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The amazing story of the duck stamp art competition - Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Minnesota is the production floor of North America’s duck factory. Our northwest prairie pothole region is a major part of a landscape vital to maintenance of duck populations.
That’s the observation of author Martin J. Smith in his wonderful new book “The Wild Duck Chase.” This is a book about bird conservation, a story focusing on the tiny, unique world of artists who compete each year for the right to have their artwork on what is commonly called the duck stamp.
An important conservation tool, the stamp is officially known as the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. Its short name is duck stamp. All migratory waterfowl hunters in the U.S. must buy and carry this stamp to hunt legally.
The duck stamp actually is a conservation stamp, supported and endorsed at its birth by men known for their broadly based conservation ethic. It meant far more than ducks to them, and it should mean far more than ducks to birders and wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds now.
Smith makes this clear as he recounts one year in the competitive life of artists who seek fame and a bit of fortune with a waterfowl painting. They want their artwork on the face of the upcoming stamp.
As Smith points out, Minnesota plays an over-sized role in both creation and use of this stamp. From 1934, when the first stamp was issued, to 2003, Minnesotans bought more duck stamps than residents of any other state, including those with populations several times as large.
And then there are the artists. Smith follows the 2010 duck stamp contest at which the artwork for the 2011-2012 stamp was chosen. There were over 300 entries. Minnesota artists painted 12 percent of them. They included entries by Minnesota’s fabled Hautman brothers, “the New York Yankees” of the duck-stamp world, according to Smith.
The Hautmans – Jim, Joe, and Bob – have won the contest 10 times in 22 years. Jim and Bob entered the 2010 competition. Brother Joe could not because winners must take a three-year hiatus before entering again. Joe won in 2008.
Smith follows in detail the five artists whose work makes it to the final round of judging. Creating a seven by 10 inch painting of one of five waterfowl species selected for that competition is no simple matter. Artists choose a species carefully. They consider the competition, the judges’ possible predilections, and the vagaries of design: one bird or two, flying, grounded, or on the water, storm clouds above or clear sky?
There is a submission period. Should you send your entry early, late, or in the middle of the period? Entries are presented to the judges during the first elimination round in the order received. Some artists have a superstition-like belief that timing makes a difference.
There are three rounds of judging, the first a simple in or out. The second is point-based to select five finalists (and ties). Judges view the paintings, and then raise cards numbered one through five to assign points. A final round of point assignment determines the winner. There is suspense and tension as well as an Olympic figure-skating flavor to it.
Competitive waterfowl painting is, as Smith describes it, “perhaps the narrowest niche in the known art world,” but that doesn’t lessen the intensity of the artists.
When Europeans first arrived in North America wildlife was so bountiful that people believed – and acted – like there were no limits on what man could do. Waterfowl numbers exceeded the imagination. Uncontrolled market hunting and the inevitable loss of habitat brought imagination to ground. Bird populations were finite.
Smith calls the beginning of the duck stamp program in 1934 “a desperate reaction …. to the strip mining of the New World’s wildlife.”
Today, 78 years later, a problem of a different kind exists. The number of hunters is in decline. Like everyone else, hunters get old and die. They’re not being replaced at the same pace. Stamp sales are in decline.
Duck stamp revenue is used by the federal government (98 cents of every stamp-sale dollar) to buy or protect habitat habitat that favors ducks, but land that also is home or refuge for hundreds of species of birds. Anyone who enjoys birding gets return on the $750 million earned and invested since 1934 through stamp sales.
Our national wildlife refuges have been funded in large part with duck stamp money. The excellent birding found on hundreds of refuges is a gift from hunters.
Smith discusses the effort underway today to convince non-hunters that they too should buy stamps and contribute to this major and historic conservation effort. It should be obvious that the $15 cost of the stamp is a modest and worthwhile investment in preservation of bird species.
The hunting link is what throws some folks off the track. Well-meaning, they protest duck hunters doing what duck hunters do: kill birds. They miss the broader picture. Hunters cannot hunt if bird populations are not high enough to support the harvest. The use of duck-stamp revenue to buy suitable habitat is an effort to maintain waterfowl numbers that allow hunting. At the same time, this land supports hundreds of species of non-game birds.
The duck stamp story as told by Smith is a story of artistic passion, given life years ago by a passion for preservation of land and birds. It is a passion all birders should share.
Smith’s book, published by Walker & Company, will go on sale Sept. 18, 272 pages under hardcover for $25. The duck stamp for 2012-13 goes on sale July 1 for $15. Both purchases are highly recommended. (The book can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com for $16.46.)
Not to spoil the suspense of the story Smith tells, but Jim Hautman won the contest for the 2011-2012 stamp, after much deliberation about which waterfowl species to paint. (He chose White-fronted Goose, the “speckle-belly” as it’s known). It was his fourth win. And the 2012-2013 stamp that goes on sale in July will carry a Wood Duck painted by brother Joe, his fourth winner as well. Brother Bob has won twice.
The New York Yankees of duck stamp art indeed.
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Tips for successful duck shooting - Friday, April 27, 2012
It's almost hunting season and very soon some of the healthiest wild food in New Zealand will be available to Wanganui hunters.
Hunter harvests are a vital component of game bird population management and all Fish and Game regions rely on hunting to reduce population numbers to a sustainable level.
The tradition of duck hunting is as Kiwi as Sunday lamb roast and rugby and the season's opening weekend in May each year is eagerly anticipated by thousands of duck hunters across the country. I can report that regional bird numbers are looking good and we have a very healthy duck population. We had a relatively wet summer and mild autumn (so far) and this has kept the region's wetlands topped up with water and has provided ideal breeding and rearing conditions and as a result good sized broods have been a common sight on many of the region's wetland areas.
Despite good birds numbers things do not always go in the hunter's favour and as always the weather is a key element of the season's opening weekend. Fine weather over the weekend is a worst case scenario for the hunter and a duck's delight.
We are hoping for strong southerly winds which will move birds from the coast and estuaries further inland to seek shelter, it will also disperse birds over a wider area making them more accessible to hunters and more inclined to be attracted by calls and decoys.
While traditional maimai pond shooting over decoys will be favoured by most hunters at the start of the season it's not the only option and it may pay to think on alternatives - especially if the weather favours the duck. If the birds are either not moving or are too high and out of range then consider switching from static to mobile tactics. Walk-up shooting along streams and rivers, or jump shooting farm ponds, is a great alternative to sitting in a hot maimai hoping the birds will drop in on you.
Many farmers will welcome hunters who want to hunt paradise shelduck over feed crops such as chickory and all that is required is a few a few decoys and a basic camouflage or hay bale hide.
Take some time now before the opening weekend and contact your local farmers for alternative places to hunt.
Remember the opening weekend is just the start of the season, but it will need some thought to make sure it's not a complete waste of time. Plan now, contact your local farmers now for alternative hunting and make sure you are ready for the start of the duck season on May 5!
May 5 is also the start of the upland game bird (pheasant and quail) hunting season as well.
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Senate Bill Pushes for Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization - Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Florida hunters enjoy the benefits of the federal Wetlands Conservation Act in the form of great winter duck hunting. This photo, taken on the last day of the 2012 season, shows FS Member pbchunter and his friend with bluewing teal, ringneck ducks and a pintail, all of which depend on quality wetlands habitat in northern states and Canada.
Ducks Unlimited is applauding the efforts of a bipartisan group of senators who this week released S. 2282, legislation that would reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) through 2017. Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK) introduced the bill last night along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), and five other co-sponsors signed on: Sens. Thad Cochran (MS), Tim Johnson (SD), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Mary Landrieu (LA) and David Vitter (LA).
“This is a great day for conservationists throughout the United States. Ducks Unlimited is extremely grateful to Senators Inhofe, Boxer, Cochran, Johnson, Klobuchar, Landrieu and Vitter for their leadership in introducing legislation to reauthorize NAWCA,” said Paul Schmidt, chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited. “This joint effort by the chair and ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, coupled with a diverse suite of bipartisan co-sponsors, is a testament to how NAWCA is a model for uniting diverse and effective partnerships in support of shared conservation objectives.”
The bill is expected to be included on the hearing schedule for the Environment and Public Works Committee on April 24, along with several other conservation bills.
Rep. Rob Wittman (VA) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives—H.R. 1960, the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act—on behalf of himself and Rep. John Dingell (MI) on May 24, 2011. Thirteen additional co-sponsors have joined in support of the bill, and Ducks Unlimited continues to reach out to House members to ask for their support of the program.
Schmidt reiterated DU’s support of H.R. 1960, its sponsors and co-sponsors on Thursday as he testified before the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. “We commend Congress for their foresight in creating NAWCA in 1989 and repeatedly taking action to ensure the long-term success of this important program,” he said. “NAWCA is the most effective wetland restoration program in the country, and we strongly urge the Committee to reauthorize NAWCA for an additional five years.”
Ducks Unlimited is also asking its members and supporters to encourage their senators and congressmen to support NAWCA reauthorization through an online call to action.
NAWCA conserves North America’s waterfowl, fish and wildlife resources while producing a variety of environmental and economic benefits. Its success is driven by partnerships involving federal, state and local governments; nonprofit organizations like DU; and community groups. Every federal dollar provided by NAWCA must be matched by at least one dollar from non-federal sources.
Because the program is so effective, NAWCA funds are usually tripled or quadrupled on the local level. More than $1 billion in federal grants has been allocated for NAWCA projects—a figure that has leveraged an additional $3 billion from matching and non-matching funds. Since its inception, more than 1,600 NAWCA projects have contributed to the conservation of more than 25 million acres of habitat across North America.
Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, DU is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, with special events, projects and promotions across the continent. Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org. Connect with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/ducksunlimited, follow our tweets at twitter.com/ducksunlimited and watch DU videos at youtube.com/ducksunlimitedinc.
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Hunting and Fishing License Fee Increase - Wednesday, March 14, 2012
"This is for the future. This is a good investment for the future, but we need to act now."
A Minnesota Senate panel has voted to raise fishing and hunting license fees. This will help avoid deep cuts to the state's fisheries and wildlife programs. With the approval, this is the first such increase since 2001.
The Senate natural resources committee approved the proposal in a unanimous voice vote Tuesday.
The bill would give the Department of Natural Resources most of the increases it's seeking. Deputy Commissioner Dave Schad says it'd be sufficient to prevent the state Game and Fish Fund from going into the red next year.
A one-year resident adult fishing license fee would rise from $17 to $22, while a license for a married couple would go from $24 to $35. A resident deer license would increase from $26 to $30.
The proposal now goes to its next committee stop. Prospects for it are uncertain in the House.
Turns out though, not that many fisherman are upset about it. Matter of fact, many environmental groups support the idea of more expensive licensing fees.
"We came down here and, I don't know, we just started fishing," said Robert DeRoy.
There's nothing quite like the smile of a fisherman who caught his limit in just 20 minutes. But DeRoy and his son were just two of the fisherman at Foster Arend Park pulling trout out of the lake Tuesday.
"We're very happy!"
But it may soon cost more to find that kind of contentment. The DNR wants to increase the cost of an adult fishing license by $7.
"It's been a long time, 10 plus years, since a fee increase has taken place." said Frank Angelotti, former President of Hiawatha Trout Unlimited.
Angelotti is the past president of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. He says the group supports the fee increase, in part, because the fund the fees support is almost running on empty.
"And it's projected to go negative at the end of 2012 I believe."
At Wild Goose Sports in Rochester, owner Ralph Hettig says there have a been a few grumbles about the potential fee increase, but they're few and far between.
"Most of my customers aren't going to complain, very much," said Hettig.
And that includes Robert DeRoy, who says he'd be happy to pay more as long as the money is going to the right place.
"We can come out here to Foster Arend (park) and catch fish and enjoy it and if we don't have that extra money there that aint going to happen," said DeRoy. "I'm not going to say anything bad about that. Anything going to the DNR is good with me."
Any changes will have to be approved by the legislature and would take at least a year to implement.
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BP settlement needs to include accountability, restoration - Tuesday, March 06, 2012
This week U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier delayed the start of the trial over the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to allow more time for settlement negotiations.
Any final settlement must hold BP and the other responsible parties fully accountable for the magnitude of the disaster they caused, and it must ensure that penalty dollars come back to restore the region that was harmed by the disaster.
The gulf oil spill is the largest offshore oil disaster in history. The clean-up and restoration will continue for decades, and the full scale of damage won’t be known for years. To this day, oil persists in the environment and continues to wash ashore. The clean-up and recovery must not be shortchanged.
Furthermore, the fines and penalties must go toward restoring the region that was harmed by the disaster rather than being diverted to unrelated federal spending. The RESTORE Act, currently under consideration in the Senate, lays out a framework for restoration of the gulf. We support that legislation and urge those considering settlement to draw on the RESTORE Act for guidance.
An overwhelming majority of American voters—more than 80 percent—expect BP’s fines to be used to restore areas damaged in the disaster. It’s a matter of simple fairness that unites voters of every political persuasion from all across the country. And voters understand the importance of the gulf to U.S. energy independence, to commercial fishing, to wildlife, to tourism and to jobs.
Any settlement deal must hold polluters accountable and direct dollars toward restoration. Anything less means that taxpayers will be making up the difference for years. And that’s simply unacceptable. read more ...
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Pure Michigan hunter winners announced - Monday, February 13, 2012
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the three winners of the 2012 Pure Michigan Hunt.
Three southeastern Michigan hunters won the drawing from a pool of 10,864 applicants.
The Pure Michigan Hunt allows sportsmen to participate in every limited-access hunt available in a given year. Hunters may hunt elk, bear, antlerless deer, and spring and fall turkeys as well as choose the first hunting zone on a managed waterfowl area during any open hunting season in the state.
Brad L. Belcher of Howell, Dan A. Beaudoin of Waterford and Mark Schulz of southeast Michigan were the lucky winners. And though both Belcher and Schulz are lifelong hunters who have unsuccessfully applied for elk licenses for many years, Beaudoin called himself a "novice" hunter.
"I about flipped out," the 38-year-old wholesale bait dealer said, when he heard he'd been chosen. "I was ecstatic."
Beaudoin, who bought more than 20 applications for the Pure Michigan Hunt, said he never even considered winning the drawing.
"To tell you the truth, I was looking at it as a donation to the DNR," he said. "It was me doing my part."
Belcher is a 54-year-old police officer. Schulz is a 59-year-old retired automotive worker.
Hunters may purchase as many Pure Michigan Hunt applications as they like for $4 apiece. The 2012 lottery drew a total of 29,408 applications. Dollars generated from this opportunity fund wildlife habitat restoration and improvements, here in Michigan.
In addition to the hunting opportunities, winners receive a package of gifts donated by Michigan companies and organizations including:
An Ameristep Brickhouse ground blind; a Darton Archery Scorpion Crossbow package; membership, knife and duck decoy from the Michigan chapter of Ducks Unlimited; a 30.06 rifle from Michigan Gun Owners; youth and adult magazine subscriptions from Michigan United Conservation Clubs; a box call and hunting vest from the Michigan chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation; a nine-square archery target system from MOR Archery; a Soroc sports sled from Northwoods Wholesale Outlet; and a Quality Deer Management starter package from the Michigan chapter of QDMA.
Applications for the 2013 Pure Michigan Hunt go on sale online at all retail license agents March 1.
"Wildlife management in Michigan is paid for by its users," said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. "This is a great way you can help fund conservation."
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Spicing up your wild ducks - Thursday, January 19, 2012
It seems hard to comprehend we are approaching the last week of the 2011-12 waterfowl hunting season.
Ducks and geese are here in good numbers, which is typical of each hunting season. Sportsmen who hunt the coastal prairies, marshes and bays tend to find the best hunting taking place during the last half of the season.
The last couple of weeks have been hot and cold, and I am not referring to the outside temperatures. Two patterns existed, which is typical for this late in the season.
Following the last cold front, the flocks broke into smaller groups and began a pattern of not decoying easily. Both ducks and geese exhibited this trait. The other pattern was that they were not moving very much.
Earlier this week when southerly winds returned, it did get the birds off dead center, and hunting improved.
More birds are heading farther south. The Rockport and Aransas areas are full of ducks, and more geese are heading both east and west of our area.
The Winnie-Anahuac area still is holding good concentrations of geese, and lots of ducks were taken once the marshes and back bays refilled with water this week. Late last week, some of the lowest water levels ever prevailed on the Upper Texas Coast as multiple strong cold fronts pushed water out of the wetlands and bays.
With the dry marshes, ducks moved to the coast and many headed toward the middle and Lower Texas Coast.
The Brazos River bottom had been one of the most consistent producers of duck limits all season; however, birds have migrated away largely because of all of the water. The late season deluge of rain filled many prairie potholes and produced sheets of water in grain fields, which combined to draw ducks.
Tommy Hall, of High Island, sent a note asking if overall hunting in the marshes had slowed. He has hunted around the High Island area all season and last week was his first hunt that resulted in no birds. Earlier, Hall had been limiting out about half the time and took near limits during other hunts.
John Anderson sent a note asking a common question among duck hunters. Anderson loves to duck hunt; however, he is not fond of eating wild ducks. He, like many hunters, takes his kill and attempts to find others who are willing to eat them; otherwise, he freezes the breasts hoping to find a good recipe.
Years ago, I had the same problem and almost quit hunting ducks until one day I tasted a recipe I questioned had wild ducks in it. It was over at Oak Grove, La., at the Oak Grove Hunting Club. I enjoyed eating the ducks and asked the chef for the recipe which he gave to me. Since then, I am willing to take ducks from other hunters.
The ingredients include a tablespoon each of salt, black pepper, red pepper, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable oil, onion, garlic cloves and flour.
For each duck, massage it with the cooking oil. Take a heaping teaspoon of the mixture of salt, red and black pepper and sprinkle it in the cavity of the duck. Add a quarter onion, three cloves of garlic and two or three bottle caps full of Worcestershire sauce along with the spice mix.
Place the ducks in a broiler pan and sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of the spice mixture over them and sprinkle with flour. Add water to almost cover the ducks, then place the lid on and bake at 350 degrees.
After one hour, turn the ducks and cook for another hour and a half or two hours, depending on the size of the ducks.
When done, the meat practically falls off the bones and is tender and flavorful.
Also, place a little of the water mix with oil floating on top in a sauce pan, add flour and make a great gravy to place over the ducks. The gravy will need to be seasoned a little.
Joe Kent is a columnist for The Daily News. To get your hunting report and information in Fowl Play, call 409-683-5341 or email waterfowl.report(at)galvnews.com.
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News: Preparation and quick thinking can save hunters' lives - Monday, January 16, 2012
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Needless drowning deaths of hunters who fall into lakes and streams can be prevented with a little preparation and fast thinking, according to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District.
“Duck hunters or waterfowlers may not think of themselves as boaters, even though they use boats to position decoys in the water,” said Park Ranger Asher Alexander. “They may not consider a life jacket as a necessity; but hunters drown needlessly every year.”
Hunters should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device while traveling to and from the hunting blind, according to Alexander. Camouflage life jackets are available and offer adequate flotation.
“Likewise, fisherman should always wear a PFD while fishing from a dock or a boat,” he said.
In a water emergency, hip boots or waders can keep a hunter afloat for hours if the hunter takes action quickly, Alexander explained. By keeping the knees bent in a seated position, the crease will trap air inside the waders to keep the person afloat for hours, allowing the person to propel backward to return to the boat. Additionally, floating duck decoys can be held while maintaining this position to increase buoyancy. Waders, however, should never be considered a replacement for a personal floatation device, Alexander said.
Hypothermia also factors into planning for a hunting or fishing trip. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Violent shivering develops, which can lead to confusion and a loss of body movement. Wearing warm clothing and headgear, rain gear to stay dry, a PFD, and waders can help retain body heat to prevent hypothermia.
The Corps of Engineers also reminds hunters:
• Never overload the boat. Check the boat’s capacity plate. Any attempt to overload makes the boat more likely to capsize. Hunting boats are typically small (under 14 feet) and may have flat bottoms, which are particularly unsuitable for rough water. Avoid crossing large, open bodies of water and stay as close to shore as possible when traveling to and from hunting locations.
• Have plenty of fuel, as the boat will likely use more fuel when carrying heavy hunting items such as decoys, dogs, and ammunition.
• Check the weather before the hunting or fishing trip. Windy or stormy weather increases the risk of capsizing.
• Hunting regulations vary by state. Be sure you are familiar with the rules and regulations before you go hunting. View South Carolina hunting regulations at: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting.html
View Georgia hunting regulations at: http://www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting
Throughout the hunting season, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District wants everyone to be safe while hunting, fishing or participating in other recreational activities at Savannah River lakes Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond.
