Caution: Gift-giving to hunters and anglers is not easy. They tend to have specific preferences for equipment, and they tend to already have all of their basic equipment. It is best to forgo the surprise gift and get a detailed shopping list from either the recipient or a close fishing/hunting buddy.
Practical gifts for hunters and anglers are available from the TWRA. Starting small, there’s a subscription to the TWRA magazine “Tennessee Wildlife” for just $10 per year ($17/two years and $25/three years). Next, there’s a specialty license plate for $35 above the price of state registration; choose from the bluebird, black bear, wild turkey, and smallmouth bass.
Finally, a gift to be cherished for a lifetime: a Resident Lifetime Hunting/Fishing License. These are real bargains. The prices per age group: Under age 3 is $200; ages 3-6 is $659; ages 7-12 is $988; ages 13-50 is $1,976; ages 51-64 is $1,153; ages 65 – over is $329.
All of these items can be purchased at www.tnwildlife.org or at the mobile app gotwra.org. By phone the contact number is 888-814-8972. A card to acknowledge the gift is available.
Here is an interesting look at firearms ownership and production in the United States. The 2017 Firearms Production Report was recently published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association. The report compiles the most up-to-date information based on data sourced from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Reports (AFMER). Key findings for public release showed:
• The estimated total number of firearms in civilian possession from 1986-2018 is 422.9 million.
• 17,740,000 Modern Sporting Rifles are in private ownership today.
• More than half (54 percent) of all rifles produced in 2017 were modern sporting rifles.
• In 2017 there were 7,901,218 total firearms produced and imported. Of those, 4,411,923 were pistols and revolvers, 2,821,945 were rifles and 667,350 were shotguns.
• An interim 2018 estimate showed a total 7,660,772 total firearms were produced and imported. Of those 4,277,971 were pistols and revolvers, 2,846,757 were rifles and 535,994 were shotguns. Those are interim reports and will be updated as complete information becomes available.
• Firearms ammunition manufacturing accounted for nearly 12,000 employees producing over $4.1 billion in goods shipped in 2017. An estimated 8.1 billion rounds, of all calibers and gauges, were produced in 2018 for the U.S. market.
“These figures show the industry that America has a strong desire to continue to purchase firearms for lawful purposes,” said Joe Bartozzi, President of the NSSF. “The Modern Sporting Rifle continues to be the most popular centerfire rifle sold in America today and is clearly a commonly-owned firearm with more than 17 million in legal private ownership today. The continued popularity of handguns demonstrates a strong interest by Americans to protect themselves and their homes, and to participate in the recreational shooting sports.”
The report also shows that as lawful firearms ownership in America continues to grow, criminal and unintentional misuse of firearms is falling. During the 25-year period covered in this report (1993–2017) the violent crime rate has decreased by 48.6 percent and unintentional firearm-related fatalities have declined by 68 percent.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.
Waterfowlers, know before you go. Which areas in Tennessee have the most ducks – right now? The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency physically counts the ducks bi-weekly on the state’s wildlife management areas. You can see the latest counts in the waterfowl section at www.tnwildlife.org along with other good information. The direct link to the data is here.
For a broader view or a look into the future, the Ducks Unlimited Mobile App is a big help. You can track the pending arrival of waterfowl from DU’s northern observers so you know where to go and when to go. Get the app and much more information at www.ducks.org.
Three Billion Birds Gone. According to the American Bird Conservatory, “ In less than a single human lifetime, 2.9 billion breeding adult birds have been lost from the United States and Canada, across every ecosystem and including many familiar birds.”
The Dark-eyed Junco has lost an incredible 175 million individuals from its population. The White-throated Sparrow has lost 93 million. Of the nearly 3 billion birds lost, 90% came from just 12 bird families, including sparrows, warblers, finches, and swallows. The article describes it as a “biodiversity crisis”.
These findings were reported in the world's leading scientific journal, Science, by researchers at seven institutions. Read the full story at https://abcbirds.org/3-billion-birds/.
Although the study did not investigate causes, scientists have identified habitat loss as the biggest overall driver of bird declines. Habitat loss occurs when land is converted for agriculture, development, resource extraction, and other uses. Habitat degradation was a second cause of losses. In this case, habitat doesn't disappear outright but becomes less able to support birds. The principle causes appear to be farming and development, pesticides and climate change.
