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Friday, October 19, 2012

Let's make it a fair fight

Is it too late to buy some bunny-sized flak jackets, or better, little shotguns so the squirrels can shoot back?

Don't shoot! I surrender!
PROVIDENCE (DEM news release) - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife has set seasons and bag limits for the Rhode Island small game hunting season that begins on Saturday, October 20. Seasons and bag limits for small game were set following a public hearing that was held in June. The 2012-13 Hunting and Trapping Season Abstract summarizes various laws and regulations affecting wildlife and specifies season dates and bag limits for game species. The hunting season abstract is available from all license vendors, DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife offices in North Scituate and West Kingston, and DEM's Licensing Office at DEM Headquarters in Providence.

Hunting is a traditional recreational pastime in Rhode Island which contributes to the economic health of the state. According to the most recent statistics from the US Fish & Wildlife Service's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (2006), some 14,000 hunters spend over $10 million annually in Rhode Island on trip and equipment-related expenditures for hunting activities.

Let's at least make it a fair fight
The legal shooting hours for all small game, which includes pheasant, bobwhite, rabbit, hare, squirrel, and fox, are from sunrise to sunset; however, on October 20, legal shooting hours will be from 7:00 a.m. until sunset. The season for raccoon opened on October 1, with legal shooting hours from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. Hunting hours for coyotes, which have no closed season, are one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset.

The season for bobwhite quail opens on October 20 and runs until November 25. The pheasant season opens on October 20 and runs until February 28, 2013. The season for rabbit, hare, squirrel and fox opens October 20 and closes February 28, 2013. The ruffed grouse season is closed statewide. New this year, state lands are open to small game hunting during the shotgun deer season, December 1-16.

The daily bag limits for small game are as follows: pheasant (2), bobwhite (3), rabbit (3), hare (1), and gray squirrel (5). There is no bag limit for fox or raccoon.

Pheasant hunting requires the purchase of a gamebird permit. The permit fees are used to support the existing pheasant stocking program, allow for a longer season for pheasant stocking, and help pay for the cost of habitat improvements on state lands. A permit consists of six pheasant tags that allow hunters to harvest six pheasant with the requirement that each bird be tagged immediately upon taking. Pheasant will be stocked weekly beginning on October 20 and continuing through the end of December. Hunters are allowed to purchase an unlimited number of permits to take additional pheasant. The cost of a gamebird permit is $15.50, with the funds from the program used to acquire pheasants and assist in habitat management projects across the state.

According to principal wildlife biologist Brian Tefft, the Division of Fish and Wildlife plans to stock 4,000 ring-necked pheasants on state wildlife management areas. This season, 80 percent of the pheasants will be stocked between opening day and Thanksgiving, with three additional stockings during the late season that begins in December. The pheasant stocking program, augmented by the gamebird permit, has improved pheasant hunting opportunities and bird habitats in the management areas. Sportsmen should enjoy excellent hunting opportunities for ring-necked pheasant and other upland species again this year. As a result of a regulatory change, small game hunting will remain open during the shotgun portion of the deer season. All hunters are reminded to wear 500 square inches of fluorescent orange visible from above the waist, including a hat and/or vest during the shotgun deer season.

Pheasant stocking will occur in several land units on all wildlife management areas including Arcadia, Great Swamp, Carolina, Durfee Hill, Black Hut, Buck Hill, Sapowet, Nicholas Farm, Big River, and the Simmons Mill Pond and Eight-Rod Farm management areas. Pheasant stocking will occur periodically from opening day through the end of the season. Hunter check stations have detailed maps of the best hunting areas available in the management areas.

Seasons and bag limits for R.I. migratory game birds are established following guidelines set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunting for mourning dove in the first segment began September 15 and ran until October 14, with shooting hours from noon to sunset. Dove hunting reopens on October 20 and runs until November 10, and will also be open from December 19 to January 5, 2013. Shooting hours during the last segment are from sunrise to sunset, except that on October 20 shooting hours are from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. The daily bag limit for dove is 12 birds.

Woodcock hunting opens on October 20 and closes on November 30 with a daily bag limit of three birds. The season for rails and common snipe runs now until November 9. Hunters are reminded that federal law requires that migratory bird hunters must use a shotgun that is capable of holding no more than three shells.

State wildlife management areas are in excellent condition for the start of the hunting season, as a result of planting food and cover plots and other habitat management activities designed to improve wildlife habitat. Significant habitat management projects, involving plantings, brush mowing and forest management activities designed to improve early successional habitats have occurred, adding significant wildlife habitat diversity in the management areas. Both game and non-game wildlife benefit from these habitat management projects on state lands so that hunters and non-hunters engaged in wildlife observation enjoy the benefits from these necessary habitat projects.

Small game check stations will be open for hunters using the Arcadia, Great Swamp, Carolina and Durfee Hill management areas on the following weekends as follows: October 20 & 21, October 27 & 28, November 3 & 4, and November 10 & 11. On these dates, all hunters must check in and out of the check station prior to hunting small game in these areas. All game harvested is recorded by the check station operators. The data assists the Division in obtaining information on hunting effort and game harvested. The check stations are staffed by knowledgeable DEM Fish and Wildlife personnel who provide valuable information on hunting in the state management areas and can answer questions from the public. No special permits are required to hunt small game other than a valid 2012 hunting or combination license.

Hunting licenses are available from various license vendors throughout the state and DEM's Division of Licensing at 235 Promenade Street, Providence. A resident hunting license costs $18.00, with all money collected going into a special restricted account used specifically to fund the state's wildlife restoration program. Hunters are advised to check with local authorities before hunting in unfamiliar areas, as municipalities may impose additional restrictions on hunting within their boundaries.

All users of state management areas and all hunters statewide are reminded that they must wear at least 200 square inches of solid daylight fluorescent orange material that is visible above the waist in all directions from the second Saturday in September to February 28, 2013 and from the third Saturday in April until the end of May during the turkey season. During the shotgun deer seasons, all users of state management areas must wear a total of 500 square inches of this material. This requirement is a vital part of the state's hunter safety effort and has been proven to reduce the incidence of hunting accidents.

For further information, hunters may contact the Division of Fish and Wildlife at the Great Swamp Field Office in West Kingston at 789-0281, or the Division of Law Enforcement at 222-3070.