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.Pennsylvania Game Commission prepares for special snow goose season - Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are set to offer hunters the opportunity to participate in a snow goose conservation hunt designed to help stem the growth of continental snow goose populations. Hunters must obtain a free snow goose conservation hunt permit and report cards from the agency to participate in the season.
The Snow Goose Conservation Hunt dates are from Jan. 26 through April 27 in the Atlantic Population and the Southern James Bay Population goose zones, and Feb. 27 through April 27 in the Resident Population Goose Zone. The daily limit is 25, with no possession limit.
To do so, hunters can access the “Snow Goose Conservation Hunt” page by clicking on the appropriate icon in the center of the agency’s website and then following the instructions. By completing the application online, hunters will be able to print off the permit and report cards and will not have to wait for the package to be mailed.
“Snow goose populations have reached levels that are causing extensive and possibly irreversible damage to their, as well as other nesting birds’, arctic and sub-arctic breeding grounds,” pointed out Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist. “For some populations of snow geese their nesting habitats can no longer support these large numbers. What’s more, these geese are beginning to impact fragile coastal marsh habitats and crops in Mid-Atlantic States and Quebec.
“It’s likely that North America has never had as many snow geese as it does now. The current population of greater snow geese that inhabits the Atlantic Flyway is estimated at more than one million birds, more than double the management goal of 500,000. They have become a huge and unexpected problem for themselves and other wildlife that shares the wintering and breeding grounds these waterfowl occupy.”
The quickest and probably most effective way for wildlife managers to respond to the problem is to allow additional hunting days – and new hunting methods – to reduce and stabilize snow goose populations. Therefore, as part of this Snow Goose Conservation Hunt, electronic calls and decoys are legal, and legal shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset. Currently, all waterfowl shooting hours close at sundown, except for the September Canada goose season, and electronic calls are not legal for other waterfowl seasons.
Currently, the regular snow goose season, with a daily bag limit of 25 snow geese, opened on Oct. 25 and runs through Jan. 25 in the Atlantic Population and Southern James Bay Population goose zones, and until Feb. 25 in the Resident Population Goose Zone.
Participating states are required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor and assess hunting activity and harvest. That is why the Game Commission has created the free Snow Goose Conservation Hunt Permit.
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Huntducks.com Exclusive Offer - Hunt Habitat Flats - Thursday, November 17, 2011
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Open to the first 8 people
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Meet Shawn Stahl and the RNT Team
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Field & Stream Hunts with Turkey Legend R. Wayne Bailey - Thursday, November 10, 2011
The old man shuffles through the woods ahead of me, making more noise than he knows he should. He is tall and lean and 83 years old, and he carries a battered Winchester 12-gauge auto-loader sheathed in peeling camouflage paint. He steps over the merest sticks and branches with difficulty. An hour earlier, in the muted glow of his truck's dome light, he'd catalogued his infirmities as an apology for the slow pace of the hunt about to begin. "I've only got one eye left," he told me, "and I lost my sense of smell years ago." He pointed to a pair of hearing aids. "I can't hardly hear a turkey unless he gobbles in my ear, even with these things."
His excuses delivered, the old man grinned. Just two days earlier, in the woods of Caswell County, North Carolina, a tom turkey made the mistake of gobbling a bit too close to R. Wayne Bailey. "He only sounded off one time, but that was one time too many," Bailey said, his smile stretching a thin face fuzzed with white whiskers. "Ten minutes later he was flopping on the ground."
[ BACK FROM THE EDGE ] That was wild turkey No. 239 for Bailey, one of America's preeminent wild turkey field biologists and the point man for turkey restoration efforts across much of the East. Born in tiny Rock, West Virginia, in 1918, Bailey went to work for that state's game department in 1945. He live-trapped his first wild turkey a few years later, capturing the bird with a homemade net jury-rigged from plumbing pipe and dropped from the ceiling of a state park picnic shelter.
By the time he retired in 1980 as the project leader for North Carolina's restoration effort, Bailey had live-trapped hundreds of turkeys in West Virginia and North Carolina and shipped the first wild birds ever released in Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. He's watched the Eastern wild turkey's rise from near oblivion with the wide-eyed astonishment of a scientist and the appreciation of a die-hard hunter.
Bailey came to turkey science with the heart of a hunter. He grew up gunning for the table—rabbits, squirrels, grouse, ducks, groundhogs, whatever would fill a Great Depression pot. Even then, he says, there was a mystique about the wild turkey. "They were very rare in those days," he says, "but West Virginia still had an open season. My goal was to bag a wild turkey before they became extinct."
By any measure the restoration of the Eastern turkey is one of modern wildlife management's greatest success stories, and one of modern hunting's finest hours. Gunned down to a record low level by 1973, Eastern turkey populations since have been nursed to more than 6.4 million. Tens of thousands of birds were live-trapped and transplanted from state to state, aided to a great degree by the National Wild Turkey Federation.
[ BORN TO GOBBLE ] Bailey's first fieldwork with the West Virginia Conservation Commission involved clipping the toenails of trapped rabbits to mark them for a mortality study, but it wasn't long before he discovered his true aptitude. He was crazy about turkeys: He snared them with drop nets and walk-in wire traps, spending long days in the blind.
Then, during the early 1970s, cannon-propelled nets revolutionized the task of capturing wild animals for study and transport. Thirty feet wide and 50 feet long, the nets were cabled to 5-pound projectiles and launched over feeding turkeys with black powder—powered mortars. A quantum leap over fussy, small-scale drop nets and box traps, the practice nonetheless required stealth and skill. Flocks were lured to the target area with bait. On the day the trap was set, camouflaging the net was critical because turkeys needed to be within 2 to 5 feet of it, with their heads down, for the launch to work efficiently.
And skittish turkeys were only a part of the challenge. Areas that supported populations large enough for successful trapping operations were jealously guarded by locals who were incensed that birds were being removed. Biologists would return to their setups to discover sabotaged nets, equipment, and blinds. Technicians began to cover their tracks. They hauled blinds, nets, and bait into the woods before daylight and varied the routes they used to check on sites, like moonshiners, telling no one about the locations.
Through it all, Bailey never lost his enthusiasm for the birds. "As I sat in the trap blinds, listening to a gobble or even a movement in the leaves that I knew was a turkey, my heart would pound so loud you could hear it," he says.
Up on the ridge we listen to a pair of turkeys gobbling, a half dozen times or more. With each successive call from Bailey, the farthest bird cuts the distance, moving closer to the challenger it detects at the base of the ridge. Bailey leans close. "I think it's going to be a good morning," he whispers, then pauses for a moment. "But it takes a turkey to tell you just how good a morning it's going to be."
THE BAILEY WAY
R. WAYNE BAILEY USES A HALF CENTURY OF TURKEY SCIENCE TO SHARPEN HIS HUNTING SKILLS. HERE'S HOW.
HUNT THE SECOND PEAK OF GOBBLING Opening day may not be your best bet to bag a gobbler. There are two peaks of gobbling activity during the breeding period, and the second often occurs deep into the hunting season. Most hens are already on a nest and aren 't very interested in mating, Bailey says. "But the gobblers sure are." Since fewer hens respond, toms advertise even more vociferously.
HUNT IN THE AFTERNOONS Where legal—and more states are opening afternoon hours—hunting late in the day can be very productive. In the spring, hens sit on the nest until the day warms up sufficiently so that they can leave without exposing their eggs to cold air. "Gobblers, of course, know this, and they follow the hens in the afternoon."
DUST OFF Turkeys frequently dust themselves in patches of dry, loose soil. Bailey makes dusting sites around his favorite hunting areas. Using a small garden trowel carried in his bird vest, he loosens the soil in 4-to 5-foot circles along the edges of small fields and travel ways.
GO HORIZONTAL "Everybody knows that a turkey's eyes and ears are incredibly sharp," Bailey says. " That's evolved because they have such a poor sense of smell." To break the barrier, he frequently blinds up by lying down in a shallow depression.
LET THE BIRDS WORK YOU Allow the birds to do most of the calling, especially in pressured areas. "Many times I just call once or twice and then let the birds hunt for me," Bailey says.
TAKE A STAND For many turkey hunters, calling is the only game. Not for Bailey—he frequently takes turkeys by stand hunting and watching travel corridors.
KNOW YOUR GUN Pattern your shotgun. "Mine shoots 6 inches high," Bailey says. "If I aim at a bird's head, I know I'm going to miss it. Don't assume that shotgun bead means a thing."
USE A DECOY IN PRESSURED AREAS As hunting pressure and suburban development intensifies, turkeys are seeing more and more people. Bailey figures a decoy helps dial back the anxiety level of an approaching gobbler.
HUNT RESTORATION AREAS Restoration areas that have recently been opened to hunting are the very best places to hunt. "I don't necessarily change my tactics," Bailey says. "I just think the traditional ways of hunting them are more rewarding because the birds haven't yet learned about the perils of hunting season."
WALK, DON'T RIDE Driving too close to a hunting area is a sure way to cripple your chances of calling in a gobbler. On spring mornings park well away from any potential roost sites, and sneak in as quietly as possible. A bird might still gobble from its roost after hearing your approach and seeing your vehicle, Bailey says, but you'll have little chance of luring him in your direction.
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North American breeding duck population soars - Monday, October 24, 2011
This year, North America's breeding duck population was estimated to be 45.6 million, up 11 percent from last year. It's the fifth time the duck population has surpassed the 40 million mark since federal authorities started recording estimates in 1955.
If weather and habitat conditions remain favorable, this boost in numbers might translate to increased duck activity during Missouri's hunting season, which begins Oct. 29 for the state's north zone. The north zone also includes northern Boone County. The county's southern half is in Missouri's middle zone, where the hunting season begins Nov. 5.
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Duck stamp contest to be held in Panhandle - Tuesday, October 18, 2011
For the first time since the debut of the Federal Duck Stamp in 1934, the competition to choose 2012’s edition will be held in West Virginia.
On Oct. 28 and 29, a panel of five judges at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown will decide among 192 entries which species will grace next year’s Duck Stamp.
This year, competing artists were able to choose one of five species to paint — mallard, blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, wood duck or gadwall, said Rachel F. Levin, spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife’s migratory bird section, the division that runs the Duck Stamp program.
A pair of white-fronted geese hold the limelight on the 2011 stamp.
Only ducks and geese on the government’s approved hunting list of native North American ducks and geese can be on the stamp.
The Federal Duck Stamp art contest is the “longest-standing federally sponsored art contest,” according to an NCTC press release.
“It’s one of the oldest and most successful conservation tools,” Levin said.
Its origins stem from the Dust Bowl, which dried up wetlands and duck habitats along with them.
Duck hunters, hoping to protect their sport
, got together with J.N. “Ding” Darling, then director of the Bureau of Biological Survey, forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The hunters wanted a tax or other revenue source to protect wetlands, and the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or Federal Duck Stamp, came into existence.
Darling, an Iowa native and political cartoonist, painted the first one in 1934, a pair of mallards landing on a pond.
The Federal Duck Stamp has been a cornerstone conservation program ever since. To date, it has raised more than $700 million to buy or lease more than 5 million aces of wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System, Levin said.
From 1934 to 1949, the government commissioned artists to draw the stamps, Levin said. Since the first open contest in 1949, thousands of artists have submitted entries.
Darling’s first stamp sold for $1. Today, a Federal Duck Stamp sells for $15, with 98 cents of every dollar going to wetlands acquisition, Levin said.
Waterfowl hunters ages 16 and older are required to buy Duck Stamps. They also are popular with collectors, conservationists and wildlife art lovers.
Artists who win the competitions receive no money, but they benefit from increased visibility of their work and the sale of prints of their entries.
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A tribute to how little has changed - Monday, September 19, 2011
A tribute to how little has changed
Andy Aughenbaugh photo Our hunting party gathered on Sept. 10 for a goose hunt, just as I had done 10 years earlier on Sept. 11. Our tribute hunt was just like any other goose hunt we have shared together, and that is exactly the point. We have not let the attempted terror affect our daily lives.
A tribute to how little has changed
Andy Aughenbaugh photo Below, hunter and dog, a scene repeated over and over during the hunting season.
Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011 4:00 pm
Last weekend the message "We will never forget" played over and over on our TV screens, radio stations and in print, but another message, one I perceive as equally important was less discussed. A message friends and I celebrated on Sept. 10, 2011.
A little background is required.
That day never to be forgotten started for us with a goose hunt. Ten years ago on Sept. 11, several friends and I enjoyed a fruitful early-season resident goose hunt. I was already on my way to work when the second plane hit the towers. The rest of that September day in 2001 is history, with each of us owning our own story.
As the 10-year anniversary approached, I began to contemplate how much of our daily lives have or have not changed since that day.
great deal has been discussed and recorded describing how events of that day changed our lives. But I believe the real story lies in the fact that for many Americans, daily life has not changed. And that is a good thing.
Let me explain. A word entered into our vocabulary at a level we had not experienced prior. Terrorism is defined by Webster as the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.
Well, I propose they did not succeed.
Sure, I agree some things have changed in the last 10 years, and I have an essay written a week after the 11th explaining to my daughters the way things were and how they were going to change. Before the planes hit the towers, we were citizens of a country like no other, and walked streets, drove over bridges and rode in airplanes never thinking of the possible terrorist attack. So yes, in some way our lives have changed, but in our American resolve, the terrorist have been defeated. We still ride in airplanes, drive the same roads and live our lives much as we did before the event.
And that is how one fights terrorism. You do not let the schoolyard bully keep you from walking head high to and from school.
So, that is exactly how we choose to remember and celebrate the American spirit on the 10th anniversary of the September attacks. We did what we had always done and refused to let the terrorist win in their efforts to panic us into submission.
Bill reinforced my point when I first called and discussed my wishes for a tribute goose hunt.
"That sounds like a good idea. I remember that hunt, we had a good shoot that morning," he said. "But I was already planning to goose hunt on Saturday, anyhow. Dad and I will meet you by the pond at six."
Always eager for a hunt and paranoid about being late, I arrived an hour early. While waiting for the rest of the party to arrive, I sat in my truck remembering that day 10 years earlier. I found myself holding my dog tags hanging around my neck. Just the day before, I had found them in my desk drawer.
In a small, personal tribute to those innocent ones who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 and in tribute to the brave men and woman who give their all in preserving our American-bred freedoms, I had hung the metal tags from my military days around my neck.
Bill and his dad arrived a few minutes after 6 a.m. The farmer's son and friend followed. The five of us broke into two parties, with Bill and I hunting one field and the others another.
Just as Bill and I have done countless times prior to the September attack and several times since, we arranged the goose decoys in the cut corn field. We hid in a weed-choked ditch and waited for the flight.
The geese came. We shot. Sometimes we hit our targets. Sometimes we missed. Bill has a new puppy and she retrieved her first goose. We talked shop. We talked of the kids growing older and of colleges.
Our tribute hunt was just like any other goose hunt we have shared together, and that is exactly the point. We have not let the attempted terror affect our daily lives. As Americans, I believe this point is the one that has proven to be the most important 10 years later.
Many individual Americans were directly adversely affected by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, that I do know and understand. I do not in any way want to belittle that fact.
But as a country, America has proven, over the last 10 years we are a strong nation under God that will continue to not be afraid to walk out of the house.
One final fact that further brings this point home is immigration. Even after the 9/11 attacks, people from all walks of life want to come to America to live. Why? Because we are still the greatest nation in the world.
Sorry terrorists, your plan did not work. We ain't afraid.
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National Wildlife Refuges preparing for public waterfowl hunting season - Friday, September 16, 2011
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has announced that portions of the Anahuac, McFaddin and Texas Point National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) will be open to public waterfowl hunting during the upcoming 2011-2012 waterfowl season.
The regular waterfowl season in the Texas South Duck Zone runs from November 5th- November 27th, 2011, and reopens December 10th, 2011 - January 29th, 2012. The youth-only season is set for October 29th and 30th.
To participate, hunters must be 15 years of age or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age. Adults may not hunt during the special Youth-only season. Goose season in the Eastern Goose Zone runs November 5th - January 29th for light geese and Canada geese, and November 5th - January 15th for white-fronted geese. Scouting will be available Saturday, October 22nd through Friday, October 28th from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm.
Those interested in information on public waterfowl hunting opportunities in southeast Texas can attend one or both Open Houses taking place at 5pm on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at Gander Mountain, located physically at 5855 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont, TX 77706; and the other will take place at 10am on Saturday, October 15th, 2011 at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, located physically at 4017 FM 563, Anahuac, TX 77514.
Hunters will have an opportunity to learn about waterfowl identification, public waterfowl hunting opportunities on area National Wildlife Refuges and State Wildlife Management Areas, and have a chance to win some waterfowl hunt gear. Staff will be available from Anahuac, McFaddin and Texas Point National Wildlife Refuges and J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area.
During the regular waterfowl season on Anahuac NWR, the East Unit will be open Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from legal shooting time until noon. A $10.00 per day fee permit or a $40.00 annual fee permit is required to hunt on the East Unit. The Pace Tract will be open seven days a week, while the Middleton Tract will be open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the regular waterfowl season.
Designated hunt areas will be open for waterfowl hunting on Texas Point NWR on Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays until noon. The Spaced Hunt Unit, Central Hunt Unit, and Star Lake/Clam Lake Hunt Unit at McFaddin NWR will be open on Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays, while the Mud Bayou Hunt Unit will be open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays until noon.
The Spaced Hunt Unit and Star Lake/Clam Lake Unit also require a $10.00 per day fee permit. Hunters may enter the refuge hunt units no earlier than 4:00am. Hunters should refer to the 2011-2012 waterfowl hunting regulations and maps for current hunt unit locations.
All hunters are required to possess a signed 2011-2012 refuge waterfowl hunt permit while hunting on all hunt units
of these Refuges.
These free permits may be obtained by contacting the refuge offices during regular business hours (8:00am to 4:00pm, Monday-Friday), at the Visitor Information Station on Anahuac NWR, or on-line at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges.
All state and federal regulations are applicable. For additional information please contact Anahuac NWR at 409-267-3337 ext 143 or McFaddin NWR at 409- 971-2909.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
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Duck hunt, fundraiser for wounded veterans - Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Canadian and American soldiers are getting together for a duck hunt in the Minnedosa area, followed by a fundraising dinner for Wounded Warriors. (WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES)
Any waterfowler knows that some of the best friendships are forged in the field. And that's exactly where Chris Heald, vice-president of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation (MWF) first met Col. Michael Steele (retired), a decorated American veteran.
Now, the pair has spearheaded a first-of-it-kind event in Canada -- a wounded veterans' duck hunt. At the end of this month, three American soldiers will join three Canadian soldiers for a few days of duck hunting in the Minnedosa area. Faces of Freedom -- Wounded Veterans' Hunt is an opportunity for the waterfowling community to express gratitude and respect for our soldiers and let them know they are not forgotten, Heald said.
Col. Michael Steele was commander of the unit involved in the 2002 friendly fire incident in Afghanistan where four Canadian soldiers died. The soldiers are honoured at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where their names were added to a wall honouring Americans who died in combat.
Soldiers were selected for the Wounded Veterans' Hunt by their commanding officers in Canada and the United States. Each has serious injuries and a love of the outdoors. Heald said that all the Canadians in the group have been injured by explosives, and one soldier in particular has been injured three times. All three of the Canadian soldiers are still serving.
The group will kick off its adventure with a hunter safety refresher course followed by an afternoon at the Winnipeg Trap & Skeet Club. The next day, they'll head for Manitoba's prime waterfowl breeding areas around Minnedosa.
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the MWF will host its first-ever fund-raising dinner in Portage la Prairie with Winnipeg Blue Bombers Buck Pierce and Glen January sharing emcee duties. The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. with cocktails, dinner, prizes and an auction. Proceeds from the Faces of Freedom fund-raising dinner are earmarked for MWF conservation programs as well as the Wounded Warriors of Canada.
The group will also be recognized at a pre-game salute at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers home game against Montreal Sept. 30.
The MWF approached Delta Waterfowl in the early planning stages.
"I called Rob Olson (president of Delta Waterfowl) and he immediately offered whatever help we needed. We honestly couldn't have done it without them," Heald said.
Next on the list was Cabela's Canada, who quickly stepped up to be presenting sponsor of the event. The remainder of sponsors include Federal Premium Ammunition, Vickar Chev Olds (who supplied the use of two vehicles and a truck for the event), SYSCO, Danny's Whole Hog and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
"It was a pretty clear cut choice for most the sponsors when we first approached them. They wanted to be part of it," said Heald.
