Interesting reading.  Some things to learn about habitat, ducks,  
expectations.  Down toward the bottom is further confirmation that  
duck hunters may be crazier than birders:  I personally like to see  
the temperature drop into the 20s in December.

Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
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Begin forwarded message:

> From: Jim Low <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: October 29, 2009 3:37:57 PM CDT
> To: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: [Mdcnews] All Outdoors News Re: Duck Season Forecast
> Abundant ducks, habitat, spell good hunting for Missouri
> With the right weather, the 2009-2010 waterfowl season could be  
> memorable.
> JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri has nearly everything it needs for a  
> terrific duck season. Now it is just a matter of watching the weather.
> For the second year in a row, ducks found plenty of nesting  
> habitat, especially in the north-central United States. This  
> Prairie Pothole Region produces most of the ducks that migrate  
> through Missouri in what is known as the Mississippi Flyway.
> The numbers are heartening. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  
> (FWS) estimates North America’s total breeding duck population at  
> 42 million. That is up 13 percent from last year and 25 percent  
> more than the average since 1955.
> Mallards are the species most sought after by hunters. This year’s  
> estimate of mallard breeding numbers is 8.5 million, 10 percent  
> more than last year and 13 percent above the long-term average (LTA).
> Surveys found 7.4 million breeding blue-winged teal, 11 percent  
> more than last year and up 60 percent from the LTA. Estimates of  
> other duck species’ breeding numbers were:
> ·        Northern pintails, 3.2 million, up 23 percent from last  
> year but still 20 percent below the LTA.
> ·        Green-winged teal, 3.4 million, up 16 percent from last  
> year and 79 percent above the LTA.
> ·        Gadwalls, 3.1 million, about the same as last year and up  
> 73 percent from the LTA.
> ·        American wigeon, 2.5 million, about the same as last year  
> and down 5 percent from the LTA.
> ·        Northern shovelers, 4.4 million, up 25 percent from last  
> year and 92 percent above the LTA.
> ·        Redheads, 1 million, essentially the same as last year,  
> but 62 percent above the LTA.
> ·        Scaup, 4.2 million, up 12 percent from last year but down  
> 18 percent from the LTA.
> ·        Canvasbacks, 662,000, up 35 percent from last year and 16  
> percent above the LTA.
> Resource Scientist Dave Graber, a waterfowl biologist with the  
> Missouri Department of Conservation, said geese that nest in Canada  
> did not have as good a year for nesting as ducks did. However, he  
> noted that Missouri’s resident Canada goose population remains  
> strong, offering good prospects for hunting this year.
> Abundant ducks and nesting habitat mean lots of ducks flying south  
> through Missouri. Even better for hunters, many of those ducks will  
> be young birds that have not learned to be cautious when  
> approaching decoys.
> However, hunting can be mediocre even in years when duck  
> populations boom. It all depends on migration timing and the amount  
> of food and wetland habitat available during their migration. If  
> food or wetland habitat is in short supply, ducks continue south  
> until they find more attractive conditions.
> “We are set up to have good habitat conditions in Missouri this  
> year,” said Graber. “Things look pretty good from the standpoint of  
> moist-soil vegetation – the native plants produce the foods that  
> ducks like. We have had good production for the most part.”
> According to Graber, Schell-Osage and Four Rivers conservation  
> areas and other parts of the Osage River Basin experienced flooding  
> that limited moist-soil plant growth or washed away seeds produced  
> earlier in the growing season. However, this year’s flooding has  
> not been as severe or widespread as last year, when moist soil  
> plants never got a chance to grow in large areas. Furthermore,  
> losses due to flooding in western Missouri were offset by the  
> filling of higher basins that often are dry. The Grand River basin  
> in north-central Missouri was also impacted by a series of floods.
> He said this year’s above-average rainfall has been great for many  
> private duck clubs. Wetland areas managed by the Conservation  
> Department and the FWS have levees, water-control systems and high- 
> capacity pumps that allow managers to maintain optimum water levels  
> under all but the most extreme weather conditions. Most privately  
> owned wetlands depend more on nature. This year’s weather has been  
> nearly ideal for creating waterfowl habitat on private wetlands.
> “I have talked to some private club owners and they are very  
> excited,” said Graber. “They say they have good food conditions  
> this year, and they have reasonable water levels going into the  
> hunting season.”
> Even with plenty of ducks and habitat, a third variable – weather –  
> can cut short an otherwise promising season, or make for  
> challenging hunting conditions. Asked how the weather for an ideal  
> season would unfold, Graber said moderation is the key.
> Graber said the ideal hunting season would start with the arrival  
> of a cold front just before the season opened.
> “A cold front at this time of year will bring peak numbers of early- 
> season migrants, such as green-winged teal, gadwall, wigeon and the  
> first mallards,” he said. “We already have more ducks in Missouri  
> than our previous five-year average due to the unusually cool  
> October.” Then you would want that weather to stay cool with  
> periodic cool fronts and rain moving through to keep pushing new  
> ducks into Missouri and keep them moving around.
> “Late in the season, I personally like to see the temperature drop  
> into the 20s in December, so wetland areas kind of freeze up during  
> the night and then thaw out during the day. That keeps the birds  
> off-balance, moving around. Once the cold weather arrives, shallow- 
> water areas freeze up, and the river and reservoir hunters have a  
> better crack at them.”
> Worst-case scenarios, he said, are when lots of calm, warm,  
> overcast days make hunting difficult. Extremely mild conditions can  
> delay migrations and cause hunters to experience the mid-season  
> lull of having to wait for new ducks to arrive. Similarly, severe  
> cold weather early in the season can cause ducks to move on south  
> before hunters have much opportunity to pursue them.
> This year’s waterfowl seasons dates are:
> North Zone:
>                   Youth days – Oct. 24-25
>                   Regular season – Oct. 31-Dec. 29
> Middle Zone:
>                   Youth days – Oct. 31- Nov. 1
>                   Regular season – Nov. 7 -Jan. 5
> South Zone:
>                   Youth days – Nov. 21-22
>                   Regular season – Nov. 26-Jan. 24
> The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently approved a new type of  
> nontoxic shot for waterfowl hunting. Effective immediately, hunters  
> may use tungsten-iron-fluoropolymer shot, along with other nontoxic  
> shot previously approved. More details about bag limits and other  
> waterfowl hunting regulations are available in the “2009-2010  
> Waterfowl Hunting Digest,” available wherever hunting permits are  
> sold or at
> -Jim Low-
> Caption for All Outdoors photo
> Missouri’s 2009-2010 duck season could be one of the best ever,  
> thanks to plentiful ducks and excellent habitat conditions.  
> Favorable weather is the only factor still needed to fulfill this  
> potential.
>  (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)
> High-resolution photo:
> To receive future Conservation Department press releases via RSS  
> news feed, visit:
> To receive releases via listserv, visit
> Conservation Department press release archives also are available  
> at
> A hunting/fishing season calendar is available at 
> seasons/
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