Youth Waterfowl Day is Saturday, September 20

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Maine's 2003 Youth Waterfowl Hunt is Saturday, September 20. This one-day, kids-only hunt is a great opportunity to introduce young people to waterfowl hunting. The weather is warm, the ducks are abundant, the chance for success is excellent, and the focus is on the kids. Participants must be 10-15 years old, possess a junior hunting license (no stamps are required for junior hunters), and be accompanied by an adult who is at least 18 years old. The adult must be the parent or guardian, or a parent- or guardian-approved person who either holds a valid Maine hunting license or has successfully completed a hunter safety course.

Hunting opportunities for young hunters on this special one-day hunt generally are the same as last year. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily limits on ducks, mergansers and coots are the same as during the regular duck season, except that 1 black duck may be taken. A junior hunter may kill up to 4 regular ducks (dabblers and divers); special restrictions on some of the more commonly-encountered species follow: the daily limit of 4 may not include more than 1 black duck, 2 wood ducks, or 2 female mallards (4 mallards total).

In addition to the daily limit of 4 ducks, 2 teal (blue-winged or green-winged) may be taken. The daily limit on mergansers is 5 of which only 1 may be a hooded merganser; and 5 coots may be taken. The daily limit on Canada geese is 4. See the 2003 Maine Migratory Game Bird Hunting Schedule for complete details on daily bag limits, as well as other waterfowl hunting regulations. The Migratory Game Bird Hunting Schedule is available from license vendors or on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife website: .

Tips for an enjoyable hunt
Junior hunters and their adult mentors can do several things to increase their chances of an enjoyable experience on their Youth Waterfowl Hunt. As in all types of hunting, pre-season preparation is key. Practice safe gun handling and work on shotgunning skills. Preseason scouting will help in deciding on which wetland to hunt and will provide opportunity to practice waterfowl identification skills. Many books on bird identification, including several field guides (Peterson's series, National Geographic, Audubon, etc), are available at libraries and book stores, and U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center has the excellent pamphlet, Ducks in the Distance, on their website: .

Where to hunt
The waters and wetlands that provide good duck hunting during the regular season in October will be good choices for the youth hunt in September. Ducks currently are abundant on most emergent marshes and swamps, and along oak-lined streams where they are feeding on this year's abundant acorn crop. Hunters at a loss for specific ideas may consider one of the excellent state-owned Wildlife Management Areas (see MDIFW's website) or National Wildlife Refuges (stop at the appropriate Refuge office for information on permitted activities).

Placing the blind
Several factors should be considered when deciding exactly where to hunt within a wetland. Your blind may be natural marsh vegetation, a camouflaged boat, or a camouflaged platform, but it is important that the junior hunter have solid footing for safe shooting, and an unobstructed view of incoming ducks. Be sure to set up so that the morning sun will rise behind you; this will keep your face in the shadows (making you less visible to the ducks) and the sun's glare out of your eyes. If the wind is blowing, it's best to have it at your back, as waterfowl prefer to land while facing into the wind (hence they will approach from the direction you are facing). Choose a site with some open water on which to place decoys - a couple to a dozen decoys will suffice - and surrounding vegetation that is not so dense that it will hinder dispatching and retrieving any downed ducks.

When to go
Ducks are most active just before and just after dawn, and there is a second peak of activity at dusk. The best time to hunt ducks is at first light, which entails setting up in the pre-dawn darkness. During mid-day, ducks may be successfully hunted by jump-shooting from a canoe.

Keep it fun
Bring plenty of snacks and drinks
Dress appropriately for the weather
Bring a camera to record memories on film
Know when to call it a day