Photo by Billie Cooper.
After a tough year of early-season flooding on many Missouri Department of Conservation waterfowl areas in 2008, habitat conditions should be much better for migrating waterfowl this fall. Hunters who planned ahead are reaping the benefits.
Dave Graber, the MDC’s waterfowl/wetlands research scientist, said a number of areas were adversely affected last year by heavy flooding, followed closely by drought conditions.
“Many of the affected areas did not host a lot of birds due to the poor availability of food sources,” he said.
MDC employees have been busy repairing damaged levees, pools and water structures. If your favorite public waterfowl hunting area proved less than satisfactory last season because of the natural catastrophes, check the area again this year. It may be back to normal and in full operation. And if water and food are available, the ducks will be there.
GRAND PASS CA
Located in Saline County, Grand Pass Conservation Area is very popular with our state’s waterfowlers. “There is a reason for that,” said Chris Freeman, the area wildlife biologist. “Duck hunters have very good success here.”
The 5,000-plus-acre area borders the Missouri River for six miles on the north. Approximately 3,500 acres of this prime duck-attracting habitat is managed for waterfowl. Ten pools normally are flooded gradually as the season progresses, according to Freeman. “We can accommodate 40 parties maximum,” he stated. “We usually start the season with spots for 15 parties.
“Grand Pass is a very busy waterfowl hunting area. We host 4,000 to 5,000 hunter-trips each season. However, 8,000 to 10,000 hunters go through the morning draw. Just because you show up here does not mean you will hunt here. Lots of hunters get turned away.
“Hunters have the opportunity to see lots of ducks here,” Freeman concluded. That is a draw itself.
“Seeing tens of thousands of ducks in one location is awesome,” said Rolla waterfowl hunter Frank Cox. “Grand Pass gets covered up in mallards at times, and whether I kill birds or not, I truly enjoy watching the birds fly.”
Cox is an avid duck hunter and travels far and wide to pursue his passion. He is death on detail when it comes to fooling ducks.
“There are no blinds at Grand Pass,” he warned. “Hunters should carry a small portable blind or material to use for a blind. I recommend that hunters keep as low a profile as possible. There is not a lot of tall vegetation on the area and ducks become leery of blinds that stick out like a sore thumb.”
Freeman concurs. “All pools are walk-in hunting,” he said. “Layout boats and small blinds are popular. However, all blinds must be dismantled and carried out each day.”
Early in the season, hunters can expect to see lots of green-winged teal, pintails, shovelers and wood ducks, according to Freeman. Around Nov. 12 is when the real excitement begins.
“Mallards begin to show up in numbers around Nov. 12, depending on the weather,” he noted. Greenheads are what waterfowl hunters want to see, and they will often see tens of thousands of them at Grand Pass CA.
Most years, Grand Pass hunters will average bagging 2.6 to three ducks per hunter. That is an outstanding average and another reason that so many hunters take their chance in the poor man’s line at Grand Pass. For more info, call (660) 595-2444.
BIG MUDDY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
In 1994, Congress authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin purchasing 60,000 acres of floodplain properties along the Missouri River between Kansas City and St. Louis. Thus far, they have acquired 11,000 acres in eight tracts. Those lands, much of it damaged by the 1993 and 1995 floods, offer public fishing and hunting opportunities.
The Jameson Island unit occupies a large bend of the Missouri River floodplain in Saline County, below the community of Arrow Rock. The unit consists of 1,871 acres of bottomland forest of cottonwood, willow, box elder and other floodplain species. This unit is south of and across the river from the Lisbon unit. The two units are similar and combined provide 4,000 acres.
Waterfowl hunters should concentrate their efforts on the numerous scour holes and chutes on the area. A constructed side channel has several new scour holes because of the flooding of 2008. The sandbars on the Missouri River adjoining the area can be productive as well.
Hunters can expect to encounter wood ducks, teal and shovelers on the scour holes early in the season. Mallards and gadwalls show up later. A variety of diving ducks including scaup, redheads, ringnecks, goldeneyes and buffleheads buzz up and down the river.
River access can be gained from Taylors’ Landing Access, 12 miles west of Columbia on I-70 and 4 1/2 miles east on Highway 98. For more information on Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge go online to www.BigMuddy@fws.gov, or call (573) 876-1826.
FOUR RIVERS CA
Located in Vernon and Bates counties, this prime waterfowling area consists of 13,732 acres in the floodplain of the Marmaton, Little Osage, Marias des Cygnes and Osage rivers. Now you understand the name Four Rivers! It’s a vast area that once supported a complex of bottomland forests, wet prairie and riverine wetlands. Clearing, draining, channelization, and levee construction almost destroyed the area wetlands. When MDC purchased the first property in the area, less than 1 percent of original wetlands remained.
Today, a 13,732-acre wetland complex is protected, and greatly enhances the historic wetland values of the region and contributes significantly to goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
Four Rivers is a popular destination for waterfowlers from the Kansas City area, according to wildlife biologist Chris Daniels, who oversees the operations on the area. “Roughly 75 percent of our hunters are Missouri residents, with most of those coming from Kansas City,” he said, although many of the out-of-staters come from the Kansas side of Kansas City.
Although Four Rivers is a popular waterfowling destination,
few hunters are turned away. “We have a morning draw for two of our units, but we also have two units that do not have a draw. It is first-come, first-served in those units,” Daniels said. “However, the space for hunters in the no-draw units can vary widely according to the amount of water available. We may have anywhere from 300 to 2,500 acres open for hunting.”
“I have been duck hunting for 50 years,” said Gary Paul, a regular visitor from western Kansas City. “Most of my hunting time in the last five years has been spent at Four Rivers. The area is extremely well managed. I live close to duck hunting in Kansas but seldom go because the areas are so poorly managed there.”
Water should be plentiful this year. “We had five floods as of June 1 this year,” Daniels stated.
Floodwaters hit Four Rivers hard last year, creating one of the most heavily damaged conservation areas in the state. Roads, levees and water structures suffered damage in both 2008 and 2009. The good news is that the damage will not affect waterfowl management plans at Four Rivers for the 2009 hunting season.
“Hunters will experience some minor inconveniences, such as a few rough roads, but there is no reason for hunters to stay away during waterfowl season,” said Daniels. “We are still working on repairs in Unit 3.”
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