Become a citizen scientist and be part of the solution to the bird crisis. Join a local Christmas Bird Count (CBC), organized by the National Audubon Society for the past 120 years. Between December 14 and January 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers will participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere. The twelve decades’ worth of data collected by participants continue to contribute to one of only two large existing pools of information notifying ornithologists and conservation biologists about what conservation action is required to protect birds and the places they need.
Audubon’s CBC is the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations directly to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day—not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.
Tennessee will have more than 30 circle counts statewide this year. For more information and to find a count near you, visit www.christmasbirdcount.org.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will have its monthly meeting in Gatlinburg on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 12-13, and the public is welcome. Committee meetings will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday; the Commission general meeting begins at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. The agenda will include an update on CWD, Southern Appalachian brook trout restoration, and a TFWC budget and financial report.
Did you ever wonder what the live weight of your harvested deer was? Or how much room you will need in your freezer? The following is an easy way of estimating a deer’s vitals; it is simple mathematics.
This is the live-weight formula for deer when you know the field-dressed weight. At check-in the eviscerated carcass is about 78.5 percent of live weight; therefore, multiply the field-dressed weight by 1.27 (or about one-quarter increase) to get the live weight. So a dressed deer that tips the scale at 100 pounds had a live weight of 127.
How much meat will go into the freezer? That field-dressed carcass, which includes the head and hide, is about 58 percent boneless meat. If it is butcher-ready (head, hide and hooves removed), there is 72 percent boneless meat.
Let's say that you take a big buck this year that tips the check-in scales at 186 pounds. The live weight was 236 pounds, and the butcher owes you about 108 pounds of meat. With a 20-pound donation to Hunters For the Hungry you stuff 88 pounds into your freezer.
How about that big Tennessee bull elk taken in 2015. Field dressed at 547 pounds, the live weight was 695 pounds, and that amounts to 317 pounds of delicious venison.
Here is more on deer vitals: Most Tennessee deer hunters check in their deer online, so they miss out on getting their prizes weighed and the ages calculated by a TWRA official. Not to worry. Here is how you can get a good estimate of both, thanks to the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.
Since deer are born around April or May, their age during hunting season is usually six months (a fawn), 1.5 years (a yearling), 2.5 years (adult), etc. The PGC website has a seven-minute video that explains how to age a deer by inspecting the teeth, especially the significance of five molars per side, six molars, slight wear, and heavy wear.
To estimate a harvested deer’s live weight without actually weighing it, a measuring tape and the posted PGC chart is all that is needed. Measure the girth of the chest just behind the front legs. The chart tells you the deer’s live weight, the field-dressed weight and the edible boneless meat. As an example, a deer’s chest measuring 35 inches would indicate 126 pounds live weight, 99 pounds dressed, and 57 pounds of boned venison.
Go to www.pgc.state.pa.us, find the Deer Hunting section, and select Deer Aging or Deer Weight Chart. For a special measuring tape that has all the chart information printed on it (It costs only 94 cents), order it at: Make a Purchase-the Outdoor Shop-Merchandise-Miscellaneous Items.
One last word about treestands. A quick search of GoFundMe has revealed a staggering number of treestand accidents. According to Glen Mayhew, president of the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA), there were approximately 3,000 treestand-related accidents in 2018 that resulted in injuries. But fortunately, that number is actually down nearly 50 percent from 2010. We are at least heading in the right direction.
Of the offending treestands (2017 statistics), the following percentages apply: Homemade, 20 percent; ladder, 20; climbers, 25, lock-ons, 31; other, 4. Let’s be careful out there. Treestands are the leading cause of hunting injuries nationwide.
A word about sandhill cranes: Hunters unfamiliar with the big bird often ask, “What does it taste like?” Veteran waterfowlers that know will answer, “Sandhills are ribeyes-in-the-sky!”
The sandhill’s meat is quite different from other waterfowl. Perhaps that is because of its diet. They are omnivorous; they eat a wide variety of plants and animals, such as: Grains, seeds, berries, plant tubers, insects, grubs and earthworms, salamanders and frogs, lizards and snakes, mice, mussels, and crayfish. But sandhills do not eat fish as herons and other wading birds do.