Tickets are now available for the Faces of Freedom--Wounded Veterans' Hunt fund-raising dinner in Portage la Prairie on Sept. 28. For more information, contact the Manitoba Wildlife Federation: 204 633-5967 or email@example.com
Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Indiana DNR proposes changes to waterfowl hunting season - Friday, August 12, 2011
The Indiana DNR wants to change the dates for this year’s waterfowl hunting season.
The number of days would be the same, but for the state’s north zone, wildlife officials want to split up the days.
If approved, duck season will be from October 15th to December 11th and December 24th and 25th.
Canada goose season will be October 15th to November 6th, November 23rd to January 8th, and January 14th to January 17th.
The dates are not final until approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in mid to late September.
The DNR's recommended dates for ducks, coots and mergansers are:
- North Zone, Oct. 15 to Dec. 11, and Dec. 24-25
- South Zone, Oct. 22-30, and Nov. 23 to Jan. 12
- Ohio River Zone, Oct. 29-30, and Nov. 26 to Jan. 22
For Canada geese, the proposed dates are:
- North Zone, Oct. 15 to Nov. 6, Nov. 23 to Jan. 8, and Jan. 14-17
- South Zone, Oct. 22-30 and Nov 23 to Jan. 26
- Ohio River Zone, Oct. 29-30 and Nov. 21 to Jan. 31
Usually, proposed dates are tweaked before they are accepted.
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Vanishing Paradise Praises Gulf Senators for Cosponsoring Restoration Bill - Thursday, August 04, 2011
Vanishing Paradise Praises Gulf Senators for Cosponsoring Restoration Bill
Landmark legislation dedicates oil spill fines to restore crucial fish and wildlife habitats
Contact: Emily Guidry Schatzel, email@example.com, 225.253.9781
Emily Tyner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.347.1530
New Orleans, July 21, 2011—Vanishing Paradise—a joint effort of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Ducks Unlimited (DU)—thanked a bipartisan coalition of Gulf Senators today for cosponsoring the RESTORE Gulf Coast Act. The legislation ensures that fines from last year’s oil spill are used to help restore the Gulf ecosystem. The oil spill compounded already degraded habitats that support many species of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife.
Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Richard Shelby (R-AL) are the original cosponsors of the bill, and are now joined by Sens. David Vitter, (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Thad Cochran, (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio, (R-FL) and Kay Bailey-Hutchison (R-TX). Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who was instrumental in securing the agreement among the senators, has pledged to consider this bill in her committee quickly.
“The Gulf region has suffered from years of degradation, and the oil spill added insult to injury,” Land Tawney, NWF’s Senior Manager for Sportsmen Leadership, said. “We look forward to working with the Gulf delegation, other members of Congress and the administration on passage of a bill that makes this critical ecosystem whole again. The Mississippi River Delta is a national treasure, important to hunters and anglers from all corners of our country. We applaud the efforts led by Senators Landrieu and Shelby to restore this ‘Sportsman’s Paradise.’”
A bipartisan poll this spring showed that 83 percent of voters nationwide support—and 69 percent strongly support—dedicating the Gulf oil spill penalties to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The poll also showed that an overwhelming majority of conservative voters favor this proposal, including 76 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of voters who agree with the Tea Party movement.
Nearly 500 miles – almost half – of the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that was contaminated by the Gulf oil spill remain oiled one year later, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.
“Coastal Louisiana is one of the most significant wintering areas for waterfowl in North America and plays an important role in our nation’s rich waterfowling tradition,” DU’s Director of Public Policy Barton James said. “Hunting and fishing are vital streams of revenue for our nation’s economy. By investing in coastal wetlands, we are also investing in our economy.”
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New wildlife director airs concerns during Utah visit - Sunday, July 31, 2011
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Hunting – What Is The Difference Between Goose Hunting In The Field Vs On The Water? - Friday, July 15, 2011
When it comes to goose hunting, there are two main ways that people try to bag these elusive birds. The first being on the water where they are known to rest, roost, and drink. The other key area being in the field, or solid ground where geese are want to eat and rest. Hunters for years have utilized both of them to bag geese. The thing is that there are quite different approaches and stipulations that require looking at both areas with a different set of eyes. Use the below thoughts and conditions to ensure that you see more success out and about this hunting season.
2. Buy a good pair of waders that will also blend in with your surroundings. You can use brown or green waders but ones with camouflage on them are best. Depending on where you are going to hunt you may want to get heavily insulated waders for the north or light weight breathable waders for the south. If you want to go cheap you could always hunt in fields or buy some cheap vinyl waders.
The inexpensive reloading machines are designed to reload only one gauge of shell. If you want to reload a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge shell, then you must buy a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge press. The more expensive machines have dies which are made for the various gauges. If you do a lot of shot shell reloading using different gauge shells, then you might find it easier to just buy an inexpensive separate press for each gauge depending upon how much reloading you plan to do instead of changing the dies repeatedly.
Plastic cases are much more durable than paper hulls as paper hulls can only be reloaded once or maybe twice. In order to reload shotgun shells, you must first inspect the fired hulls to make certain the shell is totally empty. Inspect the case mouth for damage or splitting. Also, inspect the brass head for any separation or cracks. Cases that are not prefect should be thrown away.
Although there are numerous tips and techniques that can be used while learning how to duck hunt the best way is to just get started. These tips will get you out there where you will learn as you go and this way is often better than having someone tell you. Good luck
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Kieser: A workout program for your hunting dog - Monday, June 27, 2011
Independence, MO —
Hunting season will soon be here. Is your dog in shape?
Sadly hunters who lack the time required to properly train their pointers or retrievers are often disappointed when the season opens. Their dogs are simply not in the condition required to properly hunt all day. Out of condition dogs often poop out in the first hour or two. This is hard on the dog and disappointing for the hunter. An adequate conditioning program is important.
Smart hunters implement a 12-month program aimed at keeping their dogs in shape. Year-round conditioning and feeding can make a big difference on opening day. A healthy dog can run several hours while finding quail, pheasants or grouse. Poorly conditioned dogs are injured easily and lose their concentration when sniffing bird scents.
Start your dog’s conditioning program with a trip to the veterinarian. Tell him of your plans and begin with a thorough physical, including stool and blood analysis. Once assured of your dog’s overall condition, make sure your dog dines on the best food. I feed my dogs Purina Hi-Pro Dog mixed with Science Diet, but there are many other fine brands on the market. Remember to never feed your dog before a workout. Most hunters agree that feeding once a day is best.
Begin workouts slowly to get the dog back in shape. Starting early in the year allows the luxury of not pushing your dog’s workouts. Most experts start 15- to 20-minute workouts and eventually work up to an hour. Make sure you keep an eye on the dog for fatigue or injury. Fatigue may be signaled by the tail being carried lower than usual. Gums turning dark red are another sign to back off and let the dog cool down. Remember that a fresh drink of water will help refresh your dog. The lack of water can make your dog ill. The fast metabolism and thick fur coat quickly help overheat a dog – especially when no water is available.
Warmer days of spring and summer are why I love water training. All dogs swim and love the water. Repeated water retrieves build the dog’s strength and endurance while maintaining a comfortable body temperature. Running along the beach and lunging through shallow water is another excellent exercise and great fun for the dog.
Eventually, you can paddle a row boat while the dog swims behind. Make sure you watch for signs of fatigue and wear old clothing. Many years ago my over-zealous Labrador retriever decided that he wanted in the boat. The 90-pound retriever swam along side while my attention was diverted. He slipped his paws over the side and I felt the lightweight aluminum boat tip. I turned to see what was happening and leaned too far. Over we went. The Jon boat bottomed up and I took an unexpected bath. We both enjoyed a good swim.
Bird dogs require field work to harden their pads. I have seen many working dogs return to their master with bloody paws. A total conditioning program must include all muscle groups, including the cardiovascular system. Dogs must endure a general toughening program. Hunters tend to take for granted the incredible amount of work a bird dog endures.
Stamina is developed by running around fields and other areas. Some hunters jog with their dogs. However, this can cause problems. Jogging is a good way for hunters to get in shape. But this may push an out-of-condition dog too far physically. Remember to constantly watch the dog to make sure he is remaining alert. Loss of concentration is a sure sign of exhaustion. Remember to check his pads occasionally. Running several miles on concrete or asphalt may cause painful wear on pads. Let your dog run in the grass while you endure the hard surfaces when possible.
Accomplished joggers should be aware of their dogs’ behavior. An unconditioned dog cannot log the same miles as a conditioned human. I learned this the hard way with a gray hound last year. I was on my third mile when the dog started lagging. He is an excellent sprinter, but long distances kill him. Luckily I had a cell phone to call for help.
Harness work for resistance training is becoming more popular. Pulling against a moving dog will use up more of its energy and burn more calories. Start with slight resistance and be careful. Too much resistance could injure the dogs tendons or muscles.
Again, start slowly and let your dog progress slowly. You should start noticing a difference in your dog’s condition by the first month.
An important key to training or workouts is patience. Never put a huge amount of pressure on a dog. Workouts should be fun and in fact, an adventure.
Puppies especially require a little tender loving care. Start by playing with your pup while constantly calling it by name. Allow the pup to visit open fields where it can point butterflies and grasshoppers. Later you can plant pen-raised quail or pigeons where the puppy can only smell the bird.
Your dog should be 12-months old before its first hunt. Even then, training before the season opener is essential. A young dog has to be in shape before chasing birds through fields and timber. Hunters tend to take a dog’s effort for granted. But a well-conditioned dog is a splendid athlete.
“Different breeds can take different types of training pressure,” said Danny Guyer, owner of Iron Duck Hunting Guide Service and Lab breeder. “Pointer bird dogs are generally more hard headed than Brittany spaniels or setters. Brittanys tend to be more sensitive and timid. In other words, pointers can take harder training because they are a tougher dog. This means that you have to be cautious how you train a sensitive dog for fear of ruining it. I realize that there are exceptions to this rule. No doubt some Brittany spaniels are tough as nails.”
When to take a dog hunting depends on the dogs conditioning. Point and retrieving instincts are bred in better dogs. But you can aid your dog’s conditioning by playing retrieving games. Younger dogs, especially, have a tendency to chase after rolling objects. Try tossing a rolled up sock or tennis ball and make a real game of it. Your dog will use up a lot of energy while perfecting its retrieving trade.
Injuries are always a possibility during your dog’s conditioning program. Broken bones and open wounds are serious, but not compared to internal bleeding. The body tries to correct this by speeding up the heart, constricting blood vessels and conserving fluid in circulation to central parts of the body. If allowed to continue, vital organs shut down for lack of oxygen. Then shock sets in, often causing death.
Hunters working their dogs in hot weather should be aware of another form of shock. This type is caused by dehydration or heat stress. Some symptoms are a drop in body temperature, cold extremities, pale gums and rapid, weak pulse. Should this occur, calm the dog and help him assume a comfortable position. Again, cover him with a blanket while being transported for help.
Dogs are loving animals that would do anything to please their master. Contribute the same love by making sure the dog is safe and happy. The best hunting dogs are the result of a good training plan.
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Mossy Oak Partners With Delta Waterfowl - Wednesday, May 18, 2011
WEST POINT, MS --(Ammoland.com)- Mossy Oak has joined Delta Waterfowl for 2011 to support research initiatives, aid mentorship programs and establish a stewardship award.
“Delta Waterfowl’s mission is to provide knowledge, leaders and science-based solutions that efficiently conserve waterfowl and secure the future for waterfowl hunting,” said Bill Sugg, President of Mossy Oak.
“Supporting Delta Waterfowl is our way, in a sense, to keep the sport alive. Some of my fondest memories were in a duck blind, and we’re happy to partner with Delta for the future of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.”
“Mossy Oak is supporting two very important initiatives on behalf of duck hunters. First Hunt and the waterfowl satisfaction research supported by Mossy Oak are tangible examples of Mossy Oak’s leadership in serving their duck hunter members. Both projects are critical in arresting the decline in waterfowl hunter numbers and participation and we are very grateful for this support,” notes Delta’s Senior V.P. John Devney.
To join Delta Waterfowl, find an event near you, or learn about their research initiatives, log on to www.deltawaterfowl.org. For more information on Mossy Oak, visit www.mossyoak.com or call 662-494-8859.
Haas Outdoors Inc. is headquartered in West Point, Miss., was established in 1986 and is home of Mossy Oak (www.mossyoak.com). Mossy Oak specializes in developing and marketing modern camouflage designs for hunters and outdoorsmen. Mossy Oak patterns can be found on a multitude of products worldwide. Haas Outdoors Inc. is the outdoor industry leader in modern camouflage design, international licensing and marketing. Haas Outdoors Inc. markets its services and products under widely recognized brands including: Mossy Oak, BioLogic, Mossy Oak Productions, MOOSE Media, Nativ Nurseries, and Mossy Oak Properties.
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None of us will get out alive - Wednesday, May 18, 2011
THE old hunter gatherer gene has been watered down significantly over the last couple of generations and it does worry me where we are going with this “don’t kill stuff” nonsense.
The duck shooting season has got under way, the “roar” has just finished and the trout fishing season is drawing to a close. All these free food sources are at our door step and I love ’em.
Tell you why I am worried — all my life, pretty much from the time my brothers and I were potty trained, we followed the old man to the beach or hunting and it has been a wonderful life experience. But more importantly, it stands us in good stead in a crisis.
“What crisis?” I hear you call out in unison. Well — any crisis, and if you believe all the doom and gloom merchants that we have to share oxygen with, we are on the cusp of a whole boat load of ’em.
Global warming, sea level rises, air and sea water temperature rises, CO 2 emissions, earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorism, religious zealots, warts, moles, sore whatsits and pimples on the nether regions, damn it. It ain’t for the faint hearted being a homo sapien in the 21st century.
I am so pleased I can go out and secure a graze. My biggest worry is all you mamby pamby buggers that will be beating a path to my door for a feed, because you can’t get your own.
Well, listen to me. You just might die of starvation, ’cos I will only be interested in feeding my nearest and dearest. My friends generally are hunter gatherers, so they will be cool and can look after themselves. Sorry, that just leaves you softies who believe your supermarket meat is born on a styrene tray with plastic wrap over it. Well, you will probably die — natural selection, methinks.
Anyway, I think it is time we allowed ourselves to see that we are being duped by a whole raft of people who are trying to manipulate the social structure of the world and us as a species. If we just look back 50 years or less, we can see what has happened to us.
We no longer feel safe, we no longer have trust in our fellow man, we no longer believe in self sufficiency, we want everyone else to do it for us, we are less practical and, worst of all, we are generally a selfish bunch of tossers who have less empathy for our fellow man than we used to. All in two generations!
Where will it end? I actually don’t want to know the answer, but I have a gut feeling.
It is probably about time the gene pool got a dose of chlorine, what do you think? And just remember not to take life too seriously — none of us will get out of it alive
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Backpack Transmitters Spill Bird Secrets - Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Wednesday, 4 May, 2011 - 12:29
Ducks in the Bay of Plenty are giving up some of their lifestyle secrets - through radio transmitters they've been fitted with in a high flying research project.
Fish and Game attached the transmitters to 50 ducks at Little Waihi near Maketu in January and February, and are now tracking the mallard and grey ducks through beeps the devices send out.
The transmitters fitted to the bird's backs or tail feathers send out beeps that identify each individual bird. When Fish and Game officers have enough fixes on a bird, they can pinpoint its location.
Senior Fish and Game Senior Officer Matthew Mc Dougall says the information being gathered on range, mortality and harvest rates will help them manage water fowl in the most sustainable manner - for the benefit of hunters. The data will help them understand what happens between the time the ducks are banded in early February, and the beginning of the duck hunting season in May.
"If the population is found to be at certain level, what set of regulations should we use to maximise their harvest over time? If we end up harvesting too many in one year, we might end up affecting following years."
Matthew says there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that a lot of juvenile birds die during this period, when there is most competition for food.
"If this is the case, we may have to look at what options we have to reduce this loss, especially as these birds are the ones most likely to be shot over the duck hunting season's opening weekend." There is no point in letting them die of natural causes when they could be harvested, he adds.
The duck transmitters even tell Fish & Game when a bird dies - by sending a different sort of signal when the bird has stopped moving.
Fish & Game has tracked the birds on land but has also used an aircraft to try and track the birds further afield - as far away Thames and the Waikato.
Matthew is appealing to hunters who shoot a bird with a transmitter to call them on Fish & Game's freephone 0800-434-742. He says they are hoping for a "100% response," adding that it's in hunters best interests to report the find, as this information could lead to changes to the regulations which allow hunters to shoot more ducks.
Fish & Game also wants to hear from hunters who shoot birds with leg bands. He says that every year they band 2000 birds and believe that about 54 percent of hunters are returning bands to them. He says if they can increase this reporting rate, it will give them more accurate figures on how many birds are being harvested.
Hunters who return bands go in the draw for a free duck shooting licence.
This year the hunting season for mallard and grey ducks - with a limit bag of 10 birds in the Fish and Game Eastern region - will begin on May 7 and run until July 3. Officers will be put a lot of emphasis on checking ammunition. Lead shot is banned when hunting over open water - the measure was introduced amid concerns over elevated lead levels in the environment.
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'Becoming an Outdoors-Woman' program announces 2011 schedule - Thursday, April 21, 2011
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program has scheduled four outdoor workshops in 2011.
A mini-workshop will be held June 3-5 at Turtle River State Park, Arvilla. Course offerings include archery, birding, campfire cooking, GPS, mountain biking, orienteering, fly-fishing and general outdoor skills. Workshop fees of $135 cover instruction in all sessions, program materials, use of equipment, all meals and lodging.
The 17th annual summer workshop is scheduled Aug. 12-14 at Lake Metigoshe State Park, Bottineau. Participants may take several programs including archery, canoeing, field dressing big game, introduction to firearms, fly-fishing, kayaking, navigating outdoors, duck decoy painting, Dutch-oven cooking, GPS, plant identification and tracking and trapping. Workshop fees of $135 cover instruction, program materials, use of equipment, all meals and lodging.
Catfishing the Red River is set in Grand Forks Aug. 27-28. Participants must have a valid fishing license, and will be instructed in identification, tackle, gear and techniques of fishing catfish in the Red River. Workshop fees of $50 include instruction in all sessions, program materials and use of equipment. No lodging is provided.
A waterfowl hunting workshop is scheduled Oct. 1-2 in Bismarck. Participants are instructed in firearm and waterfowl safety, shotgun shooting, waterfowl identification, water/field decoys and gear, and the techniques for decoying and calling waterfowl. Oct. 2 will feature a mentored hunt. Participants must possess a hunter education certificate, current hunting licenses and provide their own hunting clothing, boots or waders. Workshop fees of $20 include instruction, program materials and use of equipment. No lodging is provided.
BOW workshops are designed primarily for women with an interest in learning skills associated with hunting, fishing and outdoor endeavors. Although open to anyone age 18 or older, the workshops are tailored primarily to women who have never tried these activities or who are beginners hoping to improve their skills.
To receive an information brochure and enrollment form, access the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, or contact Nancy Boldt, BOW coordinator, at 701-328-6312; or e-mail email@example.com.
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Open Season: There is no goose hunting like snow goose hunting - Wednesday, April 20, 2011
ce down in a muddy, soggy corn field, I contemplate our sanity for a lengthy amount of time.
More than 100 yards ahead of us are tens of thousands of pairs of eyes, attached to tens of thousands of wary, nervous, flighty snow geese.
We are surrounded by the feathered abominations. To the south is a group of feeding geese that play hop-scotch, dozens of birds at a time, as they jumped airborne from the back to the front of the flock.
To the north is another group in a barren, ink-black bean field. These birds want desperately to get to the south group, as they watch them hungrily gobble up the leftover corn spilled haphazardly from the fall’s harvest.
Straight ahead of us, on the side of the tilled-up hill, is another flock; the one we are sneaking – the one with nearly every individual goose craning its neck to watch us inch along on our hands and knees.
Stealthily as wood ticks on a bald dog, my friend, Erik, and I crawl – through snow and ice and standing water – determined to get as close as possible.
All at once, it happens. Peripheral movement from the left catches my eye.
“Funny,” I think, “those birds to the south just got up.”
Then, like a salt-and-peppered tapestry, the entire web-footed armada takes to the skies in a cascade of undeniable futility
The tornadic mass of bodies swirls inwards, collapsing like a dying star, before exploding in a supernova of gray, white and black. The intensity of wings whistling in the northern breeze surpasses garage-band-decimal level, and deafens as it passes overhead.
