A little off season debate---Inflated Duck numbers???

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A little off season debate---Inflated Duck numbers???

Postby Decoyer » Thu Feb 03, 2005 12:27 am

Anyone have any idea where all these ducks are that we are supposedly producing? I hunted throughout ND and didn't see the numbers like in the past. After talking to some veteran hunters from Saskatchewan, they said there was a SLIGHT improvement from last year, but that isn't saying much with most of prairie Canada in a drought.

After reading reports from several different southern states (yeah I know, but there isn't much else to do while in a computer class at NDSU) they just haven't seen the numbers that they are accustomed to, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi in particular. One would think that KS, NE, and MO would be stacked right now, but from the sounds of it that isn't the case. The Missouri in SD also didn't get the traditional build-up of Mallards that they are accustomed to, they peaked at 175,000 and that was in mid- December, and that is for the ENTIRE river from Mobridge to Iowa.

I think what is happening is that our USFWS is either somehow not interputting the information right or else they are feeling the pressure from areas in the country where duck hunting has become THE economy (ie eastern Arkansas, Camaron Parish, Louisiana, SE Texas, soon to be added ND and SD) to set liberal season lengths and remain somewhat positive on the overall bird numbers. Someone please prove me wrong and say they have 5 million mallards in their state, but from what I have concluded, there just isn't the ducks.....
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Postby KO » Thu Feb 03, 2005 6:11 am

I'm not so sure the USFWS spring counts are off that much. What is off is the number of birds being produced. Nest success isn't near what they believe it is. I had a USFWS service person tell me that they estimated the fall flight to be "something less" than 80 million.

In 1992 nest success was only at 10%. We have lost more habitat since then. At 10% and half the spring count being hens and those having 10 chicks each, would produce about 48 million birds......

The 80 million just didn't happen..

I don't blame the USFWS completely...their funding for July August brood counts is gone....without those flights there is no way to tell what kind of hatch the birds pulled off......
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Postby h2ofwlr » Thu Feb 03, 2005 9:05 am

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. :eek:

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.
Last edited by h2ofwlr on Fri Feb 04, 2005 12:06 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby HatterWayne » Thu Feb 03, 2005 9:25 am

One thing I've learned regarding govenment "statistics" :

"Figures lie, and liars figure"

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Postby Merganser » Thu Feb 03, 2005 10:17 am

Speaking for the hunting at Mattamuskeet area of NC this year - it sucked!
The worst year I have experienced there in past 13 years. We had some ducks to come in early season but left due to 60 to 70 degree days. Had another group of ducks come in about Christmas but they left for same reason. Finally had lots of Widgeon in last two weeks of season but they sat on lake all day and came to our impounds only at night.
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Postby surf_ox » Thu Feb 03, 2005 12:21 pm

what about the very liberal limits down in mexico.....

wouldn't migratory ducks have a better chance if limits were the same all over....

like indiana with a six a day....and say illinois had a 12 a day.....same ducks just different sides of an imaginary line....

i've seen websites boasting duck hunting down in mexico....shoot til your arm hurts....type of hunting

or am i being mislead by al gore's internet (you know he invented it) :laughing:
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Postby Snaph » Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:10 pm

I have been told or I saw on a show on OLN that the limit in Mexico is 50 ducks a day. (WOW) I don't know if that is true or not. And if it is, I have no idea how that effects the duck population up here. It most defiantly seems it would have a negitive impact on us. I don't know. I'm am trying to learn this stuff though...edumakate me.
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Postby Decoyer » Thu Feb 03, 2005 4:27 pm

Even though limits are higher, there are so few hunters down there that in actuality a duck probably has a lot higher survival chance in Mexico than in Arkansas or Louisiana. I just don't think there are a lot of ducks right now and it really concerns me that we have such liberal limits with such low numbers. I really think we should be going to a 4 bird limit and less days.
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Postby quackkiller » Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:24 pm

:withstupid: I know it wouldn't be the only thing that had to be done, but you have to start somewhere and as much as I hate to say it, I feel we need lower limits and shorter seasons. The main thing that HAS to be improved are the breeding grounds. We lose a lot of acres in breeding ground every year and that certainly doesn't help things.
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Postby gsphunter » Thu Feb 03, 2005 5:40 pm