Sandhill crane hunting has taken place in other (western) states for years. However, it has only been since 2013 that hunters have been allowed to pursue them in Tennessee in the southeast zone. Alabama is inaugurating their first sandhill hunt this year.
As sandhill crane populations have increased, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has granted TWRA wider latitude to provide hunting tags. The agency is closely monitoring the crane harvest, while also requiring hunters to learn how to differentiate sandhill cranes from the rare and protected whooping cranes. For more on this season go to www.state.tn.us/twra/article/sandhill-crane.
The 2019-20 statewide sandhill crane season begins Dec. 7 for those who have already drawn tags. Earlier this year the wildlife agency conducted a computer draw for crane hunting tags, but also held a hand-draw in an area of the state referred to by TWRA as the Southeast Crane Zone. Hunters in the statewide drawing were issued one tag (white) each, while those for the southeast zone only received three tags (blue).
Sandhill crane hunting statewide occurs Dec. 7 – Jan. 31. Hunting in the Southeast Crane Zone has a split season. The first segment is Dec. 7 – Jan. 16; the second is Jan. 20- 31. Daily hours of hunting are a half-hour before sunrise until 3 p.m. EST, 2 p.m. CST. Hunters with statewide tags can hunt in the southeast zone, but not during the closed portion of the zone’s split season.
Now is the time for high school sophomores and juniors to prepare for this exciting – and free – trip to Washington, D.C. The National Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.) is an opportunity for leadership training and a share of $55,000 in college scholarships, sponsored and paid for by the National Rifle Association. The 2020 Y.E.S. session will be July 13-19 in our Nation’s Capital.
Y.E.S. encourages young adults to become engaged and knowledgeable U.S. citizens by learning about American government, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the importance of being active in civic affairs. Participants will enhance such academic skills as leadership, public speaking and debating. Tours of Arlington National Cemetery and other national monuments are included.
Up to 50 outstanding students will be chosen to attend. Applicants must include a high school transcript, an essay on the Second Amendment, one-page personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Applications are being accepted now and the filing deadline is Jan. 24, 2020. To apply or for additional information on the 2020 Y.E.S. go to www.friendsofnra.org/yes, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 800-672-3888, ext.1351.
Changing names again? Smith & Wesson handgun fans were startled a couple of years ago when the iconic brand was absorbed into American Outdoor Brands Corp. (AOBC). Of course S&W kept its identity as a leading American firearms manufacturer. Well, the AOBC deck is being shuffled again.
American Outdoor Brands Corp. (NASDAQ Global Select: AOBC) includes firearms and many products for the shooting, hunting, and outdoor enthusiast. In 2020 the company has decided to split into two independent factions. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. will represent the firearms business (S&W and Thompson/Center Arms) and will remain in S&W’s longtime Springfield, Massachusetts headquarters.
American Outdoor Brands, Inc. will represent the outdoors accessories products, including: Caldwell, Crimson Trace, Wheeler, Tipton, Frankford Arsenal, BOG, Hooyman, Smith & Wesson Accessories, Thompson/Center Arms Accessories, Schrade, Old Timer, Uncle Henry, Imperial, and LaserLyte.
“Woodsman, spare that snag.” A standing dead tree is called a snag. Many landowners make plans to drop a snag promptly post mortem. Wildlife biologist Joel D. Glover suggests, “Have you ever considered the benefits of a dead tree?”
Dropping a dead tree is logical if it is positioned to threaten people or property. However, a snag is a natural and necessary part of the woods. In forested habitats cavity-nesting birds may account for 30-45 percent of the total bird population. Snags are essential for nesting, roosting, and foraging; snags are a rich source of food.
Woodpeckers are the primary excavators of the snag real estate, and the cavities they create can have a long life span with a variety of tenants. Bird species include: Chickadees, bluebirds, wood ducks, titmice, great crested flycatchers, nuthatches, barred owls, screech owls, and kestrels. Other critters include: Bats, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, flying squirrels, raccoons, frogs, snakes, honeybees, wasps and spiders.
Manage your woodlot for a variety of habitats. An absence of suitable snags can be a limiting factor on the balance of nature. If you decide to make your own, snags should be large and well distributed using both hard and soft woods.
