Duck Numbers Rising

Duck Numbers Rising
Duck Numbers Rising
Mike Checkett usually errs on the side of caution when it comes to forecasting duck season. But even the Ducks Unlimited senior communications specialist can’t help but be optimistic after looking at the May results of the waterfowl breeding population and habitat survey.

“It’s hard not to be excited about what could happen this fall,” Checkett said. “I’m really not one to go far out on a limb, but I’m pretty confident about this fall. We should enjoy this season. The next time it rains this much, we may not see the reproduction ability like this to set the table for waterfowl.”

Some have called it “the perfect storm” for waterfowl: a combination of abundant rainfall and snowmelt in the prairie pothole region of the U.S. and Canada, plus ample grasslands to ensure successful nesting and re-nesting for waterfowl. Late summer and early fall weather conditions could still negatively impact the annual waterfowl migration. But most of that hay is in the barn, so to speak. And it should make for a bountiful waterfowl hunting season in the U.S.

Consider some of these numbers, compiled during the annual May gathering of data in the Waterfowl Breeding Population & Habitat Survey in a joint effort by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service:

  • A total waterfowl estimate of 45.6 million, up 11 percent over 2010. It’s the highest number since the survey began in 1955 and only the fifth time in that period that the population has exceeded 40 million.
  • Mallard numbers are up to 9.2 million, only the second time in the history of the survey that mallards have been over 8 million.
  • Bluewing teal and northern shovelers have reached record highs (8.9 million and 4.6 million, respectively) and northern pintail numbers topped 4 million for the first time since 1980.
  • The number of ponds counted in the 2 million-acre survey area was 8.1 million, marking only the second time since 1955 that the pond count had topped 8 million.

With those facts in mind, you can see why an avid duck hunter and waterfowl conservationist, like Checkett, might feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.


“This is pretty much unprecedented,” Checkett said.


It’s not the upcoming duck season that has Checkett worried, it’s the ones that follow it. Federal budget cutting talks are dominating the news these days as Congress and President Barack Obama try to reach an agreement on extending the U.S. debt ceiling. Reduced budgets in federal conservation programs are already having an effect on crucial grassland breeding areas in the U.S. and Canada.


For instance, with commodity prices increasing and funds for Conservation Reserve Program acreage decreasing, there has already been a significant loss of grassland acreage that is necessary for waterfowl reproduction.

“Since 2007, North Dakota alone has lost 22 percent of its CRP acres,” Checkett said. “We expect another 387,000 acres to be lost this year. Another million acres will be gone in 2012-2013. You can’t lose grasslands in that amount without it starting to effect reproduction.”

Checkett urged all conservationists and especially waterfowl hunters to communicate with their congressional delegates to let them know what the priorities should and should not be when it comes to cutting the federal budget.


“With the budget woes we have, naturally we need to make cutbacks,” Checkett said.  “But some of these programs are crucial to a healthy environment and, as a result, continued success in the waterfowl breeding areas.”

Checkett recommends a two-pronged approach: 1) Enjoy what promises to be the best waterfowl hunting season in decades, and 2) voice your opinion so this season isn’t the last of its kind in your lifetime.

All it would take would be another “perfect storm” in the negative sense – a dry season in the prairie pothole region and a significant decrease in grassland nesting areas – for this season to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Recommended for You

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications. News

Game & Fish Magazine Names New Editorial Director

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications.

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set. Hogs

Quick Tips: How to Spot and Stalk a Hog

Ian Nance - May 28, 2019

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set.

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

Field Tested: Lightweight Raingear

David Draper - May 30, 2019

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

Lure Lock Tackle Cases: No-Spill, No-Scent

Lure Lock Tackle Cases: No-Spill, No-Scent

Glenn Walker talks us through the soy-based technology that makes Lure Lock cases spill-proof and scent-proof. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers. Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

          From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find Bass

7 Best Bets For New Jersey Largemouth Bass

October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll...

See More Stories

More Stories

 Brian Meyer likes to have coyotes within 20 yards! He uses an SKB shotgun for his coyote killing Stories

Coyote Calling Tips for Hunting at Close Range

Tim Lilley - January 09, 2014

Brian Meyer likes to have coyotes within 20 yards! He uses an SKB shotgun for his coyote...

A father and daughter with their dogs on a dry ground mountain lion hunt get more than they bargain Stories

Arizona Mountain Lion Hunt Turns Into Dangerous Jaguar Encounter

Aaron Decker - November 30, 2011

A father and daughter with their dogs on a dry ground mountain lion hunt get more than they...

Predator hunters living in more open areas are in a unique position to enjoy coyote hunting at its Stories

Guns & Loads for Long-Range Coyote Hunting

Stephen D. Carpenteri - December 13, 2015

Predator hunters living in more open areas are in a unique position to enjoy coyote hunting at...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×