Urban Hunting

December 16, 2008 by  

By PJ Maguire

urban waterfowl

In many areas of the country, waterfowl have adapted to living literally in backyards as shown above.

It should come as no surprise that the biggest wildlife refuge in Minnesota is the Twin Cities. I would be willing to bet that there are more trophy bucks, Canada geese and mallard ducks in the city limits of the Metro than there are in out-state Minnesota. Of course this is just an opinion I have come to through my own observations.

Currently, I am lucky to have a job that allows me to travel quite often. Sometimes I travel for work, sometimes for pleasure, occasionally to relax, but more often to hunt game. Even when I am not going to different parts of the United States hunting, I am forever observing wildlife.

Last February, I traveled to the panhandle of Florida with my family for my aunt’s wedding. My sister and I stayed with her fiancé and a few cousins at a nice resort just off the coast. The complex was located in the middle of a golf course, which was dotted with the standard water hazards. I was surprised to notice that these water hazards were covered with Lesser Scaup, aka Bluebills.

With the 2007 duck counts complete, the lesser Scaup population were recorded at the lowest levels ever. There are still plenty of lesser Scaup in North America, but their population numbers are steadily declining. I was tickled to see the abundance of lesser Scaup taking advantage of the fresh water found in these water hazards just off their Florida coast wintering grounds.

I received a few odd looks from golfers, but I made some closer observations of the Bluebills while taking some pictures. Seeing these diver ducks up close, in the small ponds was pretty unique. It was pretty much the last place I ever expected to see the duck that once filled waterfowl hunters bags across Minnesota.

urban hunting

Of all waterfowl, Canada geese seem to be able to adapt to metro areas better than any other fowl.

I witnessed another great example of ‘urban waterfowl’ last winter on a windy day in downtown Chicago. It was late February and I was outside the Sheraton hotel waiting for a bus to take me to a convention for work. The Chicago River was flowing just a block away, dumping into Lake Michigan near the Navy Pier, if you are familiar with the area.

My senses were heightened when the sound of calling Canada geese pierced the morning air. I looked towards the river and sure enough there was a flock of about a dozen geese screaming through the atmosphere above the river. These birds were flying within yards of big skyscrapers as they headed for lake Michigan.

It was a beautiful site; the geese were probably flying about forty-five yards high. I smiled to myself and thought, ‘These big geese really are everywhere.’ The image of Canada geese flying through the shiny glass buildings is something I will carry with me forever. That was the icing on the cake.

With new developments popping up across the Midwest there are plenty of places to witness ducks and geese within city limits. In many states, the Canada goose concentrations have even become higher in the cities than in the country. In recent years, some states have even been relocating these ‘golf course geese’ to agricultural areas.

When the Minnesota DNR released Canada goose population counts, I noticed that they didn’t include a bird count for the Metro area. I am not sure if this is something new they are doing to reduce costs or if they haven’t been doing them for awhile. It is also possible that the DNR has a pretty good grasp of what the numbers are with in the city limits. Regardless, most of these geese never leave.

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One Comment on "Urban Hunting"

  1. Jim on Wed, 25th Feb 2009 7:56 am 

    Interesting topic. I just recently experienced some “urban hunting” in the suburbs of Phoenix, AZ. I live in Chandler, AZ, which is southeast of Phoenix. In the past, this city of 300,000 was a very small community, with cotton farming and dairies being the main industry for many, many years. Not too may cotton fields around anymore. Developers planted doorknobs and grew houses in most of the fields. There are, however, still a few dairies in some of the few remaining areas, and with dairies come alfalfa hay fields.

    Well, I learned that Canadas apparently enjoy eating fresh alfalfa. While driving to an appointment late one afternoon in early February, imagine my surprise to find a hay field holding 300-500 Canadas. The next afternoon, I took a drive to the field, and couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. Not a bird in sight, but that lasted about 5 minutes. For the next 20 minutes, strings of anywhere from 5 to 30 geese slowly drifted across the road and gently settled into the hay field. What a sight it was.

    I am pretty sure these geese are resident geese from a nearby senior living community, with many, many small lakes. No matter, though. Just the chance to watch these magnificent birds do their thing in the middle of the desert was nothing short of amazing.

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