The State-Fish Art Contest is entering its 22nd year, bringing children, art and aquatic conservation together. The contest is for all grades from K-12. The young artists in four age categories will create an original illustration of any official state-fish and one page of writing (a personal one-page written essay, story or poem) detailing its behavior, habitat, and efforts to conserve it. Winners receive prizes and national recognition. Wildlife Forever created this award-winning program, and Bass Pro Shops again is this year’s sponsor.
New for the 2020 contest is the Fish Migration Award, created in partnership between Wildlife Forever and the World Fish Migration Foundation. Contestants may choose to apply in either the State-Fish Art Contest, the Fish Migration Award or both. Art for this award will be judged in two age categories, 5-11 years old and 12-18 years old.
Educators, homeschoolers and parents nationwide can utilize a lesson plan for the contest called “Fish On!”, which is available for free on CD and for download. Entries are due by March 31, 2020. Judging will be held in April and winners announced early in May. For more details and to view the 2019 winning art and writings visit www.StateFishArt.org. Tennessee has two official state fish, the largemouth bass and the channel catfish.
It is time to add trout fishing to your wintertime activities. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has announced its 2019-20 winter trout stocking schedule. TWRA plans to release approximately 90,000 rainbow trout into Tennessee waters from late November through March. These are streams that will not support trout in the heat of the summer, but can provide nearby trout fishing opportunities for anglers during the winter months. The fisheries include many city park ponds, state parks, dam tailwaters, and other streams. This is a great opportunity to introduce children or first-time anglers to fishing.
The trout will average about 10 inches in length. The daily creel limit is seven, but there is no size limit. The intent is to catch-and-eat, not catch-and-release. Anglers are reminded that a trout license is needed in addition to the fishing license. The complete stocking schedule and updates can be found on TWRA’s website at www.tnwildlife.org in the Fishing section. Please note that the dates and locations are subject to change.
For delicious venison, many hunters like to hang the meat for aging and tenderizing, but that process can be risky if you don't have a temperature-controlled environment between 35 and 50 degrees. Consider getting the meat cut, packaged and into the freezer quickly. Wild game can be aged and tenderized later using this alternative process.
Remove a package of meat from the freezer and allow it to partially thaw in the refrigerator. When the package is beginning to soften and is covered with slushy ice crystals, put a tally mark on the package and refreeze. Then repeat. When a package has three tally marks, it is aged and ready for cooking.
There is good information on butchering your own deer at the website of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, including photos, charts and breakdowns of cuts. Go to www.rmef.org/hunting and click on "Carnivore's Kitchen."
Bizarre. A deer was killed by a vehicle in Powell, Tenn. after crashing through a hospital window. On Monday morning, Nov. 11, a six-point buck crashed through the window of the outpatient imaging center at Tennova North hospital. After thrashing around inside, it ran back out through a different window and left the area with injuries. Moments later it was struck and killed by a vehicle on Emory Rd.
TWRA Wildlife Officer Roy Smith investigated the incident, and, by coincidence, his brother Michael Smith was the driver that hit the deer. Michael stated that he saw the deer just before he hit it and it had injuries to its face. The deer was given to a third party.
This is breeding season for white-tailed deer, called the rut. During this time, both male and female deer become very active causing them to cross into urban areas and sometimes ending up in unusual places. When rutting bucks see their reflection in glass or mirrors, they will often ram what they perceive as a potential competitor.
Traditionally the weekend before Thanksgiving is the Tennessee opener for the gun deer season statewide. The dates this year are Nov. 23 – Jan. 5 in all of the big game units. Private lands in Unit L also have an antlerless season Jan. 6-10.
The antlered deer bag limit for all seasons (archery, muzzleloader and gun) is two (maximum one per day). The antlerless bag limits differ for each big game unit: Unit L is three per day; Unit A is two; Unit B is one; Unit C is one through Dec. 8 only; Unit D is one through Nov. 29 only. Hunters may take an antlerless bag limit in each big game unit. Some hunters need a Type 094 permit to hunt does, but not Sportsman and Lifetime licenses or landowners on their own land.
In Unit CWD the gun season began early, Nov. 9 – Jan. 5. See page 35 of the 2019-20 hunting guide www.tnwildlife.org for special harvest programs in this unit, such as Earn-A-Buck and Replacement Buck.
