A Look into the 2022-2023 Hunt Fish Rule 

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s draft 2022-2023 Hunt Fish Rule contains a phaseout of lead ammunition on a number of wildlife refuges, which will harm hunting access, but also includes a mixed bag of increased opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges across the country. SCI, through our Hunter Advocacy Action Center, submitted thousands of comment letters to Director Martha Williams today expressing opposition to a lead ammo ban from the hunting community. SCI President Sven Lindquist also submitted comments, here. While fighting against the phaseout of lead ammunition continues to be SCI’s priority, here is a deep dive into the specifics of the 2022-2023 Hunt Fish Rule:

Basket Slough-OR: Includes a 200-acre expansion to the September Canada Goose Season and adds two youth days and 4 September Canada goose days. This expansion is for waterfowl only, so it has no impact on lead ammunition rules. Refuge-specific rules include distance requirements of 200 yards apart and a group limit of 3. 

Blackwater and Eastern Neck-MD: Allows incidental coyote harvest during deer seasons and adds straight walled cartridge, primitive deer hunt, youth, veteran’s, and waterfowl seasons. The rule also aligns with the state regulations on the youth deer season and on deer bag limits. Finally, it adds a primitive February deer season, implements an online portal for permits, and has a lead ammo  and tackle by 2026.  

Canaan Valley-WV: The rule includes a possible expansion of 2466 acres, but with prohibited deer drives and a lead phaseout by 2026 including for upland hunting. Additionally, the state requires doe before buck harvest. Hunting is allowed on 97% of the 16,493 acres, but the rule would essentially enact a lead ban and an overall loss of opportunity in exchange for a possible expansion.

Chincoteague-VA: The proposal would add raccoon, opossum, fox, coyote during deer season, and muzzleloader for big game seasons. It would remove limits on number of hunters, follow state bag limits, open a quota turkey hunt, expand archery only hunt zone, open turkey, and open waterfowl areas to all migratory game birds. 

Crab Orchard-IL: Would expand 1,761 acres for waterfowl, which already prohibits lead ammunition. 

Erie-PA: Would add feral hog, swan, weasel, porcupine seasons on 159 acres, but with a lead phase out in 4 years. It would also open 4 miles of fishing with non-lead tackle requirements. It would also require non-lead ammo for all species taken by shotgun except deer and turkey. The rule would prohibit the possession of lead tackle, not just the use, and seemingly arbitrarily prohibits fishing within 330 feet of a bald eagle nest site.

Ernest F. Hollings-SC: Adds crossbows for whitetail deer hunt 

Great Thicket (GT) and Shawangunk Grasslands (SG): SGwould be opened to turkey and archery-only bear seasons, a total of 31 acres. GT, 144 acres, would be opened to archery only whitetail, bear, and turkey for the first time, but with turkey hunting only until 2:00 PM, dogs not allowed, fees to apply, and limited permits. 

James River-VA: Currently 4,700 acres, it would be expanded by 454 acres for whitetail, coyote, turkey, small game, spring turkey, waterfowl, and one fishing location. On Plum tree island, waterfowl blinds would be reduced from 6 to 3 and fishing would be allowed 3 days per week. On Presquille Island, fishing would be allowed. Rappahannock would allow whitetail, coyote, and turkey, but with no lead tackle for coyotes. 

Patoka River, IN: Would open an additional 74 acres, but with non-lead ammunition by 2026-2027 and prohibits hunting and discharge within 50 yards of public use facilities. Opens 74 additional acres, but with a lead ammo phaseout.  

Patuxent Research Refuge-MD: Would align federal with state regulations for dove hunting, permit use of dogs for waterfowl hunting, and would open rabbit, doves, and expand turkey hunting on 1,812 acres. It would also expand rabbit, gray squirrel, dove, and woodchuck hunting on units, while align with state regulations on deer seasons. Non-lead ammunition is already required for upland, turkey, migratory bird, and waterfowl hunting, and would include a phaseout of lead for deer and other species by 2026.

Rachel Carson-ME: The rule would open mentored spring turkey hunt on Rachel Carson and Great Thicket, would open new parcels of Great Thicket to big game, migratory bird, and upland. Bobwhite quail, snipe, and pheasant on Rachel Carson would be closed as they do not occur there. Additionally, it would not allow coyote hunting at night, even though state law does. A refuge-specific permit for each species would be required. Finally, it would prohibit rifles and muzzleloader for deer, and include a lead phaseout. 

San Diego-CA: While currently not open, the rule would recognize hunting of big game (i.e., deer), resident small game (i.e., rabbits), and resident and migratory upland game birds (i.e., dove, quail) on the San Diego NWR as a compatible wildlife-dependent recreational use. The rule prohibits possessing more than 25 shotshells while in the field, and fails to recognize the California requirement for non-lead ammo.

Trustom Pond-RI: Would expand archery deer seasons, and already requires non-lead ammo for waterfowl.

Turnbull-WA: Would open turkey hunting on 1,883 acres in the fall with non-lead ammunition; the area already has waterfowl hunting and a limited elk season.

Wallops Island-VA: Would open to upland – raccoon, opossum, fox, coyote, rabbit, and squirrel – for the  first time and all migratory birds, but require non-lead ammunition upon implementation for new hunting areas (with a lead phaseout for deer by 2026). Sunday hunting is not allowed, as the Sunday hunting allowance in Virginia just went into effect.  

Thank you to all members and advocates who took action on this critical issue. SCI will continue to fight for hunting access across the country as we stand First for Hunters. 

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