KW Morrow, White River

August 16th, 2004

It's Just About That Time:
Replenishing Your Supply of Tying Feathers
By KW Morrow (silvermallard)

I guess it's this unseasonably cool weather, but I caught my thoughts turning toward bird hunting this morning. With dove seasons opening nationwide within the next few weeks and teal and grouse seasons opening shortly thereafter, I found myself making a list of things to do to prepare for the wingshooting openers. One of the items on my list is to take an inventory of my feathers for fly tying. Dove feathers make an excellent substitute for many soft hackle patterns. Teal feathers can be used in a number of dry flies and emergers. Early goose season provides opportunities to harvest good biot. And when the later seasons open on quail, pheasants, and regular ducks; there are a host of other feathers to stock up on after successful hunts.

Most states' dove seasons open September 1st. Teal season generally falls in mid-September as these small ducks migrate to the Gulf of Mexico. Early goose seasons generally fall in September and October. Wise fly tiers across the country are sending cards, making phone calls, or stopping by with a jar of the wife's homemade blackberry jam - reuniting with their bird hunting relatives, friends, and neighbors - and subtly reminding them not to forget about those feathers.

Many anglers and fly tiers are not aware of federal regulations regarding the feathers and skins of migratory birds and how they must be shipped and handled. So I thought I'd take a minute this week to point some things out on that subject.

Federal regulations strictly prohibit the commercial trade in migratory bird parts including feathers. So don't offer to pay for them. But hunters are free to give them away, so long as they play by the rules. Basically, what that means is that if Uncle Brent is going to mail you some CDC and Mallard flank feathers, here's what he needs to do:

    1. If he's shipping a whole frozen bird, he must tag the carcass with a tag bearing his name, address, date harvested, species, and sex. This tag must remain with the bird parts until they are finally used in their entirety. It is legal to ship them in this manner via USPS.

    2. If he sends feathers, wings, etc. then the container should be clearly marked or labeled with the same information as above. It is incumbent upon the receiver to keep the tag with the bird parts until they are used.

Now, that's a summary of the law, but my personal experience has demonstrated that it's pretty much fine if you just keep the tags with your fly tying materials. The chances of a game warden entering your home are probably pretty slim if you're reading this. But, if you travel with fly tying supplies, you need to make sure you're legal. A warden checking you out on the stream or boat launch is well-versed in these regulations, and fines can be quite hefty.

Bird hunters can be an excellent source of fly tying materials. So, you better buddy up to one near you before some other fly tier does. Whether you need Pheasant tail feathers, Wood Duck flank feathers, or Grouse necks, it's well worth a bottle of your wingshooting buddy's favorite poison to make sure he's thinking of you during the Fall.

The aforementioned regulations for tagging and transporting migratory game bird parts apply to all doves, ducks, geese, rails, snipes, gallinule and woodcock. But they do not apply to other game bird species like quail, grouse, pheasant, or turkeys. Those feathers can be shipped and stored without tagging.

Now, back to my pre-Fall check lists... ~ Ken

About Ken:

Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1988, and spent the next several years serving in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the nation's service in 1993.

Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian, having penned articles and stories that have appeared in several national hunting publications like North American Hunter magazine, on, in regional and local newspapers, and historical and literary journals. He also provides hunting and dog training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers nationwide and works with other outdoors businesses and conservation organizations in the fields of public relations, promotional marketing, fund-raising, and advertising. He also is a partner in Silver Mallard Properties, LLC. He currently resides with his wife, Wilma, their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe, and their Labrador Retriever, Jake, in Branson, Missouri, where he founded the Branson/Tri-Lakes Chapter of Ducks Unlimited in 1998.

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