We lay there in awe and wonder, watching in stunned silence as bird after bird, wave after wave, pass overhead.
Although most are out of range, a handful sweep low enough to catch our interest.
“Waddaya think?” Erik asks, as a group of 20 or so snow geese, lower than the rest, fly our direction.
“If they get over us, why not?” I say.
We both raise our guns, unleashing a barrage of scattered fury in hopes of downing a meal.
A dozen or so shots later, and no birds on the ground, we can do nothing but laugh as thousands of geese continue to stream over our heads. They climb higher and higher, oblivious and obviously unafraid of our pathetic showing of evolutionary superiority.
The sneak was a fruitless effort. Chuckling about it may be more of a tourniquet to hold back a flood of tears, than a genuine outburst of giddy emotion.
Still, the moment was incredible. Not many souls get to witness an event like that. Trying to pick out individuals from a flock numbering in the thousands is like trying to follow a single, white speck on a static-y television screen.
And the sound: imagine the rumbling of a convoy of semi trucks loaded to the hilt with squeaking dog toys. The entire lot is surging down the freeway, threatening to squash you into human pizza. At the last second, they all exit on a bypass lane and pass harmlessly overhead.
In that case, you might (and I stress might) know what it’s like to witness the spring migration of snow geese in such a closely intimate setting.
Defeated, Erik and I trudge back to the truck and our awaiting dogs. Remy, my German wirehaired pointer, and Lakota, Erik’s Labrador retriever, give us looks that say more than words can.
“Just what in the world do you think you’re doing going hunting without bringing us?!”
It is a tough pill to swallow. The dogs, both young at 11 months and 2 ½ years, respectively, likely wouldn’t have behaved peaceably while we attempted our sneak. Though, in retrospect, two eager pups bearing down on the geese may have given us more success than the previously executed plan.
We let the two fur balls out to burn off some steam, and they quickly busy themselves doing what puppies do best: play.
At one point in the day, Remy and Lakota kick off a rather energetic form of keep-away involving a dead muskrat. Although it remains uncertain as to which one discovered the rodent, I do believe Remy wound up the eventual victor.
Playing aside, my goal for the day was to get Remy a retrieve on a goose, which we achieved. After Erik dropped me off in a promising pass-shooting location, I managed to whack a small Ross’ gooses that sailed a ways out into a harvested corn field.
Remy gave chase, but turned back too soon and gave me a nervous glance as he tried to pick up the scent. Just when I was about to give up hope, the wounded bird got up and Remy was on him in a flash. Seeing my dog saunter back, head held high, gave me more pride than a pile of dead birds filling the bed of our pickup truck.
So maybe the snow goose hunt wasn’t a success if measured by sheer quantity of felled game. But if enjoyment could be calculated, I’d say we came home with more than a limit.
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Annual fundraiser takes flight - Tuesday, April 12, 2011
SUMMERSIDE - A duck may be featured on its logo, but this organization is a friend to all animals.
The Prince County chapter of Ducks Unlimited will have its annual fundraising dinner at the end of this month, and the committee wants people to know that "DU" isn't just a group of hunters anymore.
Bruce Crabb, one of those committee members, came to that realization recently when he found himself more interested in taking photographs of wildlife than hunting it.
"I started thinking more and more about the idea that Ducks Unlimited is more than just ducks. It benefits all kinds of wildlife," Crabb explained.
"I could put this kind of stuff in the program when we have the dinner, but that's like preaching to the converted. I'd like to get more out to the public that Ducks Unlimited is about water quality and wetlands, and wetlands are so integral to all kinds of wildlife, including ourselves."
Ducks Unlimited began in 1937 as a way to protect against the impact of diminishing wetlands on waterfowl hunting.
Now there is a realization that not only ducks, but various other types of wildlife benefit from the cutting-edge science DU employs in its conservation efforts.
Nearly 90 per cent of funds raised go directly to wetland conservation projects.
Still, the organization's website says up to 70 per cent of wetlands have disappeared in settled areas of Canada.
While this April's fundraising dinner - the Prince County committee's 27th annual event - is a lot of fun, the goal is to get new people involved in helping conservation efforts on the Island.
Crabb said DU's youth programs are tailor made for school science teachers because students learn the curriculum while going on field trips to wetlands.
"That helps bring people into contact with wetlands, and they start to realize a wetland isn't a wasteland," he said. "(Wetlands) are where humans tend to congregate and where they build houses, factories, shipping and everything else. So that brings human activity in conflict with a wetland and it looks like a waste of land. In fact, it's a horribly essential part of our watershed."
The annual dinner and auction takes place April 30 at the Summerside Legion. Tickets are $50 per person and $60 for a couple – and, of course, children are encouraged to attend.
Crabb said the Island's Ducks Unlimited committees have raised close to $500,000 over the years.
For tickets to the banquet, or for more information on Ducks Unlimited initiatives, contact David Pearce: 888-7883, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.ducks.ca email@example.com
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2011 small game licenses on sale - Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Hunters who want to take advantage of warming weather should purchase a 2011 small game license, which are good from April 1 through the following March 31.
Seasons run throughout the year for the 40 species of small game that are hunted in Colorado, which include birds like pheasant, dove and quail as well as ducks, geese and other migratory waterfowl — with the purchase of annual state and federal duck stamps. Other small game hunted in Colorado include coyote, rabbit, squirrel, prairie dogs and rattlesnakes.
Small game licenses must be validated by registering with the Harvest Information Program for a “HIP” number. Hunters must answer questions about their waterfowl hunting results from previous seasons as well as questions about their likelihood of hunting species like sage grouse, ptarmigan and light geese during the coming year. The HIP number helps the Division of Wildlife monitor small game harvests and helps the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collect migratory bird harvest data nationwide.
On April 1, hunters can register for their 2011 HIP number online at www.colohip.com
. Phone registrations will become available in mid-April.
Purchase of a $10 Habitat Stamp is also required with the purchase of the first hunting or fishing license of the 2011 season.
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Top Ten Spring Snow Goose Hunting Tips - Friday, March 18, 2011
Delta's Top 10 List:
After years of hunting snow geese, Delta Waterfowl's prostaff learned some fool-proof secrets to help fill your freezer with some tasty wild protein. Here they are.
Spring snow goose hunters happily endure Mother Nature's unpredictable mood swings to chase geese that hold advanced degrees in survival. Snow geese have witnessed untold decoy spreads during their travels across the continent. They're savvy, cunning and difficult to hunt — even exasperating — but far from impossible. If you're looking for a prescription for successfully hunting spring snows, Delta Waterfowl has a small coterie of snow goose aficionados who are qualified to help. Here's what they have learned.
Delta's Top 10 List:
1) Scouting: "Watch the snow line; birds will be south of it, always," says Scott Terning, Delta's director of recruitment and education. "You can also use a number of online sources to aid your scouting and get refuge reports to determine bird concentrations, but remember nothing compares to doing real-time scouting."
Terning recommends finding the largest concentration of birds on a lake, wetland or piece of sheet water. During the spring, he said, it's common to locate multiple roosts in a given area. "You want to scout these birds and locate where they are feeding for your hunt the next day," Terning says. "Taking these simple first steps will save you a lot of time and frustration."
2) The sheet water connection: "In the spring, finding sheet water is often the key element in finding birds," says Delta Waterfowl Senior Vice President John Devney. "They seem to decoy far better in fields with a little water in them. Spring snows will often look for corn stubble and sheet water in the same field."
3) Concealment: Fooling spring snows requires you stay well hidden. Take advantage of any field changes that allow for better concealment — from drainages to low spots to missed field vegetation. Conceal ground blinds from all angles and use decoys to break up their outlines. In grain fields it’s sometimes best to ditch the ground blinds and hunt in your best "whites." And don't forget your facemask. There's typically no margin for error.
4) Decoys: You don't need a 1,000-decoy spread to have a successful hunt, says Terning. "You need a respectable amount of decoys, and the best ones you have, because quality can be more important than quantity," he said, noting that you should team up with a friend if you don’t have enough decoys. "Bring along some floaters too. You'll want to use them in the sheet water." Keep decoys properly spaced, about 3 or 4 feet between each. The spread will look more natural from a distance and create the affect of having a larger spread.
5) Movement in decoys: It's very important to attract distant birds to your spread. Use kites, flyers, flags and other decoys to increase motion, especially directly behind your blinds on the upwind side of your spread. This will create the illusion of snows landing and leap-frogging over each other to feed. Bottom line: employ as much movement as possible, even to the point of putting a white vest on your dog.
6) Late snows: The latter part of the migration can provide the best decoy hunting, because the majority of the birds are juveniles. “Young birds are much easier to decoy,” says Delta’s Jim Fisher, Canada’s director of conservation policy. “You won’t see the number of birds, generally speaking, but the decoy hunting can be excellent.”
7) Hunter placement in decoys: “Don’t be afraid to move within the decoy spread to get to a better position to shoot lower birds or to have a chance at flaring birds,” says Delta’s Fisher. “Or leave the decoys altogether and get downwind to a spot that might give you closer shots.”
8) Prepare for fog and mud: Spring hunters will likely find both in copious amounts. “Morning fog can really get guys mixed up when they’re looking for the field they received permission to hunt the night before, so make a mental note of landmarks to guide you to the right spot,” says Delta’s Terning. “If the fog has been really bad, use a GPS to plot the precise location of where you want to set up the following day.” Be prepared for mud, too; bring extra clothes/gear and have a plan for transporting decoys, because driving a truck and trailer into a field might not be an option. “Be respectful of landowner property and be extremely careful not to tear up muddy roads,” says Devney.
9) Ballistics and shooting: Fisher strongly recommends using quality shells. “I like to use 3-inch shot shells with BB or BBB,” he said. “Be judicious with the shots you take, know your maximum effective range and don’t stray from it. After all, it’s hunting, not shooting.”
10) Food, glorious food: Have a plan. Bring a cooler, ice and cleaning materials. Know the rules on how to legally transport birds. Snow geese, contrary to popular myth, are superb table fare. Bring a grill or stove and prepare a feast in the field. An easy recipe: take the tenderloins from several goose breasts. Dredge them in seasoned flour and fry. Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce. Delta President Rob Olson says sweet chili or plum and hot mustard is a terrific combination. Find some great snow goose recipes at Delta Waterfowl.
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Life in the woods emerges --- Wild animals appear with the ebb and flow of darkness - Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I am a waterfowl hunter. I love the salt spray of an early morning duck hunt and watching a retriever bring back a greenhead mallard to the blind. I believe sunrises and sunsets are beautiful sights to behold from a duck blind.
Deer hunting is something that has never appealed to me, despite the fact that I come from a family of deer hunters. My father and two brothers have harvested some trophy bucks. On the farm I live on, I routinely see as many as 30 deer grazing in a field. But each year passes without me spending any time in the deer stands that dot the family farm.
It was on a recent trip to South Carolina for a boar hunt that I think I discovered the lure of deer hunting. I found myself deep in the woods atop a 20-foot stand waiting on wild boar during a morning hunt and two afternoon hunts.
I was a guest at Roblyn's Neck Trophy Club near Florence, S.C., some 14,000 acres that originated from a king's grant in 1741. Guides left me at the stand early in the morning before first light and then again that afternoon about two hours before sunset.
I realized then that idle hours in a duck blind resulted in chatter among your hunting companions. Stories of hunts past and present occupy the time when the ducks are not flying. Idle time in a stand, perched on a narrow seat 20 feet above the ground --thus, the fear of falling prevented napping -- was an opportunity for thinking and marveling at the changing scenery within my eyesight.
I noticed that the eerie quietness of the predawn hours in a stand was replaced by the rustling of small animals like squirrels and songbirds as the first light creased through the tall trees. In the distance I could hear the distinctive hooting of an owl. Later, a doe gingerly walked past my stand looking for food.
And during the afternoon hunt, again it was strangely quiet as I climbed the stand and remained so for about two hours, but when darkness approached I could hear the croaking of bullfrogs and the gobbling of wild turkeys. It seems life in the woods emerges as light arrives and departs each day.
All told, I spent 10 hours in three different stands and never pulled the trigger. Only boar were in season during the last week of February. I had three deer walk past me, two wood ducks that frolicked in a nearby ditch and a large tom that stared me down when I moved ever so slightly. But although the property was said to be overrun with wild boars that wreaked havoc on nearby fields, no boar were taken or even seen by the four members of our hunting group.
Still, it was a successful hunt.
Two days of being alone in the middle of the woods in an area so remote that no horns were heard, no planes were seen and no cell phone could be used did much to restore my equilibrium in this rushed, chaotic world we live in.
I am not sure I will try deer hunting next season. My father always says, "The fun is over when you pull the trigger," meaning now the work of field dressing the deer and taking it to a processor has just begun. I can clean a bag limit of ducks in a few minutes and be dining on wildfowl that evening.
But I will admit that now, deer hunters, I get it.
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Duck hunters finish season on DNR Management Areas - Monday, March 07, 2011
Duck hunters finished the season on S.C. Department of Natural Resources public hunting lands, with a total harvest of 6,441 birds, an average of 2.4 birds per hunter, slightly higher than the average reported last year. A total of 2,711 hunters participated in these popular hunts at the 16 Wildlife Management Areas that recorded individual hunt data.
Wood ducks accounted for 38 percent of the harvest, followed by American green-winged teal, northern shoveler, blue-winged teal, gadwall and ring-necked ducks.
"Overall, the season for our waterfowl areas was excellent, with many areas reporting harvests at an all time high in terms of birds harvested per hunter," said Dean Harrigal, waterfowl program coordinator with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "The significant cold weather in early December pushed birds into the state and they stayed here for the duration of the season. Birds were pretty well distributed around the state making for good hunter success on our management areas."
Category II Area, Hickory Top Green Tree Reservoir in Clarendon County had the highest hunter participation and harvest of all areas with 880 hunters reporting harvesting 1,715 birds, predominately wood ducks.
On Category I Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), drawing only 917 hunters (on seven areas) harvested 3,637 birds with an average of 4.0 birds per hunter. American green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler and gadwall were top birds in the bag.
Sandy Beach in Berkley County led in average harvest for Category I Areas with an average of 5.1 birds per hunter, followed by Bear Island WMA in Colleton County with 4.4 birds per hunter, Santee Coastal Reserve in Charleston and Georgetown counties with 4.1 birds per hunter, Santee Delta in Georgetown County with 3.8, and Samworth Wildlife Management Area in Georgetown County with 3.5 birds per hunter.
"Teal are a mainstay of our Category I Wildlife Management Areas, especially along the coast," said Harrigal. "When teal are around we generally have good hunter success."
Top individual hunt units were The Cape of the Santee Coastal Reserve (5.0 birds per hunter), Bear Island East (4.7 birds per hunter), Springfield/ The Cut of Bear Island (4.5 birds per hunter), Santee Delta West (4.2 birds per hunter), and Murphy Island of Santee Coastal Reserve (4.1 birds per hunter).
Hunt data was collected on six of the 25 Category II Wildlife Management Areas (open to the public on specific days). Hunters reported a harvest of 2,368 birds on these areas, the majority coming from Hickory Top Green Tree Reservoir. The average for 1,637 hunters was 1.4 birds per hunter. Wood ducks accounted for more than 89 percent of the bag.
Regular season adult-youth hunts were held on three special adult-youth-only areas. The reported harvest was 436 birds by 157 hunters for an average of 2.8 birds per hunter. Wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, and American green-winged teal were the top birds in the bag. Bonneau Ferry WMA in Berkeley County was the top adult-youth waterfowl hunting area during the recently completed season.
The DNR sponsored special hunts for youth during State and Federal Youth Hunting Days on Dec. 6 and Feb. 6. A total of 108 youth harvested 336 birds on the eight Category I areas that reported data. Top areas were Donnelley, Bonneau Ferry, Sandy Beach, Santee Coastal, Bear Island and Santee Delta Wildlife Management Areas.
"We were especially pleased that our youth-oriented hunts provided quality waterfowl hunting opportunities for young men and women during the season," Harrigal said.
For detailed reports on the recent waterfowl season go to the DNR website at: www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/waterfowl/wfresults.html.
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Delta Waterfowl Warns of Cuts To Duck-Friendly Programs - Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Attention waterfowlers: A proposal by the U.S. House of Representatives would dramatically cut funding to time-tested conservation programs important to the future of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting, according to Delta Waterfowl Senior Vice President John Devney.
“We’re talking serious cuts or zeroing out entire initiatives that have conserved waterfowl habitat for many years,” he said. “The proposal, as it currently stands, will effectively take the duck out of the Duck Factory. That’s bad for hunters, farmland conservation and the future of our heritage.”
Devney says the proposal would defund North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants, currently funded at about $47 million, and would axe by 81 percent funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land acquisitions in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR).
“State wildlife grants, which is vitally important for wildlife habitat and hunting access, would also be defunded, from $90 million to zero,” said Devney.
In addition, Devney says future funding for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) could be jeopardy. “Even with a new general CRP signup slated to begin March 14, the massive U.S. budget deficit could put the all-important program for ducks and other wildlife in the crosshairs of Congress for cuts,” he said.
Devney says waterfowl hunters need to contact their federal lawmakers today and tell them to protect these vitally important duck-producing programs.
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Goose hunters, put away that slow cooker - Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Chris Davanzo of Farmington and Ryan Kelly of Irondequoit are part of a special breed of cooks who like to pursue their dinner from sky to stove.
By day, the two friends work at the Canandaigua Wegmans, Davanzo, in the seafood department, Kelly, a chef in the store's catering division.
But at the crack of a cold, dark Tuesday dawn last month, they are touting shotguns and camouflage in the middle of a Pittsford cornfield, stubborn stalks poking through a crunchy sheet of snow. Though the sleepy glow of a new subdivision is within view, it will be at least an hour before commuter traffic kicks up along Calkins Road.
Still, the honking can be heard in the distance.
Canada geese might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a hunter's feast, but it is Davanzo's specialty in the field and one of Kelly's passions in the kitchen.
As a hunting guide and owner of Fish & Feather Outfitters, a company he started about five years ago, Davanzo's goal is to make the Finger Lakes and western New York a destination for waterfowl hunting. "It's a lifestyle," he says.
Meanwhile, Kelly's personal mission is to give Canada goose, perhaps the Rodney Dangerfield of game meats, the proper care and respect it deserves in the kitchen.
"A lot of guys who hunt, they don't treat it properly," laments the 32-year-old chef, who started hunting in earnest more than half a dozen years ago.
"Yeah, they throw the stuff in a Crock-Pot or wrap it in bacon," says Davanzo, 29.
The result is dried-out or rubber-tough meat that can turn the average person off from game meat, they say.
Waterfowl hunters who think the only thing to do with goose meat is to make slow cooker chili, pay attention. We are about to tell you how to cook your goose so it won't end up as unappealing as a hockey puck. This might be useful information, as the final window of the 2010-2011 Canada goose hunting season runs Feb. 26 to March 10 in designated regions south of Canandaigua and throughout the southern part of the state.
If you don't hunt, or don't have waterfowler friends who will share their bounty, fear not. This technique and the following recipe work just as well with farm-raised duck breasts you can buy in the supermarket as well as wild snow geese, which Davanzo refers to as "rib eye of the sky."
For the uninitiated, wild goose meat has more in common with red meat than poultry.
Most hunters use only the hefty breasts, which, on a 10-pound bird will yield about 4 pounds of boned, edible meat, says Davanzo. There is so little leg meat, most don't bother with it. And they usually remove the skin.
The leg meat is undeniably tough and stringy and only becomes palatable after slow braising in liquid. (Kelly saves his in the freezer, and when he has enough he braises it in a stew.)
As long as the breast meat is cooked rare to medium-rare, it will stay tender, insist Kelly and Davanzo. Grilling, pan-searing and roasting in a moderate oven for a short amount of time is the best treatment. Regardless, timing is critical, so the cook, like the hunter, must stay ever vigilant.
Here is another reality about Canada goose. The flavor is gamier than farmed goose, with an earthy mineral quality that reminds a lot of people of beef liver. If you like liver, the only thing you have to do is make sure you don't overcook it and add a little salt and pepper.
For the rest of us, marinating the meat before cooking and preparing a sauce with the right flavor profile will tame the aggressive note.
Kelly marinates his meat for at least 24 hours before cooking, adding onion, garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, black pepper and a little oil to a zipped baggie. (But don't add the salt until right before cooking or the meat's juices will leach out.)
