September 27, 2001

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I've heard conflicting reports about the early Teal season on Lake Show-Me so I thought I would offer some information from the Missouri Department of Conservation regarding the outlook for the 2001 duck and goose season.

Waterfowl biologists are keeping a watchful eye on fluctuating numbers of ducks and geese, but they say 2001 is likely to be another good year for duck hunters.

Ducks found better nesting conditions in the eastern prairie region of the United States and Canada this year than in the west. The result was nesting conditions favorable for ducks migrating into the Mississippi Flyway. However, less favorable conditions for waterfowl nesting may be on the way if the drought spreads east during the next year.

The number of breeding ducks was above the long-term average in the eastern Dakotas and southern Manitoba, but below both the 2000 and long-term averages in other prairie regions. Overall, breeding duck numbers were down for the second year in a row. This year, an estimated 36.2 million ducks were on the breeding grounds. This is less than the record 43.4 million seen in 1999, but still nine percent more than the long-term average.

This year, biologists estimated the mallard breeding population at 7.9 million, down 17 percent from last year but five percent above the long-term average. Although numbers of most duck species declined compared to last year, only scaup and pintails were below the long-term average.

Duck production was far above average in the eastern Dakotas, but at or below long-term averages elsewhere. This year's fall flight projections for various duck species remain at or above those of the 1970s, when ducks were relatively abundant. This year's midcontinent mallard flight is predicted to be 10.5 million, down six percent from 2000.

Missouri's wetter than normal spring and early summer will help waterfowl habitat this fall. However, the extra rain also made it difficult to plant corn and other crops that supply food for ducks and geese at wetland areas. As a result, waterfowl could find less to eat at managed wetland areas in Missouri than last year. This may affect how long the birds linger on their southward migration. Natural food production has been fair to good in most areas.

"Fall rains, migration timing and the timing of freeze-up will have the greatest impacts on hunting prospects," said Dale Humburg, a wildlife research biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "Regardless, Missouri waterfowl hunters will have nearly unprecedented hunting opportunity for the fifth year in a row."

The Missouri Conservation Commission approved a 60-day duck season with a daily limit of six ducks. Notable changes in this year's regulations include a reduced season for canvasback ducks and changes in the waterfowl zone boundaries.

The Commission approved a 60-day 2001-2002 duck season. Hunting in the North Zone will open Oct. 27 and continue through Dec. 25, with canvasback harvest allowed from Oct. 27 to Nov. 15.

Shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. The bag limit will be six ducks daily, with the following species restrictions: four mallards (no more than two females); three scaup; two wood ducks; one pintail; one black duck; two redheads; one hooded merganser, and one canvasback during the prescribed season. The possession limit will be twice the daily bag limit.

Coot season will run concurrently with duck season in the respective zones, with a daily bag limit of 15 and possession limit of 30.

Two youth hunting days for waterfowl will precede regular duck season openings in each zone. Youth hunting days will be Oct. 20 and 21 in the North Zone, Oct. 27 and 28 in the Middle Zone and Nov. 17 and 18 in the South Zone.

Participants in youth hunting days must be less than 16 years of age and must be accompanied by a licensed adult at least 18 years of age who will not be permitted to hunt. Adults need not be licensed if the youth possesses a valid hunter education certification card. Bag limits for ducks and geese will be the same as during the regular season. One canvasback per day may be taken by youth hunters.

The season for blue, snow and Ross' geese will be Oct. 27 through Jan. 30 in the North and Swan Lake zones.

White-fronted goose season will be split in each zone again this year. In the North Zone (except in the Swan Lake Zone), the season will be divided into three segments: Sept. 29 through Oct. 8, Oct. 27 through Nov. 25 and Dec. 22 through Jan. 30.

The daily limit for white-fronted geese is two daily, with a possession limit of four.

Canada goose and brant hunting in the North Zone (except the Swan Lake Zone) will run from Sept. 29 through Oct. 8, from Oct. 27 through Nov. 25 and from Dec. 22 through Jan. 20.

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