I really can get worked up about this.... No I do not believe the USFWS #s. I believe the there are factors in thier model that are inflating the numbers by at least 20%. And I predict duck hunting as we have known it the last 10 years, if not even the last 30 years will cease to exist shortly.
As for KO's comment--there is 1 error in it, possibly 2 errors in it. First, roughly only 1/2 of the hatched ducklings make it to fledged feathers(flight). Thus it would be 24 M. The second is the 10% nesting sucess rate, I beleive it is closer to 7-8% from the most recent reports. So that would make it 16M of new birds added each year. Remember then that rigors of migration (both S & N) is still the #1 mortality of ducks. Bottom line is there is a continued errosion of base duck numbers, translated that means less and less ducks year after year-and that is what we are seeing. The scientists all agree it takes between 15 and 20% production (nesting success, EG ducklings actually hatched) that is needed to sustain duck numbers. Principally the low rate on the current nesting has to do with predation by raccoon, fox, mink, etc... but the #1 mortality of hen Mallards and Pintails [both are the earliest nesting of the grasslands neting ducks (when food is scarcist for the predators)] is predation while she is sitting on the nest---THAT is why hunters should refrain from shooting these hens.
Another thing is that the USFWS only flies the same areas each year which is good for long same place statisical comparisions. These areas are the highest nesting sucess rate areas. The problem with that is it has not taken into account what has happened historically over the years to all the other areas not flown, to so called "marginal" or "lessor" area of production, yet none the less I think still very important because of it such a huge area. So many wetlands have been drained and tiled it is simply unbelievable here in MN. And we are not alone. Other states like MI, WI , NE, KS, etc which are not considered "production" states, do produce ducks--but not any where near what they used to either, and frankly I think it is a part of the missing ducks--these other areas are not producing the ducks due to Drainage, tiling, intense AG use, developement, etc.... These others areas I think accounted for many more duck produced than what was thought IMO, so the "marginal" states along with the high "production" states of MN, SD, ND all are not near the duck production levels they used to be. Heck MB CA has lost a full 40% of its wetlands and grasslands in the last 30 years, SK is right behinfd them now. And SK alone used to produce more ducks than IA, MN, SD, and ND Combined
from 80 years years ago when all still had the vast majority of the wetlands/grasslands in tact.
So now you then have the less land too for the ducks to nest in. Basically 1 sq mi of grassland will now produce 10 successful brood hatches. Problem is over 90% of the traditional grasslands are now intensly used for AG production and what areas there are to nest in--there are lots of predators. It forces the ducks into a lot less nesting area-which means it is a lot easir for the predatos to find the nests. It has been proven, you need at least 40% grassland cover in the Township to get maximum potential for nest success. Also in conjunction with this is that the critical seasonal wetlands that are still being tiled. I was at a presentation 2 weeks ago by Ray Norgaard, a head guy of MN DNR when it comes to ducks in MN. Last year alone in MN it was estimated that 19,000 miles of tile line was installed into MN alone. These small sheet water areas that are being tiled are crucial for the upcoming nesting ducks for pair bounding, courtship, food supplies (macroinvetertbrates) and basically so they have their own "space" from others ducks. Basically as a result of all the tiling that has been done, the ducks have no space to go to start a healthy productive family. Guys-it is like you buying a home and then starting a family, well it is the same thing for ducks-except most often where there USED to be a place, there is no place for them to go start a home/family. Everybody likes to think of the TypeIII (generally year round water) and Type IV (2 to 5' of water) wetlands for ducks, granted when these wetlands that were drained it is bad news, but the continued loss of Type I (seasonally wet in spring only) and Type II (generally dry by fall) of wetlands is the linch pin or keystone if you will, of why the ducks are not producing.
And as mentioned, then there is the new rural based economy pressure of hunting. Some call it the new era of Commercialization of market hunting. And I think they are right. Traditionally (1940s-60s) there used to be 30 to 40 day seasons with 4 duck a day limit in the MS flyway. And now we have 60 day seasons and 6 ducks a day limit? So why in the "good old days" when the skies were filled with clouds of ducks there was such lessor length of seasons and bag when comapered to recently? So today there is not near the numbers of ducks and yet we have liberal seasons and bag? Gentlemen, there is something terribly wrong with this picture.
So in conclusion, high loss of temporary seasonal wetlands(Type I & II), loss the Type III and IV wetlands, intense AG use, predators. and lastly what I consider the careless (and in the last couple of years reckless) setting of seasons/bag in the last 30 years by the USFWS has all lead to where we are today. There are not near the ducks in the Flyways like there used to be, nor what the USFWS claims there is. In my estimation, you will never see 60 day 6 bird limits again, we will be lucky to see 40 day 4 duck seasons within 4 years time, and I predict that huntable numbers of ducks will be nonexistant within 20 years time (closed hunting season) unless there are DRASTIC
measures taken--principally a complete overhauling of the AG system (no more subsidies for the Big Ag Biz interests-do NOT fool yourself-there are no more "family" farms--most are now Corp farms getting US welfare payments disguised as "subsidies"), the return of huge tracks of land to grassland, the restoration of huge areas of Type I, II, IIII wetlands and a reduced season/bag limits. We (the taxpayers of the USA) literally forced and paid the farmers to drain and tile their farms in the 1960-70s and we are still continuing that today, now with the subsidies. Why not take this subsidies $ and instead pay them to reclaim the land and wetlands? Unless these steps are taken, I predict that in my life time, duck hunting as I have known it the last 38 years will cease to exist by the time I retire in 20 years. God I hope I am wrong, but my heart and mind says the writing is clearly on the wall unless drastic steps are taken now.