He uses a combination of pan-searing on top of the stove and a quick roasting in the oven to finish it off. While the meat is resting, he deglazes the pan with stock and wine, and sweetens it with dried blueberries.
The result is something that will make you honk in pleasure.
Ryan Kelly's Pan-Roasted Goose Breast with Herbs, Dried Blueberries and Natural Jus
Fresh herbs, dried fruit and acidic wine transform the sometimes gamey notes of wild goose into a delicate and easily lovable dish. You will want to marinate the meat for a day before cooking, so plan your cooking schedule accordingly. This recipe also works with the same amount by weight of duck breast or other waterfowl. After marinating, the whole process goes quickly, so have all your ingredients measured and prepared before you start cooking.
For the marinade:
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems and stems discarded
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems and stems discarded
¼ cup canola oil plus 1 tablespoon for pan-searing
2 pounds boneless, skinless goose breast
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
1 small bunch of fresh thyme, tied with butcher's string
¾ cup dried blueberries (can also use dried cherries)
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Marinate the meat: Put the onion, garlic, pepper, thyme, rosemary and ¼ cup canola oil in a food processor and process until smooth. Put this mixture in a large Ziploc bag, along with the goose breast halves. Seal and keep in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping meat inside the bag a few times to evenly distribute the marinade.
Cook the meat: An hour before cooking, remove the goose from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the breast from the marinade and loosely wipe off some of the excess. Sprinkle with salt.
Heat the 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large cast iron skillet or other oven-proof sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, put breasts in the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until each side is evenly browned and not burned. Put the pan in the oven and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the meat is medium-rare and registers about 125 degrees in the center. Remove the pan from the oven, add the butter and, as it melts, baste the meat with the pan juices and butter for about 30 seconds. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and tent it with foil to rest while you deglaze the pan.
Deglaze the pan: Put the pan with the butter and meat juices on the stove on low heat and add the shallots and dried blueberries, cooking until the shallots are softened and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the stock, wine and bundle of thyme and continue to cook, scraping the bottom of the pan continuously to loosen the cooked bits, until the liquid has reduced to a soft, slightly thickened consistency that leaves a spoon well coated, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the thyme bundle and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Slice goose breasts into 1/3-inch slices against the grain. Serve on a platter with pan sauce spooned over them.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
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Teens on the hunt for waterfowl - Wednesday, February 16, 2011
SWAN QUARTER, N.C. -- Allen Bliven warned the kids.
They'd soon be spoiled.
It was on a recent Saturday, North Carolina's Youth Waterfowl Day, and as he does each year, Bliven led his own youth duck hunt on that day.
"It's fun, but it's trying," Bliven, who lives in Swan Quarter, said of the annual statewide hunt. which allows kids to participate without having to compete with adults. "They would never have the chance to shoot this much without this opportunity."
The Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in Hyde County on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula is a magnet for waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway this time of year.
Just south of the refuge along the 30,000-acre Lake Mattamuskeet, Bliven owns a farm, and he has several acres of corn fields flooded in late fall to draw in waterfowl by the thousands in their winter search for food and shelter.
For many waterfowl along the east coast of Canada and the United States, this is as far south they will migrate. It's a wild place of salt marsh, agriculture and timber-a place of brackish water and alligators, pine and black bears, protected from the Atlantic Ocean only by the Outer Banks and the Pamlico Sound.
Before there was a trace of sunlight early on the foggy morning, Bliven loaded his four-wheeler and its trailer with three groups of kids, each group with a parent in tow, and two more adults who acted as guides, including Bliven's wife, Julie, and Davis Pritchard.
The vehicle plodded in the dark to the first blind, where Pritchard and the first group were dropped off. Allen Bliven and his group were dropped off a couple of hundred yards farther down the impoundment, and Julie Bliven's group continued a few hundred more yards.
With his group decked out in chest waders, Allen Bliven, a waterfowl hunting guide who also has a line of waterfowl calls, stepped into the pond and led the way about 10 yards from the shore to a wooden blind.
There were Liam Miller, 15, and his mom, Erin Miller VanGorder, and Jared Beasley, 15, and his mom, Diane Beasley. Both boys are accomplished duck and goose callers, having placed high in waterfowl-calling competitions.
Bliven walked out into the impoundment and threw out decoys as an owl hooted.
The boys' calling skills don't necessarily translate to being good shots, and on this morning, they didn't have to worry about calling in birds.
Part of that reason was that Bliven was there to do it. The other reason was that there was no shortage of birds.
"Jared, see that street light over there?" Bliven said. "When it gets close to light, you'll start seeing things blocking it out. That'll be ducks."
At 6:40 a.m., the first shots were fired.
"We could be done in 10 minutes," Bliven said.
But because it was a youth hunt, and the shooting skill levels varied, it was not a short morning.
At times, there were so many birds that they surrounded all sides of the blind.
Some birds could be heard whistling by. Each species made its own distinct sound, and there was much variety: ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, mergansers, green-winged teal and northern shovelers, among others.
The boys' eyes were fixated on the sky, and they held their shotguns with intent, waiting for a shot to open up.
Plenty of shots were fired, but few birds dropped.
"You guys aiming or just shooting?" Bliven said.
"I think I'm just shooting," Miller said.
Miller was one of the surest shots of the group. Once he got close to his limit, he left the blind to allow Steed Jones to hunt.
Jones and his mom, Laura, slid into the blind, and while hundreds of birds circled the area early, fewer came within shotgun range.
Beasley had difficulty and wound up shooting only one ring-necked duck for the morning, though he emptied more than three boxes of shells.
As the morning wore on, there were fewer ducks, and Bliven began to try to coax circling birds close. Jones added to the chorus.
Sometime around 10 a.m., the horn of the Swan Quarter-to-Ocracoke ferry floated over the sound, and that was about the cue that the morning hunt was over.
Reed Sharpe, 14, gripped a beautiful green-winged teal.
He shot the bird while hunting with his father, Charles, and Bliven's wife.
"I couldn't have done it without y'all," the young Sharpe told Julie Bliven.
VanGorder said she enjoyed the hunt and appreciated how good it was, even though it was the first time she had hunted with her son.
"Normally, they're lucky if they see three birds all morning," she said.
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Public meetings will help determine next five-year La. duck hunting framework Read more: VermilionT - Monday, February 14, 2011
Public meetings will help determine next five-year La. duck hunting framework
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BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) was informed of options available to the state for the 2011-2015 waterfowl seasons during their Feb. 8 meeting.
In a presentation prepared by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Waterfowl Program Study Group, the commission was reminded that the current five-year seasonal pattern of two zones with two scheduled splits ended with this past waterfowl season. The state can make a change in the current seasonal pattern that would remain in place for the next five seasons.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) preliminary options offered to states include the following selections to choose from:
No zones with up to two season splits (three season segments)
Two or three zones with the option for split seasons
Four zones with straight seasons (no splits)
The four zones with straight seasons option and the three zones with split seasons option are currently proposals for the 2011 season that have not been officially approved by the USFWS.
The various options will be explained in greater detail at LDWF’s public meetings in March where all hunting season proposals will be discussed. Those meetings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:
March 9 at 6 p.m., Alexandria Convention Hall located at 915 Third St.
March 15 at 6:30 p.m., LDWF Office in Minden located at 9961 Hwy. 80.
March 15 at 6:30 p.m., Yambilee Festival Bldg., 1939 W. Landry, Opelousas
March 16 at 6 p.m., Ponchatoula High School Cafeteria, 19452 Hwy. 22.
Read more:VermilionToday.com - Public meetings will help determine next five year La duck hunting framework
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Outdoors column: Wood duck houses help nesting habitat - Monday, February 14, 2011
The Packerland Chapter of Delta Waterfowl will hold its annual banquet on Feb. 28 at Black Forest Restaurant, 1966 Velp Ave., Green Bay. The social will begin at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Contact Eric Johnson for tickets at (920) 676-0621.
My shop was busy this past month as Delta Waterfowl members and I made 200 wood duck houses that will be put along the bay of Green Bay. Money raised at their banquet will cover some expenses for such a large-scale project. Join us if you can.
Youth trap league
The Manitowoc Gun Club invites boys and girls in grades 6-12 to participate in the "Between the Lakes Youth Trap League" from March through May. They will be competing against shooters from Outdoors Inc. (New Holstein), Kiel Fish & Game, and Winnebago East Shore Conservation Club (Chilton/Stockbridge).
All participants must have a hunter safety certificate, a safe and useable 12- or 20-gauge shotgun, and eye and hearing protection. A league fee of $35 and possibly some volunteer hours will cover all shooting expenses — including shells for competition rounds. The program includes safe shooting and gun handling instruction, firing line etiquette, trap machine operation and safety, trap rules and scoring, 50-target practice with instruction, 200-target, four-week league, all fees, shells and targets, league and individual trophies, 100-target State High School Championship Trap Shoot (seventh grade and up), and end of season "bust-up" party.
Wednesdays will be practice nights, with instructors present (shooters pay for their own targets and shells). For information, call Scott Skattebo at (920) 629-0370 or (920) 684-0625 or Lee Fischer at (920) 645-1465.
Hunter safety course
Westshore/Manitowoc Rifle and Pistol Club will hold a hunter safety course at the Manitowoc Rifle and Pistol Club grounds. Cost is $10 per student. The first class is on March 7 and is orientation night. Both the student and a parent must attend. The remaining class dates are March 21, 23, 26, 28 and 30. Weekday classes are from 6 to 9 p.m. and the March 26 class is from 8 a.m. until noon. Parents are welcome to attend. Registration is required by calling either Al LeClair at (920) 755-4569 or Mike Casebeer at (920) 553-1255. You can also check them out at www .manitowoccountyfish andgame.org.
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Where to hunt those snow geese - Monday, February 14, 2011
The question came by e-mail three times in one day. “Where can I go to hunt snow geese”?
Duck season is over and done with. Regular goose seasons for snows, Canadas and white-fronteds have ended. But we have this Light Geese Conservation Order in effect now through April 25. Most people call it the Snow Goose Conservation Order. “Hunt,” no. Not officially.
If you have driven east, northeast and southeast from Little Rock lately, you may have seen large, huge, gigantic flocks of snow geese at a distance. We have many of them in Arkansas, and they are a problem for some farmers, landowners and also for the breeding grounds in the far north of Canada.
Wildlife managers are begging us to take out some of these snow geese.
Yes, and that is easier said than done. Hunting snow geese is difficult for anyone accustomed to putting out some decoys, hiding in a blind and working a call to attract a flight of ducks.
You don’t just drive out, see a bunch of white birds in a field, get out and shoot them.
First, you have to have permission form a landowner since virtually all the snow geese you will find in Arkansas are on private land. They may roost at night on a federal wildlife refuge, but during daylight hours they will be feeding in fields – cutover rice fields, harvested soybean fields and fields of young winter wheat.
These snow geese flocks are usually large with hundreds and even thousands of birds in a group. They probably won’t ay attention to a dozen or so decoys you set up in a field, but they may come into a spread of 600 decoys.
Some experience snow goose hunters have done well with just a good supply of newspapers. They drape the paper sheets over stalks in the field, and the slightest breeze gives movement to the white paper. Some hunters mix in full-body decoys with the newspaper spreads. Some use white plastic trash bags instead of newspapers.
Obvious, it is work, time-consuming labor often in muddy conditions to set up a spread of several hundred snow goose decoys, paper or plastic, before daylight. It takes a team.
But under the Snow Goose Conservation Order, some different rules are in play. Hunters must call 1-800-364-4263 during business hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) for a free registration permit number. No bag limits or possession limits in effect. Hunters may use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset. Non-toxic shot is required.
All this is useless, however, unless you get a place to hunt. If you don’t know a farmer or a landowner who may have snow geese on his place, homework is required in the form of making phone calls, maybe many phone calls.
Ask friends who may know a farmer or landowner in snow goose territory. Pick out a nearby town and call a farm supply store. Call a county extension office. Get in your vehicle and do some driving.
The latter could be your best route.
Find snow geese in a field and look around for the nearest house. Knock on a deer and be ready with a friendly smile. If the person answering the door isn’t the decision maker, you probably will get directions to the right person.
Introduce yourself. Tell where you live, what kind of work you do. Get across the idea that you are an ethical, reliable person who wants to hunt. Should you be granted permission, tell when you plan to hunt and who will be with you.
Offer to share the geese you bring down with the person giving permission. Dress them out first.
You may acquire a long-time friend along with some notable hunting experiences.
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Memo to DNR: Rules Not the Duck Solution - Thursday, February 10, 2011
Memo to DNR: Rules Not the Duck Solution
Here's a news bulletin for Steve Cordts and the other DNR duck experts. Don't bother to break into regular programming though. Nobody is likely to listen. My total bag for the opening weekend of the 2010 Minnesota duck season, pictured above, would not have improved by one more duck had the season opened before sunrise instead of 9:00 a.m. And if the season had opened a week earlier, in September, my success, one blue wing teal, would have been unchanged.
We don't need relaxed rules. We need more ducks.
It's easy to attend another conference on duck hunting and screen yet another Power Point presentation aimed at appeasing Minnesota's dwindling duck hunter population. It's easy to relax the rules. That can be done with the stroke of a few legislative pens. Boosting Minnesota's duck population? Now that's hard.
Here's what I'd do if I woke up tomorrow and found a brass plaque above my desk that read: DNR Commissioner.
1). Break the state's duck producing counties up into smaller, manageable zones. The scope of the statewide problem is so large it's overwhelming. Assign each zone to one duck interest group. Delta Waterfowl gets one; the Minnesota Waterfowl Association gets one; DU gets one; a local sportsmen clubs gets one; and so on. Promote competition among the various groups; announce annual winners based on July beak counts within each zone.
2). Twist the arms of the folks who make money off duck hunting. "Hello, Dick Cabela? Do you want to sell more chest waders? Good. Send me a check for our duck boosting activity. "Hello, Federal Ammunition? Do you want to sell more steel loads in Minnesota? Good. Open your wallet." "Hello, Lund Boats? I've got a plan guaranteed to sell more duck boats, but it's going to cost you up front."
3). Take the gloves off and declare a cage match with big agriculture. No more politically-correct dancing around the wetland draining issue. We want clean water in this state and we want it now. What? Food is going to be more expensive? We'll pay up if that's the price of a glass of unpolluted water. Hire an army of pin-striped lobbyists; put them under the direction of a powerful legislative insider, Roger Moe comes to mind, and go toe-to-toe with the Monsanto pin-stripes.
4). Declare war on duck predators. Put a year-round bounty on the heads of fox, coyote, racoons and skunks. Among the thousands of Minnesotans who hunt ducks, few hunt predators. That must change. I have a study in my files written by Peter Ward, who lived for 71 years near the Delta Waterfowl Research Station in Manitoba. It details this sad fact: with unchecked fur-bearing predators roaming the prairie a mere 15% of hen mallards are successful in getting off a brood. The same study shows that with proper marsh management and predator removal, the results were waterfowl units brimming with ducks where only four years prior predators eliminated virtually all nesting efforts.
All these ideas depend on hard work. None of them is as easy as changing a hunting regulation. Anybody at the DNR or elsewhere ready to go to work on behalf of ducks? Stay tuned.
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Duck hunting season described as ‘spotty’ this year - Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Duck hunting season described as ‘spotty’ this year
Posted: February 6, 2011 - 5:21pm
The duck hunting season that just closed was a good one – for some people. It was not so good for others, and lousy for a few. It seems like the most common description we are hearing is “spotty.”
But this is normal or close to normal.
Ducks don’t always behave the way we expect them to or want them to. A flock of mallards or some other species can decide one morning to move a few hundred yards away, and our hunt that day is a washout. Why do they move? More food, better food or just being ducks?
Despite the erratic or spotty hunting seasons we have most years, we’ve got it pretty good with ducks in Arkansas. An incident 30 years ago comes to mind.
The year was 1981, and a public meeting was underway in Stuttgart. Two points were argued. One was the familiar early season dates versus late season dates, and it is usual for “Stuttgart” or at least the private clubs in that area to want an early season. They can flood their own fields to attract the early arrivals and not have to depend on rainfall to do it.
The other debate was other splitting Arkansas into north and south zones for duck hunting. This comes up every few years.
I sat beside Dr. Rex Hancock, the Stuttgart dentist who had led the fight to stop channelizing the Cache River a few years previously. He also had been the lead player in launching a state duck stamp for Arkansas.
Speaker after speaker argued one way or the other on the season dates and on the zone issue. Rex Hancock grumbled under his breath. He mumbled more and finally said it out loud. “What about the resource”?
His meaning was that people need to consider what is best to keep good numbers of ducks coming to Arkansas first, then argue about dates and zones. Somebody asked Hancock to repeat his comment. And he did, rather forcefully.
He made some folks unhappy that night, but he got his message across. It is one that is still very much appropriate.
In all of our discussions, talk, arguments and Internet postings, the factor of keeping our wildlife resources at their current levels or possibly improving them should be first and foremost.
We have never had it so good in Arkansas with the various species we hunt, excepting quail.
Deer numbers are at an all-time high, but there remains the problem of too many deer in this area and not enough in another area. This will never be fully corrected. If you think ducks aren’t what they used to be, the statistics don’t agree with you. Some of us are old enough to remember the early 1960s when duck numbers were so low the daily limit was two, and the hunting season was 20 days. But the ducks came back.
We’ve got geese like we never had before, and as soon as those words are on paper, more than one hunter will snort, “So what”? Goose hunting has not caught on with us, and it is a wildlife resource that is vastly underutilized.
We have bear hunting. And we have elk hunting in a limited way. These have come about since 1980. Turkey hunting flourished but has tapered somewhat. Dove hunting continues to be good, especially for those who engage in it after opening weekend. Squirrels are abundant. Rabbits, and this is just a personal opinion, are still with us but not in the numbers of former years.
What has changed much more than the various types of wildlife is where we hunt, meaning access to hunting areas.
Much land has been cleared and dotted with houses, commercial structures and highways. Purple paint and no trespassing signs are prevalent and with reason.
But there are opportunities to hunt still. Thankfully.
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Rules being considered could help duck hunters - Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Rules being considered could help duck hunters
Minnesota waterfowlers might find it easier to kill ducks this fall if regulation changes being considered by the Department of Natural Resources and some legislators are implemented.
Possible is a change in opening-day shooting time from 9 a.m. to a half-hour before sunrise, DNR waterfowl specialist Steve Cordts said Saturday at a Bloomington conference sponsored by the Minnesota Waterfowl Association.
Additionally, duck hunting could begin earlier this fall than it has in recent years, when the season's first day -- by legislative fiat -- has been the Saturday nearest Oct. 1.
Cordts also said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service might give states the option this year of establishing three separate duck zones, with a season "split'' in each -- meaning hunting could open and close again to coincide more closely with expected migrations.
"This is fairly appealing for Minnesota,'' Cordts said, adding that a late-season zone could be established in southern Minnesota along the Mississippi River.
In recent years, as Minnesota duck hunters have reported less success afield, the DNR and the Legislature have eased hunting restrictions in attempts to increase harvest opportunities -- actions unsettling to some waterfowlers.
For many years, for instance, shooting on opening day began at noon, until being moved back to 9 a.m. Similarly, a 4 p.m. shooting restriction once extended half the season but since has been shortened to about a week.
Cordts told Minnesota Waterfowl Symposium attendees Saturday that most state waterfowlers reported improved duck hunting last fall, though a record-low 87,000 Minnesota duck stamps were sold. Only about 100,000 mallards have been killed in recent seasons, and the state's overall duck harvest has fallen 24 percent in Minnesota between 1970 and 2009, Cordts said.
The biggest change in Minnesota duck harvest dating to the 1920s is the number of bluebills, or scaup, in the bag. A century ago, 19 percent of the state's harvest was scaup. Today, it's 2 percent.
"Historically, we've often killed over 500,000 scaup in Minnesota in a season,'' Cordts said. "Now it's between 10,000 and 20,000.''
Minnesota breeding duck numbers in recent years have averaged about 600,000, the norm since 1968, Cordts said. About 240,000 mallard were counted in the state last spring, "about average,'' he said, and nearly double the number counted in the 1960s.
• At a banquet Saturday night, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association was slated to induct seven waterfowling legends into its Waterfowl Hall of Fame: Bob Austin, Marv Bernet, Marold Duebbert, Bob Jessen, "Doc'' Komarek, Dave Maass and Bill Stevens.
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A New View of Duck Hunting - Tuesday, February 08, 2011
American Photo: A New View of Duck Hunting
Dave Jordano uses the frozen Mississippi as a daylight studio.
