For years, Maine bird hunters in search of woodcock had just 30 days — generally the month of October — to do so.
After years of study and discussion, that all changed in 2011.
“Last year we lobbied the [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service, with some colleagues of mine, for an extension of the woodcock season from 30 to 45 days,” said Brad Allen, a wildlife biologist who serves as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s bird group leader.
Hunters felt that they often missed out on the migrating woodcock because the season sometimes ended before the birds headed south.
“You’re hunting right on the cusp of when [the woodcock] want to be headed south, right about the first of November [when the previous season ended],” Allen said.
Taking advantage of those extra 15 days in 2011, Allen said the hunting could still be hit-or-miss.
“The days that we had in November last year, they could be glorious or they could be ‘All the birds are gone,’” Allen said.
The extension’s purpose was simple, Allen said: Give hunters a bit more opportunity to get into the woods.
And Allen said the impact on the birds was minimal, because few hunters likely took part in the extended season.
“Those of us who really, really enjoy hunting woodcock, each [of us] probably got out once or twice in that extended season before the birds migrated,” Allen said. “Getting those extra days of opportunity for hunters, I’m very proud that we lobbied for that, because one day in November can make your whole season.”
Allen had one such day during the first week of November when he joined a friend for a memorable hunt in Blue Hill.
“You don’t have to get out there and pound it all the extra 15 days, but just one glorious day with the leaves off, catching a flight of woodcock, that’s why we came,” Allen said.
Allen said he doesn’t expect many birds are taken by hunters during those extra 15 days.
“When it comes to additional woodcock taken by hunters in Maine in November, it’s probably in the hundreds,” Allen said. “It’s all about opportunity. And woodcock hunters are a good example of that: They’re not really bag-limit kinds of people. They just want to be out there working the dogs and having some opportunity, and that’s what the November season gives them.”
This year’s woodcock season stretches through Nov. 14.