This is just a thought, but it makes sense. The reason pheasants reproduce and do so well is that only roosters are shot. This leaves an entire breeding population for the following season. I know this would not work for all duck species, but for mallards I would think that it could. If you are shooting ducks at a reasonable range it is easy to distinguish a drake from a hen mallard. Why not make it law to only shoot greenheads? Just an idea.
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Postby Decoyer » Thu Feb 03, 2005 6:36 pm

Try hunting ND in late September, hens are just gonna happen, heck even in late october they can be tough. Not saying shooting hens should be condoned by any means, but in the north it is just gonna happen. I would however like to see some type of point system that could penalize you for shooting hens. Say a hen mallard is worth 3 drakes, or something like that. It would make people look a lot closer. As far as the breeding grounds on the US side of the border. You would all best keep an eye on the next CRP signing. Without CRP, ND and SD wouldn't produce near the ducks they are right now. And also remember that loosing the water periodically on the prairies is actually good for it. It promotes vegetation growth, but in these down swings there is just no reason that we should be killing 6 ducks a day and have 60 days to do it. It would be nice to see a state step up to the plate and say, ok, this season you will only be shooting 4 ducks a day. Remember, the federal guidelines are only the maximum. States are at the discression to set whatever they want in terms of dates and limits as long as it doesn't exceed the fed guidelines.
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Postby KO » Fri Feb 04, 2005 6:26 am

H2, dont get me wrong..I used 10% as a gift...there is no it's that high today...I believeits in single digits....And according to the nest success studies in the past only one chick needed to survive...so when I used the 10% and 10 chicks example I was was being foolishly optomistic just to show how far off the real world numbers are....

Thsi spring will tell...I'd guess a spring count of mid 20's

USFWS is watching this rally and if the fever dies down......so is the DNR....I've had people from both sides tell me they hope this uproar doesn't stop......
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Postby Hunten E Guy » Mon Feb 07, 2005 4:04 pm

in the begining of the season here in mn alot of the 1st year drakes look like the hens, and those local ducks are the main part of the mn hunt
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Postby Woodie1 » Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:38 am

i see no reason why even states like ND or Mn can't push back opener back two weeks
1) It will help people tell the difference between a hen and drake
2) The resident birds won't push out because this year we were hunting in 80 degrees the first couple weeks
3) less time to be hunted, after the first couple weeks here in ND all the ducks were sitting on Sand Lake refuge in SD
4) there seems to be a 2 week span of little action in early Oct. after we scare all the resident ducks away and before any migrants move in.

I'm 20 years old and I love to hunt but i want to have my kids and grandkids to be able to see what a few thousand mallards look like spiraling into the decoys.

We need to do something to change our hunting habits for when there are low numbers otherwise I might, and we all might forget what a big flock of ducks look like.
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Postby Decoyer » Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:46 am

I really don't think opening the season in mid-October is a good idea. I have seen a couple openers where we have had a hard freeze, and in 1997 most of the smaller sloughs were frozen tight by October 20th. Just because we have had mild weather the last couple years doesn't mean that we won't have an october snowstorm next year.
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Postby Swamp Puppy » Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:24 pm

i can't speak for the rest of the flyways in the US. however, over here in the pacific/costal flyway we had a rather poor season as well. a theory of mine based on personal observation is that our ducks came in waaay earlier than normal. we usually start our season in mid october shooting local ducks. that lasts until our fall flight arrives in mid november. that fall flight is usually a BIG push of birds. these birds are what we hunt until our late season flight of birds shows up sometime around christmas.

however, this season while out on the river scouting for our early goose season (mid september) i saw the usual numbers of local birds. then, in late september when we were out for our youth hunt there were tons of birds everywhere. way more than usual for that time of year. come time for our opener, we still had good bird numbers, but not as many. then as the season wore on lots of people sat around waiting for a novermber flight that never came...and a december flight that was less than expected.

it is thought that "our" birds came through early and were sitting on the beach in california soaking up the sun while we all sat here with loaded shotguns and empty skies.

be interesting too see if there was any data to support that theory. or maybe some california boys could speak up if they saw any early arrivals this year.
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