Duck hunters keep an eye on the calendar
Regardless if you can believe it or not and despite the ridiculous heat there is a group of hunters who have already started to count down the days until the season opens. Waterfowl hunters already are scouring the countryside in search of new places to hunt and taking care of the places they already have. The thermometer may say 100 degrees but that doesn’t deter the legions of hunters who call themselves waterfowlers. With early teal season just on the horizon in mid September many hunters are growing more anxious by the day. You can already see a whole new supply of gear and goodies on the shelves at the sporting goods stores and if pre-season census counts are any indication of what’s to come this season you may see even more really soon.
According to published reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its preliminary count on mid-continent breeding ducks and habitats, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. Total duck populations were estimated at 42 million breeding ducks on the surveyed area. This estimate represents a 13 percent increase over last year’s estimate of 37.3 million birds and is 25 percent above the 1955-2008 long-term average. The 2009 report is filled with positive news for all duck species. As might be expected, most breeding populations increased as habitat conditions significantly improved from 2008 to 2009. Of the commonly surveyed species four of the 10 showed a significant increase, and six of 10 were significantly above their long-term averages. The mallard population increased 10 percent above last year. An estimated 8.5 million mallards were on traditionally surveyed areas this spring, compared to last year’s estimate of 7.7 million birds and are now 13 percent above the long-term average. Other notable increases from 2008 include canvasbacks (+35 percent), northern shovelers (+25 percent) and northern pintails (+23 percent). Pintail numbers increased for the first time since 2006, but remain 20 percent below the long-term average.
The early numbers look really good but as any seasoned water fowl hunter knows they are only numbers and plenty can happen between now and then. For years now we have heard about record numbers of ducks and geese to the north and on the breeding grounds only to see local marshes show few birds during the season. The estimates are just that, estimates. The real factor will be what kind of winter we have and will it help push birds farther into our area. Last year despite the tremendous amount of damage Ike did to our area the overall hunting was really good, especially in the Louisiana marshes where they enjoyed some outstanding action all season long. This year could very well be just as good with a little help from the weatherman.
Regardless if you can believe it or not the season will be here before you know it and now is the time to start preparing. Get your retriever in shape, take time to get out and shoot some clays, and make plenty of scouting trips. Keep in mind that there are a whole host of creepy crawlies out there when you scout so keep a close eye on kids and dogs at all times. This time of year is exciting and full of promise as each day the start of the next season gets closer. Don’t wait until the last minute to start preparing because you just may miss out on some really good hunts.