Hunters still looking for ducksBy JEFF NORTH,
Where are they? This is the question that I hear almost daily. I don’t think they’re still in Canada. I know they’re not in Arkansas and Missouri. I have contacts there and my friends either text or call me once or twice a week confirming no one is home. They could possibly be in Iowa or Illinois but realistically, I doubt this too. Of course by now, you have probably picked up that I am writing about the lack of waterfowl in our state and more so, up and down the Mississippi flyway. I will expand further on some local reports.
From what I understand, though not a hundred percent sure, only eight ducks were taken on opening day at the most prestigious duck club in the Mississippi delta. I won’t mention the name of the club but my source of information is normally pretty reliable. At this same club, a few weeks later, only three birds were harvested one morning and I’m not even certain these were mallards. I received another report that there have been fewer than 20 ducks killed in the “scatters” this year and I know this is correct for I hunt with the man that hunts there. Is our lack of waterfowl due to unseasonably warm temps? Surely this has to be some of the problem. I have been told that there are a million acres of soybeans left to be harvested in Arkansas and Missouri. This would explain where our birds are if they had them but alas, their fields and flooded timber are barren of greenheads too. So what other explanations are there?
If you recall, I mentioned in a previous article about the abundance of waterfowl in Oklahoma. We all know this is a different flyway but I don’t understand the vast difference in the number of birds that are only 400-500 miles to our west. Now you may be thinking I am way off on my accuracy of bird numbers here. Yes, I am aware there may be local pockets of nice concentrations of birds, but I still am confident that for the most part I am correct. So I still beg the question, where are they?
I “googled” the duck migration report to see where the highest concentrations of birds were. I barely could read and check tracking before a “pop-up” blocked the site I was on. You’ll crack up when I tell you what the pop-up was. There was a box to click on to donate now for a year-end tax deductible contribution for the ducks. I will do my best to not let my emotions run with this one, but for years I have witnessed the continuation of funding of waterfowl projects through a giant organization we know all too well. In fact, I have been directly associated with this organization and several others just like it regarding wild turkeys, largemouth bass, etc. In reality though, in my humble opinion, these organizations have become an outlet for sports men and women to socialize and talk about hunting and fishing. The events, (fundraisers), these organizations put on are a huge attraction for hunters and fishermen. Food, drinks, games, and auctions are all part of the festivities to do one thing…raise money. Of course the organizations benefit monetarily by the un-told millions of dollars that are funneled through these groups for their livelihoods. Now before you crucify me, I do acknowledge that there have been many acres of habitat acquired, restored, and improved for a number of wildlife species. Still though, if these organizations have been so effective, then where are the ducks? I probably need to stop there regarding my opinion and how I feel about this subject.
To jump ahead, how do we go about enjoying duck hunting without having a scowl on our face from the lack of ducks? Well, the good news is there are some species of ducks that are more numerous than others and opportunities are still there. For instance, wood ducks seem very prolific in areas I hunt. Whether you find them in the woods along creeks and streams, or cypress sloughs in the delta, the wood duck is a wonderful game bird and delicious on the table. You might want to think about walking the creeks jump shooting them. Other species are inviting as well.
My nephew, Craig Howard, asked me to go with him and his buddies to make a quick hunt on the reservoir last week. I was tied up and truthfully, I had zero confidence in having a successful hunt there. I was dumbfounded when he sent me pictures of a full three man limit. They had their birds lined up on a log and it made for a gorgeous picture. It didn’t seem to bother them a bit they were all buffleheads. When I asked him what they were going to do with them, he emphatically stated “we gonna eat em”. I suppose they will serve well as anchovies on pizza. Then I started thinking. Their hunt was successful, they had a blast, everyone got their limit, and they had big plans for a duck dinner. It seems to me they have it all figured out. I can sit in my office and complain about no mallards or gadwalls and not go hunting. While they become innovative and take advantage of the opportunity at hand, I make the choice to stay at home and miss out on an experience in the field. I believe I need to change my thinking on this waterfowl stuff. Hey, if you get lemons, then make lemonade. I will do my best not to get hung up on waiting for perfect situations with mallards boots down in my spread. I will try to enjoy folding a blue-bill passing overhead if I get the chance. We’ll take pictures of mergansers and shovelers if that’s what we pick up. Most of all I will try to enjoy the experience of duck hunting and the fellowship with my hunting partners. Thank you for opening my eyes to the abundance of other opportunities, Craig Howard. Please ask me again and I’ll try to make the hunt.
Until next time, enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.