This winter seems to have turned America into a big white seamless. Snow after snow has smoothed the edges of the great outdoors into a cyclorama, complete with built-in reflectors and abundant fill light. All it takes to use it is the courage to step into the unrelenting cold, camera in hand.
A couple of winters ago Dave Jordano packed up his photo gear and headed West from Chicago, his home base, to the frozen Mississippi. There, on the solid ice along the river’s edge, duck hunters set up blinds for their own, more intrusive kind of shooting. Why sensible ducks would be fooled by these structures is another matter, but Jordano was drawn to their quirky construction—a mix of tree branches, burlap, reeds, and construction leftovers. So he set up his 39-megapixel Hasselblad H3D II to capture the blinds he liked the most.
Jordano, a former commercial photographer who now devotes himself to fine-art work, took his icebound subjects beyond mere landscape. In fact, it’s almost as if he shot them in a studio: The blinds sit centered on the white seamless formed by frozen river and always overcast sky, illuminated by the unvarying light of a cloudy softbox, vivid in color and detail. Jordano’s consistent treatment and the lack of distractions directs all attention to their shape, textures, and earthy palette—the latter making far less sense in a blank expanse than it would in woodlands. His approach recalls that of Bernd and Hilla Becher, who found endless subtle variation in cooling towers and other industrial structures. “Each blind possessed a style and character all its own, even though the hunters had to adhere to the same basic construction principles and materials,” Jordano comments. “The end results, while utilitarian in purpose, are always playfully creative and original.”
Jordano reports that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has since cracked down on the building of duck blinds, limiting their number though a lottery and requiring that they be dismantled at the end of the hunting season. Whether that regulation will have any environmental impact is hard to say, but it assures one thing: that Dave Jordano will have an endless supply of quizzical, whimsical duck blinds to photograph.
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Duck hunting season extended in SA - Monday, February 07, 2011
Duck hunting season extended in SA
Longer season for duck hunters in SA (Getty Images: Sandra Mu, file photo)
Duck hunters in South Australia will be able to take double the number of birds this season over last year.
The SA Government has increased bag limits and the length of the season.
It says more water has led to better breeding conditions.
The duck hunting season will run from February 19 until June 26.
A year earlier it did not open until the end of March.
South-east duck hunter Ron Hastings has welcomed the longer season.
"The reports are that there is prolific breeding of water fowl in the north of the state and in other parts of Australia with all the floods we've had and I think the date of February to June is quite adequate," he said.
"It's getting a bit back to the old days."
The quail season will run from April until the end of July.
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Hunting during the Light-Goose Conservation Order - Sunday, February 06, 2011
Hunting during the Light-Goose Conservation Order
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Over the last few days, I have received several questions about the 2011 Conservation Order for light geese. In today's article, I will try to answer some of the questions and tell the readers how they might participate.
The first question is "What are light geese?" "Light Geese" includes snow geese (both the white and blue phase) and Ross's geese. Numbers of light geese still exceed the carrying capacity of fragile arctic habitats, and biologists continue to recommend greater harvest to reduce numbers.
In an attempt to reduce the light geese numbers, the Conservation Order was established in 1998. This is the 13th consecutive year that the order has been in effect. The Conservation Order allows hunters to use different techniques that are illegal during the regular waterfowl hunting season.
The Conservation Order for light geese will be in effect from Feb. 1 through April 30 2011, with no daily limit. Hunters may use electronic calls and unplugged shotguns, and shoot from a ½ hour before sunrise to a ½ hour after sunset. A valid Conservation Order Permit ($5 residents and $40 nonresidents) is the only permit required for the Conservation Order. Hunters 15 years old and younger do not need a Conservation Order Permit.
However, there are several common problems that arise each year. Here in Dunklin County, 99 percent of the time light-geese are going to be located on private property. Although many of the landowners do not want the geese on their property, they also don't want trespassers on their property. Do not assume that you can enter on private property to hunt light-geese unless you have permission from the landowner first. Always get permission before entering on private property! If a Conservation Agent has to get involved because of trespass, it can result in a hunter receiving an invitation to court.
As with any waterfowl, only shotguns can be used to hunt the light geese. Rifles are not allowed for hunting waterfowl. Only nontoxic shot may be used to hunt geese. No lead shot may be possessed by a goose hunter during the Conservation Order. Only steel shot or federally approved nontoxic shot is allowed for the taking of the geese.
Year after year, there are several violations that occur during this time. Remember that it is illegal to: discharge a firearm from a public roadway or a motor vehicle, fail to retrieve all geese that are killed or crippled, and dumping carcasses in public waterways. For information on all other waterfowl hunting laws please refer to the Missouri Waterfowl Hunting Digest 2010-2011.
© Copyright 2011 Daily Dunklin Democrat
. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Duck, geese hunters cited for firing in urban zones on Potomac River-Canada goose hunting season ext - Sunday, February 06, 2011
Barbara Brown knows that waterfowl hunting season has begun when the sound of gunfire interrupts her Saturday slumber.
Brown, 65, lives on Admirals Way, in Potomac, near the C&O Canal National Historic Park, in a house she believed was far enough south of the legal hunting zone to avoid hearing shotgun blasts. Her home sits just inside a boundary that designates the urban area in which it is illegal to discharge a firearm for hunting, according to Montgomery County's weapons law.
Despite that boundary, police continue to cite people for hunting waterfowl within the urban area near the Potomac River. Officials say their main reason for enforcing the law along the river is to preclude hunters from accidentally hurting or killing someone.
With the extension of the hunting season into the early spring, Brown is concerned that hunters might clash with kayakers or others enjoying the river.
Waterfowl usually are hunted with a 12-gauge shotgun, which has a range of about 40 yards, said Larry Hindman, waterfowl project leader with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Maryland National Resources Police, which patrol the river, have charged four hunters with discharging a firearm below the boundary line this winter, spokesman Sgt. Brian Albert said. Police charge an average of four to six hunters a year.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates that 300 to 400 people hunt waterfowl on the Potomac River in Montgomery County every year. The hunting season varies by type of game and location, but is concentrated from November to January.
Waterfowl hunting from boats is legal north of the Watts Branch tributary on the Potomac River, Albert said. Some hunters might receive a warning if they say they did not know about the boundary.
The penalty for discharging a firearm in an urban area is six months in prison or a $1,000 fine, Albert said. The urban area encompasses the densely-populated regions of the county roughly bordering Watts Branch on the Potomac River to the south, Germantown and Montgomery Village to the north, and the border with Prince George's County and Washington, D.C., in the east.
The Potomac River isn't a popular place to hunt ducks and geese said Larry Hindman, waterfowl project leader with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
"Most people who hunt the river understand that they cannot hunt below that line," Hindman said.
Waterfowl hunters usually abide by hunting laws because they have too much time and money invested in the sport to risk losing their license, said Scott Barmby, owner of Black Duck Outfitters in New Market, which guides group waterfowl hunts in Maryland, North Dakota and Canada.
A regular resident hunting license costs $24.50 and waterfowl hunters also must obtain a $9 Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp and $15 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, in addition to costs of hunting supplies.
"You don't mess with the duck police," Barmby said. He never leads hunting trips further south than Seneca Creek, several miles north of Watts Branch.
A possible reason for illegal hunting might be that the boundary line does not lie on a convenient point of entry or exit from the river, Brown said.
Hunters often enter the river at Violet's Lock and hunt as they travel downstream, said Brown, who kayaks the same route. As the hunters travel downstream, some of them continue hunting past the boundary at Watts Brach before the next exit at Swain's Lock.
All waterfowl hunting must be done from a boat or kayak because hunting is prohibited on the C&O Canal grounds, said Brad Clawson, chief ranger of the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
Firearms used to be banned from the park, except at access points to the river, Clawson said. A 2009 federal firearms regulation superseded the park's policy and allows those licensed to carry a gun the right to do so within national parks.
Because the resident Canada goose population is at levels considered to be abundant, their hunting season, which used to end in mid-February now runs into early March, Hindman said. This is the third year the hunting season was extended by the Department of Natural Resources.
Brown moved to her "dream house" by the river in 2002. She doesn't have a problem with hunters using the river too, as long as they respect the boundary line.
"My concern mainly is the noise pollution," Brown said. "That and I'd rather not get shot."
Resident Canada geese population
Hunting is an important part of keeping the resident Canada geese population in check. The geese were bred in captivity by hunters in the early 1900s and used as live bait to hunt migratory Canada geese in the winter. The practice became illegal in the 1930s and the geese were released into the wild. The geese thrive in urban areas, produce four to five goslings per year, and have a high survival rate. Within the past five years, the population of resident geese in the state has been as high as 80,000, while the target population is 30,000. More than 40,000 resident geese were counted in Maryland last year.
Source: Larry Hindman, waterfowl project leader with Maryland Department of Natural Resources
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Pennsylvania Approves New Tool For Snow Goose Conservation Hunt - Saturday, February 05, 2011
HARRISBURG, PA --(Ammoland.com)- To give waterfowl hunters another tool to assist with efforts to address overabundant snow goose populations, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a regulatory change to allow the use of electronic decoys during the Snow Goose Conservation Hunt.
If published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, the official compendium of Pennsylvania regulations, the regulatory change could be in effect for hunters participating in the 2011 Snow Goose Conservation Hunt (Feb. 21-April 16).
“Snow goose populations have reached levels that are causing extensive and possibly irreversible damage to the arctic and sub-arctic breeding grounds they and other nesting birds use,” pointed out Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist.
“For some populations of snow geese, their nesting habitats can no longer support these large numbers. What’s more, these geese are beginning to impact habitat and crops in Mid-Atlantic States and Quebec.
“It’s likely that North America has never had as many snow geese as it does now. They have become a huge and unexpected problem for themselves and other wildlife that shares the wintering and breeding grounds these waterfowl occupy.
In addition to extending hunting hours and allowing the use of electronic calls for the Snow Goose Conservation Hunt, electronic decoys should provide hunters additional opportunity to harvest snow geese.”
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Snow geese population is growing out of control - Friday, February 04, 2011
Independence, MO —
While rabbit hunting recently, I noticed thousands of snow geese landing in a field where hundreds of birds were already feeding.
It’s easy to see why snow geese are causing problems in their breeding grounds.
The number of snow geese has more than tripled since the 1960s. They are up to more than 5 million today and are literally destroying their fragile Arctic breeding grounds. This has the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looking for ways to bring this mushrooming population to a level which their habitat can sustain.
Many national wildlife organizations, including the Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited and the American Bird Conservancy, have voiced support for measures that would help reduce the snow goose numbers before their habitat is lost.
Not only are the snow geese destructive, but they are taking other species with them. The expanded population may cause irreversible ecological damage as they continue to destroy the habitat. They will make it a condition that neither the geese or other birds will be able to exist in.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING: No action is not acceptable. The population of snow geese is now far beyond its carrying capacity. Several years ago, officials of the National Wildlife Federation said, “If we don’t take action now, the habitat will continue to be destroyed. Ultimately, in the distant future, that means the snow goose population will decline. But, also in the short term, we’re already having impact on other wildlife species.”
Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, “Too many snow geese are descending each year on nesting areas that simply cannot support them. If we don’t take steps now, these fragile ecosystems will continue to deteriorate to the point that they can no longer support the geese or other species of wildlife that share the arctic habitat.”
Andy Rhedeke, wildlife research biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said, “The snow goose population in the state is high and continues to be a problem in many areas.”
TRYING TO MAKE CORRECTIONS: The snow goose population is out of control because of changes in agricultural practices on their wintering grounds and other human activity.
This is a man-made problem that requires a man-made solution, like increased hunting for example. Without it, we might be witness to a catastrophic loss of habitat in the Arctic.
Hunters have harvested an estimated 800,000 snow geese over the past several years. However, wildlife managers say that harvesting two to three times as many birds will be necessary to bring these populations under control.
Through hunting, the population can be reduced without wasting this resource. Hunters have always been the most devout conservationists, and, in an ironic way, this is the perfect method for hunters to practice conservation and also show respect for this species of waterfowl.
PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITY: Missouri hunters have a long snow goose season and with the Conservation Order on snow goose season, starting Tuesday and going through April 30, there is no bag limit on snow geese. Hunters also may use electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. The season allows hunting from one-half hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset daily.
A $5 conservation order permit is the only permit needed to hunt snow geese during this time. For non-residents, the permit cost is $49.
Don Wright, a Carroll County hunter, has hunted snow geese for years and enjoys it when other waterfowl seasons have ended, including the Canada geese that runs through the rest of this month.
“For many years, when the weather turned bad and most hunters have given up hunting until the April turkey season, I had snow goose hunting very much to myself,” Wright said. “I never had any trouble getting permission to hunt because most of the landowners were happy to have someone drive the geese away from their winter wheat fields. By driving around and watching the big flocks as they circle a field, I would return the next day with several hundred newspapers and white rags, which I put out to decoy the geese. Many times the geese wouldn’t even bother to circle, they would just set their wings and drop in. The action would be fast and furious for a while.”
More waterfowl hunters are taking advantage of the Conservation Order to make the season last longer, and, according to Wright, they do make good eating if you fix them just right.
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Myhre: Goose hunting at its late season best - Friday, February 04, 2011
PIERRE, S.D. - The geese rose from the stubble field and from our position a half mile away, they were barely visible against the skyline.
We watched wondering if they were coming our way.
"There's coming," Larry Steffen said, and he and brother Dave began waving goose flags.
We were settled in along a strip of standing corn, the cobs long since picked clean by pheasants and geese. In front of us were about 30 goose decoys and against the backdrop of snow they were highly visible.
Bill Christiansen and Gary Howey, both of Hartington, Neb., studied the sky. Larry, Bill and I began working he goose calls and it was apparent now that the geese were committed.
It always amazes me just how big geese appear at a distance. At 100 yards, they looked just huge and in range, but they weren't. We waited and waited, calling and hearing the geese answer.
At 50 yards some of them began cupping their wings and losing altitude fast.
Four of them were just about to alight in our decoys when Larry yelled "Take them."
We did and all four dropped.
It was mid afternoon and we were hunting a field about a half mile away from Steffen's hunting lodge where we were guests. The geese move late this time of year. Most of them are roosting in the fields because massive Lake Oahe, only a couple miles away is locked in winter's grip.
There's very little open water right now and snow covers the fields, yet the geese, thousands of them, will spend the rest of the winter here.
We had last hunted with the Steffen brothers, Larry, Dave and Ernie, in January of 2009. We hunted geese in pits with 200 decoys spread around us. It was a bitter cold day with a bone chilling wind, but we limited out easily. In the fall of 2008, I hunted with them as they were one of the landowner hosts for the South Dakota's Governor's Hunt.
Thanks to innumerable food plots and lots of cover, their pheasant numbers are unbelievable.
This trip we took an hour to hunt pheasants and had our five-bird preserve limit in less than an hour.
Walking was impossible because of the snow, but the brothers sent the dogs into the cover and we posted.
Although they, as all preserves must, stock pen-raised birds on a one to one ratio according to harvest, all of the birds we shot were wild. Huge numbers of wild hens insure another good crop of wild birds for next year.
Our goose hunt lasted about an hour and a half before we collected our limits.
We had spent the morning attempting to spear northerns and walleyes and that will be the subject of another column.
The next day we returned to the goose fields and dropped 14 birds.
It takes knowhow and skill to consistently harvest late season geese and that comes with experience. That's why goose hunting with the Stefen brothers is as close to a slam dunk as goose hunting gets.
Copyright 2011 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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World duck calling champ pleads not guilty to wildlife trafficking - Thursday, February 03, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. -- A world duck calling champion entered a plea of not guilty to 23 counts of wildlife trafficking in federal court Thursday, January 27, 2011.
Jury trial for Jeffrey B. Foiles has been set for April 5, 2011 in Springfield before Judge Richard Mills.
Foiles, 53, of Pleasant Hill, Ill., faces charges of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and the federal false writings statute, 12 substantive violations of the Lacey Act, and ten counts of making false writings in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of federal law or regulation. The act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife.
The indictment alleges that from 2003 to 2007, Foiles conspired with others to knowingly transport and sell ducks and geese that had been hunted and killed in violation of federal laws protecting migratory birds. In particular, Foiles is alleged to have sold guided waterfowl hunts at the Fallin’ Skies Strait Meat Duck Club in Pike County, Ill., for the purpose of illegally hunting and killing ducks and geese in excess of hunters’ individual daily bag limits. Foiles and his associates are also alleged to have falsified hunting records at the club in order to conceal the excesses, and to have filmed the illegal hunts for inclusion in commercial hunting videos.
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Bird Bands - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Waterfowl hunters who are lucky enough to shoot ducks and geese wearing these leg bands often display their “trophies” on duck call lanyards. However, some hunters don’t realize that failing to report banded birds actually defeats the purpose of banding. When band numbers are reported, waterfowl managers and hunters learn “the rest of the story.”
Some duck and goose hunters call them “leg irons.” Others refer to them as “jewelry.” Waterfowl managers simply refer to them as bird bands and encourage hunters to report band numbers on all harvested birds.
Bird banding is an excellent tool used by waterfowl managers, to increase their knowledge about waterfowl populations, distribution, lifespan and behavior. Reporting band numbers is also an easy way for duck and goose hunters to invest in the future of their sport.
Each year, state and federal officials across Canada and the United States attach leg bands to thousands of ducks and geese (which are captured in net traps). Then the birds are released. For the vast majority of the banded birds, that’s the last that’s ever heard of them. Natural factors like predators, harsh weather and disease certainly take their toll on waterfowl populations. In addition, a small percentage of banded birds are taken by hunters.
That’s when the payoff comes. If a hunter reads the number etched on the band and reports it, that bird becomes a data point in a vast collection of information. Over the years, these data points accumulate, and waterfowl biologists get a better picture of where birds go, when they go there, how long they live and how many there are.
Without leg band reports, waterfowl managers would find it much more difficult to set hunting seasons and bag limits, as well as plan habitat restoration and preservation programs. Bird bands also provide crucial data to help troubled waterfowl species (like the pintail, canvasback and lesser scaup) to recover.
When bands are reported, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sends information back to participating hunters, including the date and location that each bird was banded. Sometimes, the information gleaned from reported band numbers can be fascinating. For example, one blue-winged teal banded in Manitoba, Canada was shot by a hunter in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, just five days later!
Every band bears a unique serial number, along with information concerning the reporting procedure. Hunters can report band numbers by calling 1-800-327-2263. You can also write to the Bird Banding Laboratory, at 12100 Beech Forest Road, Suite 4037, Laurel, MD 20708-4037 or report bands “online” at www.pwrc.usgs.gov. The website also has information about the history of bird banding, the various types of bands and the uses of banding data.
In summary, bird bands are much more than a fashion statement for waterfowl hunters. You can help your sport by recognizing that banded ducks and geese are actually “flying history books.” Just remember, that bands must be reported in order to learn “the rest of the story.”
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World-champion duck caller stops in Dyersburg - Tuesday, February 01, 2011
World-champion duck caller stops in Dyersburg
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
World-champion duck caller Buck Gardner belts out a few notes to a crowd at Dusty Joe's on Tuesday evening. Gardner won the World Championship of Duck Calling in 1994 and the Champion of Champion in 1995. He sat down with local residents and shared stories of his experiences in the duck-calling game, as well as his relationship with the Lord. Eddie Anderson invited Gardner to Dyersburg to meet with local leaders and promote tourism in Dyer County. Gardner stated he and Howard Harlan, a fellow duck caller, once hunted in the bottoms.
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Five Deadly Goose Spreads - Friday, September 24, 2010
Five Deadly Goose Spreads
Early-, mid- and late-season tips to bring down geese
by M.D. Johnson
It's a fact: Nothing works all the time. There's no better example of this than goose hunting. Early season, mid-season, late season—it doesn't matter. Often, the spread those big honkers just fell into on Monday repels them on Thursday. It's the ultimate in trial and error, the goose gurus will tell you. And they're right.
That being said, there are some goose spreads that certainly fall under the heading of Tried 'n True. These are the ones that produce in the majority – not always, but these rigs are the ones we goose junkies keep coming back to time and time again. Why? Because they work, that's why.
Early Season: September through early October
The junkyard spread
Scott Threinen, a competitive goose caller from Minnesota and creator of the Bad Grammar instructional calling DVD, used the term junkyard spread in an interview recently. Early season geese, says Threinen, are often uneducated geese. These naïve birds can often be duped with a combination spread of silhouettes, shells, full-bodies or whatever a hunter has in their arsenal. The key says Threinen, is to elevate your spread as the birds themselves progress, or grow wiser. Equally important is not showing your entire hand the first week of the season.
