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Pintail Bag Limit Update

A Look at the Current Pintail Bag-Limit Situation

Pintail Bag Limit Update
(Photo courtesy of Brian Richter)

Back in January, WILDFOWL Magazine reported the possibility of an increase in the 2025-2026 pintail bag limit. According to multiple sources, the odds of a 3-pintail bag-limit are becoming more of a reality.

WILDFOWL spoke with Dr. Chris Nicolai on the matter, who said, “Part of the reason states implemented a restricted season was due to the fact they were overestimating pintail harvest by 230%.” He also noted that harvest rates have no impact on the overall number of pintails making their journey through the flyways come duck season. That’s why the conditions of their breeding grounds and their total duck production numbers during the Spring counts are of vital importance.

A recent report from Delta Waterfowl revealed that a new population model has been instituted for pintails. This model allows biologists to more accurately account for harvest, breeding, population surveys, and banding studies.

“Based on a new integrated population model for pintails, the USFWS Regulations Committee on May 17 adopted an Interim Northern Pintail Harvest Strategy to guide the setting of regulations for the 2025-26 waterfowl season. The new strategy, which was developed based on banding, population survey, and harvest data, allows four options: Bag limits could be three pintails daily, two, one, or a closed season for the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific flyways. The Atlantic Flyway will have a three-pintail daily limit every season unless the model calls for a closed season in the other three flyways.” (Via Delta Waterfowl)

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) says that this is the best science they’ve ever had on pintails. An encouraging step in the right direction—not just for increased bag limits, but for a healthier pintail population overall.

A closed season would occur with numbers dropping below 1.75 million. While pintail numbers crashed to 1.78 million in 2022, they surged to 2.21 million in 2023. Opening the door for an increased bag limit in 2025-2026. (Via Delta Waterfowl)

However, it is important to note that while pintail numbers are on the rise, nothing has been made official. The USFWS is ready to implement a 3-pintail bag-limit, but the 2023 and 2024 count will play a very large role. If numbers continue to climb, the possibility will become very good. But if the numbers take another dip, it could be a few more years until we see a rise in the pintail bag limit.

WILDFOWL will continue to report on this issue as more information becomes available.




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