Small-game hunting season begins Saturday
The state Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife recently set seasons and bag limits for the Rhode Island small-game hunting season that begins on Saturday, Oct. 20. Seasons and bag limits were set following a public hearing that was held in June.
According to the most recent statistics from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey, some 14,000 hunters spend more than $10 million annually in Rhode Island on trip and equipment-related expenditures for hunting activities.
The legal shooting hours for all small game – pheasant, bobwhite quail, rabbit, hare, squirrel and fox – are from sunrise to sunset. However, on opening day, legal shooting hours will be from 7 a.m. until sunset. The season for raccoon opened on Oct. 1, with legal shooting hours from 6 p.m. to midnight. Hunting hours for coyotes are a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Hunting coyotes is permitted all year.
The season for bobwhite quail runs until Nov. 25. Hunting season for all other small game runs until Feb. 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.
The daily bag limits for small game are: 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 and to 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 opening day 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.
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. According to the DEM, the stocking program, augmented by the gamebird permit, has improved opportunities to hunt pheasant. It has also improved bird habitats in the management areas.
Because small-game hunting will remain open during the shotgun portion of the deer season in the first half of December, all hunters are reminded to wear 500 square inches of fluorescent orange visible from above the waist, including a hat 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.
Seasons and bag limits for 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 Sept. 15 and ran until Oct. 14, with shooting hours from noon to sunset. Dove hunting reopens on Oct. 20 and runs until Nov. 10. It will also be open from Dec. 19 to Jan. 5, 2013. Shooting hours during the last segment are from sunrise to sunset, except that opening day shooting hours are from 7 a.m. to sunset. The daily bag limit for dove is 12 birds.
Woodcock hunting opens on Oct. 20 and closes on Nov. 30 with a daily bag limit of three birds. The season for rails and common snipe runs now until Nov. 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.
Check stations will be open for hunters using the Arcadia, Great Swamp, Carolina and Durfee Hill management areas for next four weekends. 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 station operators. The data assists the division in obtaining information on hunting effort and game harvested. 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 at DEM’s headquarters in Providence. A resident hunting license costs $18, 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 through Feb. 28, 2013, and during turkey season in April and May.
Seasons and bag limits for small game were set following a public hearing that was held in June. A hunting abstract, which summarizes various laws and regulations, is available from all license vendors, DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife offices in North Scituate and West Kingston, and at DEM headquarters. For more information, call the DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife at 789-0281.