"Don't give the birds their diplomas," says Threinen. "Make 'em earn it."
There's no need to come out of the starting gate with 10 dozen fully flocked full-bodies; keep those in reserve until you really need them.
A family affair
Small family groups of widely-spaced Canada decoys – five here, four there, another four there – are an excellent idea during the early season. Realize, though, that family groups don't necessarily carry on throughout the season. Once the weather turns and food sources go from plenty to a premium, it's every bird for himself; thus, you're either dealing with the Big Black Blob Theory of goose decoy placement – especially true with the smaller subspecies like lessers or cacklers – or individual decoys placed more or less an equal distance apart.
Mid-season: early October through late November or early December
Good friend, Travis Mueller, incorporates what he calls lunch lines into his goose spreads, especially during the late season when the birds' stomachs dictate many of their actions and reactions. "Lunch lines," says Avery Territory Manager Mueller, "are just staggered lines of decoys that appear to 'walk' into the main body of the spread. These represent geese that have just landed, and are hot-footing it into an area of heavy feeding activity. Essentially," he continued, "these lines direct incoming birds where they want to be AND where I want them." During bouts of nasty weather, Mueller says, geese will often "cut the lines," trying to get ahead of birds arriving behind them; gunners should concentrate, then, on these areas.
"The problem with a full-body spread," says Freddie Zink of Zink Calls. "There is absolutely no movement. By mixing silhouettes throughout your spread of full-bodies and shells, the appearing-n-disappearing act that the silhouettes do is the same thing that flashing wing decoys do. That flagging does. It gives the illusion of movement in the spread."
But Freddie did say this with caution. "I'll mix decoys when I'm hunting flight birds or migrators, or when I'm looking for sheer numbers of decoys in the field. On the everyday hunt, I don't mix decoys. When geese come into a mixed spread – silhouettes, shells, and full-bodies – they quickly grow accustomed to all three types of decoys at the same time. Once they get smart to all three and you pull one or two, they've still seen the remaining style." The answer? "I'm constantly rotating the type of decoy I'm using," says Zink.
Late season: Late November/early December to season's end
"I do most of my late season hunting in northern Nevada or Colorado," says Avery Outdoors pro-staff member, Chad Belding, "when frozen ground, heavy frost, or snow is common. I use almost exclusively shells at this time because often, the first thing Canadas do when they hit these hard fields is lay down. There may be a couple standing guard, but almost all of the birds will be lying down. They're letting their body heat melt the ground enough so they can get to the food underneath. Then they'll simply eat where they're at – just peck at the ground without getting up."
Before commercial sleeper decoys were available, Belding used shells minus the heads in order to present that All Tucked In look. Today, he doesn't find it necessary to go headless. "I like the Greenhead Gear oversized shells with the flocked heads," he says. "They're very realistic, and are the exact body posture of a Canada lying on the ground." Fully flocked decoys, he claims, are even better on snow or ice or under extremely cold conditions. "The flocking – those tiny poly-fibers – retain heat better and longer, and help the decoy resist frosting."
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Five Fantastic Duck Spreads - Friday, September 24, 2010
Five Fantastic Duck Spreads
Improvise. Adapt. Adjust.
Clint Eastwood said these words in his movie, Heartbreak Ridge, as he attempted to ready his raw recruits for the rigors of combat. What Dirty Harry was spotlighting was the importance of noting the situation, evaluating the situation, and only then, reacting to that specific situation in a manner applicable to those unique circumstances.
When it comes to ducks and decoy spreads, perhaps the best advice is Eastwood's words. No one rig and its variables of numbers, placement, movement, type, species, sex or any of a dozen other factors, works all the time; however, there are a handful of elemental spreads that will produce under most conditions, coast to coast. Every time? No, sir, but with enough consistency as to qualify them as Old Standbys.
I look at coot decoys and their role in the waterfowler's arsenal in three ways. First, there aren't many men brave enough to deploy an all-coot spread, and as such, all-coot spreads are few and far between. Thus, the so-called good ducks don't encounter such rigs often and theoretically won't hesitate to decoy.
Second, all-coot spreads are extremely natural in appearance. How many times has your fancy mallard or mallard-mix rig been out-shone by 30 live coots? When I've done it, I've set 20 to 25 coot decoys in a tight-feeding mass, with a minimum of two pair of those tethered to jerk cords. A pull of the string sets the whole knot to thrashing as if to say, "Hey! There's a pile of good eats down here!" Birds, particularly widgeon, can't seem to resist.
And finally, there are coots and the public land waterfowler. I mean, who isn't going to give a wide berth to the man who arrives at the ramp with a bag full of coot blocks over his shoulder?
Try a unique species
A unique "possibly occurring or secondary" species within your duck spread serves a couple purposes. Six widgeon, sprig, grey ducks, or spoonbills in your blocks separate your rig from the countless all-mallard rigs that birds have encountered throughout the season. A small knot of bluebills off to one side or a cluster of four or five drake pintails not only accomplishes this air of distinction, but these species' predominantly white coloration makes your spread highly visible. It stands out, and that's what you want it to do.
It's nice, too, to know that if you do encounter these non-mallards, you have those same non-mallards in your spread. It's like Steve Sutton, an avid sea-ducker from Washington State who includes a European smew and an extinct Labrador duck in his scoter spread, told me. "If," he said with a laugh, "a smew happens by, I want to know that I've got at least one smew decoy out there."
Roll your own decoys
Making your own decoys, like including a unique species in your spread, accomplishes one goal when the blocks are put into the field—it makes your spread different than all the rest. Your mallards look different, your 'cans look different, and your Canadas, they look different, too. The same Steve Sutton who religiously clips his smew and Labrador duck decoys to the main lines fashions his fakes from wood, cork, and old crab floats. Freddie Zink carves details and paints mirror images of Canadas so real, you'd have to ask which is wood and which is flesh and blood. Eastern Washington's Ben Holten, a wonderful young man and talented taxidermist, hunts over self-worked stuffer Canadas. It's all about realism, and at the risk of repeating myself, it's all about giving the birds something different.
Be a jerk!
I'll never forget the day Buck Gardner—NOTE: Buck, in case you've lived under a rock for the past 40 years, has made his living and his reputation crafting and blowing duck calls—told me in no uncertain terms, "If I had to choose between a duck call and a jerk cord, I'd choose a jerk cord 100 percent of the time." Coming from a World Champion and the Champion of Champions…well, that says a whole lot about jerk cords.
The problem with even today's ultra-realistic decoys is they lack movement. Throw a simple-to-make, inexpensive, and very portable jerk cord into the mix, and you've eliminated this problem entirely. I'm with Buck on this one, regardless of what or where I'm gunning.
My favorite: The Random Placement Theory
My personal favorite rig for puddlers? Well, in most cases, I'm walking into my hunting area, so my rig is small in number – a dozen, perhaps 18 at the most. Species and sex? I run a little bit of everything in terms of species, including widgeon, gadwall, shovelers, ringnecks and three subspecies of teal, as well as the obligatory mallards and pintails. As for gender, mine's a 50/50 mix of drakes to hens, give or take; however, I will use drake spoonbills and sprig because the white does show at a distance.
And now, the arrangement itself. Under most circumstances, I subscribe to what I call The Random Placement Theory of decoy rigging. Standing in front of my blind for the day, and taking into consideration the wind direction, I randomly pitch decoys until they're gone, minding not to throw any more than 30 or so yards from my hide. Then I go back to the blind, give the dog a Little Debbie Snack Cake, pour a cup of coffee and settle down to wait. After all, I hunt so as to relax. It's not, as Mr. Gardner says, rocket science.
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3 Decoy Strategies for Ducks - Friday, September 24, 2010
3 Decoy Strategies for Ducks
by John Pollman
The saying goes that if your decoy spread ain't broke, don't fix it. But if birds are starting to become wary of your setup, it might be time to mix things up a bit. We have some tips from one of the nation's top duck hunters to keep the birds guessing this fall.
Make a Realistic Change
Every hunter seems to have his or her own favorite way of setting up decoys, but Tony Vandemore has come to understand that the real decision must be made based on the birds in the sky.
"When birds start sliding the edge of the decoys or circle several times and then just lose interest and leave, I'm out there moving some decoys," says Vandemore. "I've found that you can't be too stubborn to take a few minutes and make some changes."
Vandemore is one of the owners of Habitat Flats, a premier waterfowl hunting operation in north-central Missouri. While decoy patterns are a good starting point, Vandemore suggests that hunters try to keep things as realistic as possible.
"When I watch live birds on our property, some are sitting tight to each other, others are spread out in spots; there's a pair here and a pair there," says Vandemore. "You never see them all perfectly spaced out across the whole flock."
Vandemore says that a decoy spread should reflect those natural tendencies and, at the same time, influence birds to finish in a particular spot so hunters can make good, clean shots.
The number of decoys Vandemore sets out changes over the course of the season too. Early-season hunts include a smaller number of decoys, and as migrating numbers begin to build, Vandemore begins increasing the size of his spread. As ice starts to take over and groups at Habitat Flats hunt smaller and smaller pools of open water, Vandemore will once again go back to a smaller number of decoys.
But Vandemore says that one rule never changes. "If at any time my decoys look like they are in a 'spread' or a 'pattern,' I will change it up," he says.
Movement and Color
It is no secret that movement in a decoy spread can help attract the attention of passing ducks. Hunters have long taken to kicking the water or employing the use of a jerk string to create ripples on a calm day.
Photo by Leonard Dorrian
Vandemore suggests that hunters should even try setting some of the decoys where they might catch a little more wind or ride more in the current.
"Regardless of how you get it," he says, "movement is crucial and often the ticket to finishing birds."
And what hunter hasn't noticed a group of birds because of a distant flash of color? Vandemore says to use this observation to your advantage.
"I'll include some drake shoveler and pintail decoys in our moist soil or even timber holes, and drake goldeneyes and canvasbacks on larger bodies of water," says Vandemore. "And we only shoot but a handful of black ducks every year, but I like to put some in every spread. Both the white and dark colors help to enhance visibility from longer distances."
Stand Out in a Crowd
Vandemore says, as a season progresses, ducks begin to grow accustomed to seeing the same decoy spreads along the flyway. He encourages hunters to do whatever it takes to differentiate their spreads from the folks around them.
Some of the techniques that Vandemore employs include adding full-bodied decoys along the water's edge, as well as sleepers, resters, surface feeders, headless feeders and duck butts (where appropriate).
Late-season duck spreads at Habitat Flats will often feature more Canada goose floaters than ducks.
"Mallards in particular feel safe around the big geese," says Vandemore. "And it is just another way to keep birds guessing, and staying ahead of the game.
Photo by Ronald Mcclellan
Perhaps the most important tip Vandemore has to offer is one that most hunters have heard their whole lives: clean up after yourself.
"The one thing that is most effective for me is picking up my decoys every day," says Vandemore. "Ducks will grow stale in a hurry when they see the same decoys in the same location day after day."
So don't be afraid to make some changes. In the end, Vandemore says it will only help you gain a new level confidence in being able to adapt to what the birds want to see.
After all, the ducks are the final judge. What verdict will they hand down to your decoy spread this fall?
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12 Tips for Geese - Friday, September 24, 2010
12 Tips for Geese
An all-star lineup of professionals share their secrets to goose-hunting success
by Gary Koehler
Whether you're a casual goose gunner or a die-hard veteran, there's a good chance you have experienced days afield that end in frustration. During such outings it seems that no matter what you do, the geese refuse to respond favorably.
We asked a dozen of the nation's most accomplished goose hunters to share their secrets to success. Some of these tips may serve as reminders. Others may be revelations. All may or may not fit your needs. But keep in mind that sometimes the smallest details pay the biggest dividends.
1. When in doubt, spread your decoys out.
"I have used everything from 'shoveled-dirt' decoys to mounted birds. They all work! But they all work better when you spread the decoys out. I constantly see guys put decoys practically on top of each other and watch the birds hover and not finish because there wasn't enough room to land. Even small Canada geese have a four-foot wingspan; big birds up to six feet. I've never seen geese get tangled on takeoff or landing, and I often watch geese landing with geese. That is, they are landing inside a group of geese, not in a large opening between groups. So, logically speaking, there is enough space between birds. Ten years ago, I started spreading my decoys two large steps apart, approximately six feet. That immediately produced dramatically better results. Today I put my decoys five large steps apart and the results are even better." —Sean Mann, Trappe, Maryland seanmann.com
2. Have more than one style of goose call at hand.
"When selecting your goose calls, I recommend choosing two different styles of calls. I would choose one acrylic short-reed goose call that produces a very loud, sharp, and somewhat high-pitched tone for field and windy day calling. I would also recommend having one wood short-reed goose call that produces a softer, deeper, and more realistic sound. These calls complement each other for different hunting and weather conditions. Keep one thing in mind: you can blow a loud call soft, but you can't blow a soft call loud. Keep these tools at hand and be prepared in the field for the different conditions you may face." —Fred Zink, Port Clinton, Ohio zinkcalls.com
3. Finishing geese on windy days may require adjustments.
"Finishing Canada geese on windy days can be a challenge because they will usually land short and out of the wind. To prevent this from happening, set up out of the wind—in low areas of fields, behind tree lines, or on hillsides. Geese will always look to get out of the wind when it's blowing. Second, call loud and aggressive. That doesn't mean you have to call more, but when you do call, use aggressive notes and blow them with a lot of volume." —Scott Threinen, Rochester, Minnesota moltgear.com
4. Stay still, keep your head down, and don't gawk.
"One important factor for everybody in the blind is to keep perfectly still—no movement until the shot is called. People in your group shouldn't be looking up at the geese. To be on the safe side, I think it's even better when everyone wears a face mask. One of the golden rules is that if you can see the geese, they can see you better; so keep still and don't move. I promise you that this simple bit of discipline in the blind will help you put more geese in your decoy spread." —John Taylor, Quantico, Maryland baycountrycalls.com
5. Decoy motion is vital.
"When hunting a sandbar or other water set, resist the urge to use a large number of full-body decoys. Movement is a real plus in decoy spreads, and even full-bodies with motion bases don't give me the movement I'm after. What I'll do instead is keep the full-bodies to a minimum and use more floaters, especially if there is current. I was on a Canada goose hunt late last year and the geese were skittish. We had 200 full-bodies on a sandbar and couldn't get the birds to finish. We pulled all but four of the full-bodies and replaced them with 60 floaters. There was a good current and the movement was all it took. We shot our limits in short order." —Barnie Calef, Palo, Iowa calefcalls.net
Photo: Randy Munn
6. Simple calling is often the best way to go.
"It doesn't take a bunch of fancy notes and crazy sounds to call in Canada geese. It doesn't matter if you are a championship-class caller or the average Joe—keeping things simple often produces the best results. You can call in every goose in the county if you are good at the basics. Clucking and moaning, fast and slow, and having a 'goosey' rhythm will put the smartest honkers on the ground. Learn how to call with a lot of volume, but also learn how to call softer. Every day and every hunting situation is different. Basically, call like a live goose that is communicating with other live birds in the air. Sound like a goose, and think like a goose!"—Sean Hammock, Stillwater, Minnesota prairieskyranch.com
7. When the temperature drops, geese lie down.
"When temperatures drop below 20 degrees, or if fields are covered with ice and snow, geese will typically lie down soon after touching the ground. Since this is a common goose behavior in these conditions, hunters should try to represent this behavior with decoys. Remove full-body decoys from their bases and set them directly on the ground, or use shell decoys to emulate this look. I typically leave a small handful of fullbodies on bases to represent birds that may be walking or birds that may have just landed. If there is snow on the ground, I also like to 'root up' some dirt or stalks among the decoys with my boot to make it appear as if birds have been actively feeding." —Tyson Keller, Pierre, South Dakota averyoutdoors.com
8. Flagging, not calling, may be the answer in the fog.
"On calm, foggy days a lot of guys want to get really excited on their goose calls and make a lot of noise. Often, I do just the opposite. When it's foggy, listen closely and try using a flag instead of a call when you first hear geese, not necessarily when you first see them. This can be particularly effective when you know that the geese are close and they're coming toward your spread. I owe a lot of my success in foggy conditions to this technique. Try it, and I guarantee that you'll agree." —Tim Grounds, Johnston City, Illinois timgrounds.com
9. Land-and-water spreads are a productive combination.
"When 'running traffic' for Canada geese, I like to set up land-and-water spreads whenever I can. Water seems to 'soften up' geese and they tend to work really well. A combination spread of sleeper shells, full-bodies, and floaters can be deadly. During times of freezing temperatures I like to run an 'ice eater' to ensure I have open water in traffic areas. Having access to open water when it's really cold can make a big difference in your success." —Tony Vandemore, Kirksville, Missouri habitatflats.com
10. Communicate with geese through decoy placement.
Photo: Ryan Askren
"You want to set your goose decoys to deliver several messages about the flock on the ground. These messages include where the food is located in the field, where the food is not located, and where the safe spots are. Feeder decoys obviously speak for themselves—they suggest that there is food at that goose's location. A group of active decoys indicates there is no food available in that area. This is important because geese typically land as close as possible to the food source. So set up 'actives' in areas where you don't want the geese to land. Rester and sleeper decoys can be used to show geese where the safe areas are. Sleeping geese signal that the area has been checked out and is safe enough to drop in and take a nap. Rester and sleeper decoys are my favorite confidence decoys. It's the hunter's job to learn how best to use these tools." —Field Hudnall, LaGrange, Kentucky fieldprovenproductions.com
11. Practice shooting in natural hunting situations.
"As a professional guide, I hunt with a lot of different people. The number one thing I see that would make guys more successful would be spending a little more time practicing their shooting. When hunting is tough and opportunities are few and far between, you need to make every shot count. Go out and practice shooting in a natural hunting situation, shoot your normal waterfowl load, practice shooting coming out of a pit or layout blind, and get out on those wet and windy days and practice in some 'fowl' weather. All these things will make you more effective when you say or hear 'take 'em!'"—Bill Saunders, Kennewick, Washington billsaunderscalls.com
12. Stand out from the crowd.
"When hunting in areas with intense hunting pressure, don't try to match every decoy spread out there, especially during the late season. When everyone is using bigger spreads, downsize to only one or two dozen decoys and go with very little calling. What you are trying to do is stand out from everyone else around you. You can do that by giving your decoy spread a different look. Remember, curiosity kills geese." —Hunter Grounds, Johnston City, Illinois timgrounds.com
Many states now offer early season Canada goose hunting opportunities. These seasons offer generous bag limits and focus on resident birds. Check your state's waterfowl hunting regulations for details.
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10 things all waterfowlers should do in their lifetime - Thursday, September 23, 2010
The Duck Hunter's List
10 things all waterfowlers should do in their lifetime
by Doug Larsen
A lot of folks keep "to do" lists for their adult lives. For some, the list is studded with sincere goals or accomplishments and may feature such endeavors as "finish master's degree" or "bicycle through Italy." Others compile lists that are more adrenaline charged; they want to check the box next to "scuba dive with sharks" or "bungee jump."
But if you are the kind of person who would rather be in a duck blind on a bright November morning than anywhere else, you don't want to jump off a perfectly good bridge anyway. In your world, bungee cords are meant to hold duck boats in pickup beds. So when the editors of Ducks Unlimited asked me which items I might include on a duck hunter's "life list," I compiled the following summary of 10 defining tasks and unique destinations for waterfowlers. Perhaps my suggestions, presented here in no particular order, will inspire you to create and pursue a list of your own.
1. Hunt the Canadian Prairie in Early Fall
Whether you choose Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta, an early-season trip to Canada will change your perspective on ducks and duck hunting forever. Hunting seemingly endless prairie dotted with sapphire potholes is truly magical. And this isn't like duck hunting at home; you can't just put out your decoys and wait. In Canada, you must go to the birds. That means driving the countryside to find them and then making plans to be under them before they return the next morning.
You can hunt ducks on big water or small potholes, but what defines prairie waterfowling is dry-land hunting in immense agricultural fields. Once you have been under the milling vortex of hundreds or even thousands of mallards pouring into a pea field or have seen the golden sun set across a sweeping horizon of cut barley, then you can say you've experienced the prairie in the fall, the place where the migration begins.
2. Train Your Own Duck Dog
Training a retriever is an important step toward becoming a complete duck hunter. At some point in a waterfowler's career, he or she has to decide that having a good dog is a priority, which then makes waterfowling a year-round endeavor. This, of course, is the beauty of dog training. Not only does it provide you with a new best friend, but also it puts you in a hunting frame of mind every day.
