there are a few noticeable differences, even in flight.

“Scaup have a solid colored bill, where a ring-neck has two rings around its bill, one at the tip and the other right at the base where it meets the feathers,” says Rabe. “The backs are different, too: the scaup is mostly black, while the ring-neck has a white back. The undersides, as shown in flight, are varied, with the scaup having white stripes at the back of the wing, while the ring-neck’s are almost completely dark.”

Hunters are reminded to be sure of their duck identification prior to shooting due to these conditions and to be familiar with the 2008-09 Arizona Waterfowl and Snipe Regulations for other seasons, bag and possession limits.

To improve your duck identification, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Web site on “Ducks at a Distance: A Waterfowl Identification Guide” by Bob Hines. The information can be viewed online at, downloaded or ordered in a printed pocketbook version.

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