Training a puppy until he is a conservation asset in the duck blind is a daunting and sometimes frustrating task requiring the patience of a kindergarten teacher and the persistence of an encyclopedia salesman. But there are many books and videos on the market to guide you, as will hunting friends who have solid water dogs of their own. All those hours of training will prove worthwhile when on opening morning your young student is steady to the shot and brings back that first bird of the year. Your pup's tail will wag furiously, and you'll be so proud of him that if you had a tail, you'd wag it pretty hard too.
3. Hunt Diving Ducks from a Layout Boat
Every duck hunter should try this style of hunting at least once. If up to now your duck hunting has consisted of sitting in the farm pond blind with Uncle Clarence, jump in the truck and drive east or west. Stop when you smell the ocean. (Or you can head for the Great Lakes; they are crazy about layout boats up there too.)
There is nothing quite like slipping over the side of a big, warm tender boat into a little almond-shaped sliver of fiberglass. Once the tender pulls away, it's just you and the decoys on a rolling green sea. By virtue of the boat's low profile, and the fact that you are lying inside it, you'll get a diving duck's view of the world. With any luck, you'll have high-speed ducks working just off the bill of your cap and skidding into your decoys at point-blank range. Usually, layout operators put only one boat in the water at a time, so when it's your turn "in the box," the show is all for you.
4. Teach a Kid to Call
If you are a parent, you know the joys of teaching a skill to a youngster. There is no feeling in the world like seeing recognition of a skill completed on a small, smiling face, whether it is catching a ball or solving multiplication problems. But if duck hunting runs hot in your family, fan the flames in your youngster by teaching him or her to blow a duck call.
We are all familiar with the "take a kid hunting" theme, and whether it is your child or a neighbor's, taking the next generation hunting is essential to keeping our tradition alive and thriving. Teaching young hunters to call ducks or geese is a vital piece of the participation puzzle, and it may be the key ingredient in turning them from bystanders at the end of the blind into true participants.
The day they call a wary mallard to the spread all by themselves will be worth all those hours spent squeaking and squawking in the cellar. Okay, maybe it won't be worth it to other members of the family, but a duck call is still better than the cymbals.
5. Hunt the Arkansas Timber
There is flooded green timber in other states, but Arkansas has the most and the best. You really cannot understand the special attraction of hunting "the woods" until you have seen it firsthand. Little in waterfowling provides the up-close-and-personal spectacle that flooded timber hunting showcases, and most first-timers ask the same question of their hosts: "You really think a duck is going to land in here?"
Standing thigh deep in water and hugging a tree trunk in a dark gray sea of limbs does not sound, on the surface, like a very special experience. But then you glimpse a group of mallards over the treetops, and a well-timed comeback call brings them back around. If all goes according to Hoyle, soon they are fluttering down among the trees, breaking off sticks and leaves as they descend, and in the silence of that one moment, it will all make breathtakingly good sense. Meanwhile, no state welcomes the duck hunter like Arkansas, and each November every motel, steakhouse and roadside joint hoists a sign that states, "Welcome Duck Hunters."
6. Visit the Eastern Shore
Perhaps no region of the country is as steeped in waterfowling tradition as the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Market gunners in sailboats plied these waters hundreds of years ago and filled wooden barrels with canvasbacks for the market.
These days, the Canada goose is king, and guides in this region are fastidious about decoys, blinds and hunting techniques. They commonly hunt geese over decoy spreads that would fill a hay wagon, and some use rigs composed entirely of "stuffers" that taxidermists have mounted in realistic poses.
The Eastern Shore is rife with quaint hotels that happily accommodate muddy boots, and hunting-friendly proprietors always seem to wink and look the other way if a well-behaved dog sneaks toward his owner's room.
Aside from great hunting, every store that sells antiques or knickknacks seems to have an old decoy or two in the window. It's great fun to knock around and browse while your geese are at the picking house.
7. Hunt Staging Snow Geese
First the good news: There are a lot of snow geese. Now the bad news: There are a lot of snow geese.
The white goose resource has never been richer, and spring hunting from Missouri to Manitoba can be an amazing experience that extends your season. A weeklong March or April trip provides hunting opportunity that didn't exist just over a decade ago, and spring hunts mean more time in the field with your friends, more shooting and more retrieves for your dog. While getting underneath the "white tornado" can be a staggering display, with literally thousands of geese making a deafening racket overhead, snows and blues are on the move in the spring, and hunts are often a feast or famine proposition.
But experienced spring hunters learn to stay the course. Drilling a few dry wells will be worth it on that one gusher day when every goose in the county wants to be exactly where you've set your decoys.
8. See Ducks Unlimited Headquarters in Memphis
Those who love the movies and music of Elvis Presley swoon when they contemplate a visit to Graceland, home of the "King." But waterfowlers visiting Memphis also should set aside some time to stop by Ducks Unlimited's headquarters.
This is where wetland and waterfowl conservation begins, and many hunters find that a visit to DU headquarters helps inspire them to consider the difference between just duck hunting and really giving something back.
During your visit, you can talk to someone at DU about all the different ways to help the ducks, from volunteering to assist with a local DU event to donating a conservation easement on your property or planning a legacy gift. There are so many ways to get involved, and all are rewarding.
And while you're there, don't miss the complete collection of federal duck stamp prints on display at DU.
9. Learn to Hunt with a Camera
There was a time when bringing the family Instamatic on a duck hunt was a dicey proposition at best. Even if you kept it dry enough to take some photos, you still had to take the film to the developers. With any luck, you got a scrapbook photo or two. But times have changed for the better, and in addition to recording your hunting memories in a journal, consider joining the technological age by investing in a good digital camera and a waterproof case so you can record your hunts as they unfold.
A good rig will cost about the same as a good semiautomatic shotgun. With digital cameras, the learning curve is rapid, so you'll start taking spectacular photos almost from day one. Better yet, that hen mallard swimming in your spread is no longer an extra decoy but a subject for a close-up.
Tip: The sporting world does not need more photos of your hunting partners holding up dead ducks in the garage. Take photos in the blind with water or a blue sky as a more fitting background than the family sedan. Also, to take great photos, you have to put down the gun. When you do so, you may find that "shooting" your friends shooting ducks is as much fun as swinging a shotgun, and hanging your own photos on the den wall is icing on the cake.
10. Read the MacQuarrie Trilogy
Far from a homework assignment, reading the three collections of "Stories of the Old Duck Hunters" by Gordon MacQuarrie is one of the greatest fireside pleasures that a duck hunter can enjoy.
MacQuarrie was a masterful storyteller, and probably could have brought a smile to your face or a tear to your eye if he had written about paneling his basement. Fortunately, hunting waterfowl was one of MacQuarrie's true passions, and he wrote about ducks and the people who pursue them in a way not done before or since.
Many veteran hunters reread MacQuarrie each season. If you are new to MacQuarrie, start with "The Day I Burned the Oatmeal." Trust me when I tell you it is not really a story about preparing breakfast, and you'll be on your way to enjoying another of waterfowling's great traditions.
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Missouri River Management: Waterfowlers Make Your Voices Heard - Saturday, September 18, 2010
Missouri River Management: Waterfowlers Make Your Voices Heard to Army Corps of Engineers; public comment period runs through Sept. 20
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comments on the future management of the Missouri River system, and waterfowl hunters are encouraged to weigh in.
The Corps manages the system for several purposes, including flood control, water supply, navigation, water quality, irrigation, recreation, hydropower and fish and wildlife habitat.
Delta Waterfowl is asking the Corps to make fish and wildlife habitat a high priority in all future management plans. Your public comments could result in extensive wetland restoration beneficial to ducks throughout the system, especially in the Lower Valley. Feedback from waterfowlers is critical to ensure a favorable, duck-friendly outcome that could potentially provide millions for habitat restoration and enhancement.
Please visit www.mraps.org to provide your feedback and emphasize the importance of fish and wildlife conservation for all future Missouri River management. The public comment period runs through Sept. 20.
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Snow Goose Production Up, Strong Fall Flight Expected. - Saturday, September 18, 2010
Snow Goose Production Up, Strong Fall Flight Expected;
WINNIPEG, Manitoba—Could a bumper crop of snow geese be in the offing for waterfowl hunters this year?
It was a huge production year for snow geese in the arctic
Dr. Robert “Rocky” Rockwell, a biology professor at City University of New York and one of North America’s leading authorities on snow geese, thinks so. Rockwell says the summer nesting season in the subarctic region of La Perouse Bay in northern Manitoba was “spectacular.”
“This is a huge production year,” says Rockwell, who was concerned about nesting success after last year’s dismal production. “This was the most bizarrely wet year I’ve ever seen up there. The birds nested 9 or 10 days earlier than normal, and as a result nest success was very high.”
Translation: Goose hunters are staring down the barrel of what could be a banner fall flight. “Predicting hunting can be a fool’s errand, and I never like to do it, but the upcoming season appears to be shaping up awfully well,” says Delta Waterfowl President Rob Olson. “My message to goose hunters is this: get ready. The migration could be packed with young-of-the-year birds.”
Rockwell agrees. He says high nest success means lots of juveniles will be making the flight south. “We’re talking about juvenile to adult ratios of 1.5 to 1,” says Rockwell, “which means those puppies are going to be sucked right into decoy spreads. Harvest always goes up when you have a high juvenile-to-adult ratio, so I think there’s good opportunity and I think it’s going to be early, because geese are already moving south.”
Rockwell says snow and Ross’ geese are foraging heavily on berries inland from the Hudson Bay coast. Thousands are currently south of the normal La Perouse Bay breeding range near the Broad River and are staging all the way to the Ontario/Manitoba border.
The eastern arctic is also looking good, says Dr. Jim Leafloor, a research scientist for Environment Canada who just returned from a banding program on Baffin Island. “We’re expecting good production on Baffin, for all species, not just snows,” says Leafloor. “On South Hamption Island it’s the same deal, so the eastern arctic seems to be doing well this year.”
It’s a slightly different story in the central arctic. The migratory bird sanctuary at Karrak Lake south of Queen Maud Gulf is the breeding ground for 10 to 15 percent of the mid-continent snow goose population.
“Production of young at Karrak Lake has declined in the last four years,” says Dr. Ray Alisauskas, a research scientist with Environment Canada who’s been studying the colony since 1991. “There was later-than-average nesting due to delayed snow melt and delays in nutrient storage, stemming from reduced food availability because of very high densities of geese on subarctic feeding areas.”
It could be a banner year for snow goose hunters
While nesting productivity is down, Alisauskas says overall populations of both snow and Ross’ geese remain very high. The number of nesting geese at Karrak Lake has grown from 400,000 to more than a million in less than 10 years. A recent assessment found survival rates have not declined since 1989, even with concerted efforts to reduce the population through liberalized hunting regulations and a special spring conservation hunt.
“This harvest is showing that it’s sustainable,” says Alisauskas. “These birds are so resilient. You see video in the spring and you say, ‘Wow these birds are getting pounded quite hard,’ but when you look at the estimates of survival, they haven’t changed in the last 20 years.”
Olson says their sublime taste hasn’t changed in 20 years, either. Delta’s president isn't a preacher, but he has become an evangelist for snow geese, which he says are among the most underrated waterfowl species for the pot. In fact, he insists they’re among the best.
“I don’t know where the propaganda started, but the myth that snow geese are inedible is just that—a myth,” he said. “I think they’re absolutely delicious—certainly not winged liver, as some have suggested— and I challenge hunters this year to prepare these succulent birds for their friends and family. They won’t be disappointed.”
For Rob Olson’s snow goose recipes, see
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Scrap the Long Gun Registry - Saturday, September 18, 2010
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HuntDucks.com is an Official Delta Waterfowl Web Partner - Saturday, September 18, 2010
Huntducks.com has been officially recognized as a Delta Waterfowl Web Partner. Huntducks.com is the leading waterfowl guide search engine. Huntducks.com is focused on connecting duck hunting and goose hunting guides with interested duck and goose hunters.
Huntducks.com has successfully helped duck and goose hunting guides fill thier season's schedule.
Huntducks.com donates 1.0% of its net profits from duck and goose hunting guides subscription revenue to Delta Waterfowl annually.
Delta Waterfowl is grateful to our Partners and their resolve in helping to advance Delta's mission. Through these partners our capacity to provide tangible results to waterfowlers is significantly enhanced. We encourage our members to support all of these fine businesses. read more ...
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Delta to USFWS: States Need Flexible Zoning Options for Hunter Opportunity - Saturday, September 18, 2010
Delta to USFWS: States Need Flexible Zoning Options for Hunter Opportunity
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should allow states to have greater zoning options beginning for the 2011 waterfowl-hunting season, according to Delta Waterfowl Senior Vice President John Devney.
In a letter to acting USFWS Director Rowan Gould, Devney wrote, "States face myriad challenges when establishing hunting regulations and, in some cases, a lack of flexibility can make distribution of hunting opportunities a difficult task."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife will consider new zoning options this fall. The idea is supported by the four Flyway Councils, the National Flyway Council and the Service Regulations Committee (SRC).
Read the entire letter (PDF)
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Delta Waterfowl Hires Award Winning Canadian Communicator - Saturday, September 18, 2010
Delta Waterfowl Hires Award Winning Canadian Communicator
Delta Waterfowl Foundation, North America's oldest waterfowl conservation organization, is pleased to announce the appointment of Nigel Simms as Director of Communications, Canada.
As a broadcast journalist and filmmaker for more than twenty years, Simms brings extensive experience to this new position for Delta Waterfowl. Prior to joining Delta, he was Executive Producer of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's longest running current affairs program, Country Canada. This award winning, network program documented the rich and varied life of rural Canada, touching on many aspects of wildlife management.
Simms' documentary work has taken him all across North America, Europe, Africa and New Zealand. Along the way he has investigated the environmental degradation in Canada's far north caused by exploding populations of Snow Geese, examined habitat rehabilitation efforts in the prairie pothole region of Western Canada and looked at the importance of sustainable trapping in wildlife management.
"We are thrilled to have someone of Mr. Simms talent and experience join our team", says Rob Olson, President of Delta Waterfowl. "Delta's one-of-a-kind programs are essential to maintain Canadian ducks and Canadian hunting traditions, but we cannot be successful without telling our story to all Canadians. Nigel's know-how on communications will be a game-changer for our organization."
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Simms will focus on Canadian initiatives such as the Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS) program. This ambitious conservation effort represents a new way of working with the people—farmers—who own and control the land where most of our threatened ducks breed. ALUS recognizes the value of conserving and restoring Canada's natural capital while respecting and rewarding the important role that farmers play in environmental management.
"In our increasingly urbanized society, it's incredibly important to maintain our links to the outdoors", says Simms. "Delta Waterfowl understands this like no other organization I know. This is an unbelievable opportunity to help make a difference. I'm really looking forward to it."
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Q&A: Delta Scientific Director Discusses Plan to ‘Shortstop’ Migratory Waterfowl from Oil-fouled Wet - Saturday, September 18, 2010
Q&A: Delta Scientific Director Discusses Plan to ‘Shortstop’ Migratory Waterfowl from Oil-fouled Wetlands
BP’s Macondo well is capped—at least for now—and that’s welcome relief to Gulf Coast residents who are grappling with the economic, environmental and emotional fallout from the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
But serious questions remain for the millions of migratory birds that will begin descending on or through the Gulf Coast beginning this month.
“The fact is, when blue-winged teal start to show up here in August, no one knows what they’re going to find,” said Delta Waterfowl Scientific Director Dr. Frank Rohwer, who is also a professor at Louisiana State University’s School of Renewable Natural Resources. “We’re in unchartered territory.”
Over the last several weeks, two complimentary plans have emerged to “shortstop” ducks, geese and other migratory birds from oil-contaminated portions of the Gulf Coast.
In what has been characterized as an unprecedented attempt to alter migration routes, the federal government is spending more than $20 million on “alternative habitat” in eight states to attract southward-bound birds. The Natural Resources Conservation Service—an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture—will establish as much as 150,000 acres in states as far north as Missouri.
In addition, Ducks Unlimited recently received a $2.5 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The funds are being used to “flood alternative habitats” in the rice regions of coastal Louisiana and Texas.
In the following Q&A, Dr. Rohwer weighs in on the short-stopping question, whether “hazing” birds from oil-contaminated areas is worth a try, and why he believes a season closure is a bad idea.
The federal government and others are attempting to “shortstop” ducks during the migration to keep them out of the oil in coastal Louisiana. Can this well-intentioned multi-million dollar idea work on a meaningful scale? Can such an effort impact duck distribution?
I’m quite skeptical that such a program will work to keep ducks out of coastal areas in Louisiana, where all of us are concerned about birds being exposed to oil.
Remember last year during the winter we had extraordinarily wet conditions throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, southern Missouri and northern Louisiana. Those conditions provided thousands of acres of freshly flooded habitat. Even with those extraordinary habitat conditions ducks were still using Louisiana’s coastal marshes in numbers comparable to the five-year average. So I’m doubtful that the proposed efforts can have a big impact on duck distribution.
Finally, I wonder if anyone thought much about duck hunters before they initiated this plan. Suppose I’m wrong and we can shortstop ducks. It would be ironic that in a year when Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastal hunters will likely struggle to find places to hunt, we would make the hunting situation worse for them. For the guys north of the oil frontline — that is, the majority of Louisiana hunters — it will be especially frustrating if shortstopping works because they will see fewer ducks in their decoys this fall.
Are some ducks species faithful to the same wintering areas year after year and generation after generation?
It is the rule that migratory birds go to traditional areas to spend the winter. That also applies to most ducks. There are a few ducks, especially mallards, that stay as far north as they can until freezing weather and a lack of food push them to migrate south. That, however, is more the exception rather than the rule. We often have ducks showing up in Louisiana in August and September, long before northern weather would move birds. In the past 25 years we have learned that some of the bay and sea ducks show remarkable homing to the exact same sites to spend the winter. That may also occur with dabbling ducks, but researchers just have not examined how precisely individual ducks return to wintering sites.
Scaup, canvasbacks and other diving ducks winter in the Gulf’s coastal bays where the current risk of oiling is most serious. Can we shortstop divers?
This is very unlikely. From what I’ve read, the incentives programs are all about flooding grain fields, especially rice and other shallow wetland habitat. That will have no impact on those three species of divers, which are probably the most at-risk species because they predominantly use those outer coastal bays where the near-shore oil has been a real problem.
Are there any other approaches that can be put in play to minimize birds coming in contact with oiled areas?
Yes, the USDA and others have a long history of using disturbance techniques (often called hazing) on certain bird species to alter bird distribution.
The compelling thing about hazing is that the technique would be very focused, because we would haze birds only where there’s a problem with oil contamination. Hazing also has a record of working — we know we can disturb ducks and move them out of an area. Hazing isn’t as easy as it may sound, but it sure can work.
Hazing operations can also mobilize fairly quickly. Remember, Louisiana has a lot of out-of-work watermen, thanks to the Horizon incident, and we could use them to target sites that continue to have oil and settling ducks.
Hazing should be a priority moving forward. Its focus would be narrow because we’d only be targeting at-risk ducks in the most impacted areas
Some have discussed closing the duck season over fears of a major duck die-off in the Gulf. What’s your reaction to that idea?
Nonsense. I like the idea that hunters were the first to offer up this idea, because they really care about the long-term welfare of the resource. However, I strongly dislike this idea for three very different reasons.
First, some philosophy. It would gall me that hunters have to sacrifice because of BP’s mistakes.
Second, some biology. This idea of closing seasons or reducing limits is squarely resting on the idea that our modest harvest levels have a long-term impact on the size of duck populations. That is a very questionable. In North America we build so much safety into our hunting regulations that we stand little chance of seeing any population-level impact to even a relatively large oil kill.
Finally, some practicality. Closing or reducing seasons presupposes substantial mortality due to oil. I seriously doubt there will be much oil-related duck mortality. If I’m wrong and the Horizon oil spill does kill lots of ducks, the time to alter seasons or limits would be next year. For example, if the 2011 federal duck survey suggests that canvasback numbers are way down, then we might respond by reducing limits or having a species closure. Let’s not presuppose a problem that may never materialize.
More Oil Spill Coverage: Q&A on how the spill could impact the region’s coastal marshes, wintering ducks, and passionate waterfowling culture | USFWS Developing Strategy to Help Waterfowl 'Weather' Oil Spill | Letter to BP and Department of the Interior | Radio interviews