Nature prepares furbearing animals for winter with thick, prime pelts. For Tennessee pelts are prime from mid-November through February. Tennessee’s trapping season corresponds to that time and is Nov. 22 – Feb. 29.
Eligible furbearers are: Bobcat, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, river otter, raccoon, skunks (striped and spotted), and weasel. There are no daily or annual limits. Beaver, coyote and groundhog can be trapped year round since they are such costly pests to farmers, stockmen and landowners.
Modern trapping is highly regulated by state wildlife agencies and it is similar to hunting as an effective tool for controlling populations of target species. Such regulations include the style and size of traps, identification tags on all traps, and frequent inspection of trap sites. See pages 15-16 (Manner and Means section) and page 19 (Trapping Seasons) of the 2019-20 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide for more details; also at www.tnwildlife.org.
For those hunters that like to follow the big game harvest numbers for Tennessee, there is a setback in available data coming from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Previously one could go to the Hunting section on the TWRA website www.tnwildlife.org and select “Hunters Toolbox, Reports and Statistics”. Here there were lots of details on any period of the season, including say, for deer: Antlered, antlerless males and females, fawns, as well as a breakdown for each county’s harvest.
This reporter contacted a TWRA representative who explained that the previous reporting system was susceptible to many mistakes and was inaccurate; therefore, the Hunters Toolbox is being redesigned. Presently the Hunters Toolbox will only report gross totals for deer, bear, turkey, and sandhill crane. A map of counties is included and selecting a county will give you its total harvest number.
For the Youth Hunt on Oct. 26-27, the statewide harvest of deer was 3,470; two bear were taken in Sevier County total. For year-to-date the statewide deer harvest is 33,399; the bear harvest is at 301. The top five counties so far for bear are: Carter- 40, Polk- 37, Monroe- 35, Cocke- 34, and Sevier- 30.
When will the 2019 fall duck migration begin? The Ducks Unlimited Mobile App can tell you when and where. The app is a big help for hunters and it is free for your smart phone. You can track the fall migration of waterfowl so you know ahead of time where to go and when to go. There is a useful waterfowl identification gallery, plus breaking news, hunting reports, season and bag limit details, special DU events, videos, and hunting tips. Of course the website www.ducks.org has all that and more. Consider joining this fine waterfowl conservation organization.
After field dressing and butchering a deer from a possible CWD area, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean your knives and utensils. A major concern with chronic wasting disease is that standard sanitizing methods fail to kill the prions that cause the illness. Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have discovered that the CWD prions on stainless steel can be neutralized by a five-minute soak in household bleach. However, bleach only works as a surface decontaminant; it does not penetrate infected tissue.
Bad news? There is a full moon on Nov. 12; this will flood with moonlight the opening week nights of muzzleload deer season (opening Nov. 9). Everybody knows that the deer will feed all night and hole up all day, frustrating hunters. Everybody knows this. Except that it is not true.
A recent study by Penn State University monitored movement of female adult whitetails fitted with GPS tracking collars during the month of October for several years. These were wild, free-range deer on public forests. During full moon nights they moved less than on nights when the moon was dark (a new moon). Again, under the full moon deer moved less, not more. But the difference in movement amounted to an average of just six meters per hour.
More significant was when deer moved. They averaged about 60 meters of movement per hour until about 6 a.m., when movement spiked quickly to peak at about 125 meters per hour at roughly 7 a.m. It then declined to 45 meters per hour at 10 a.m. Evening activity showed a similar spike starting at about 3 p.m., peaking at about 6:30 p.m. and dropping sharply toward minimal movement at about 8 p.m. New moon, partial moon, full moon. It didn’t matter.
This makes perfect sense when you think about whitetail physiology. Deer are ruminants; they have more than one stomach. It takes them from one to four hours to fill up the first stomach, depending on forage abundance. Their maximum movement will be while transitioning from bedding cover to feeding grounds and back again.
After filling their rumens (first stomach) they bed and ruminate, i.e. regurgitate and re-chew what they took in. This process takes about four to six hours with, perhaps, some stretching and nibbling every few hours. Soon after, feeling hungry again, the deer travel back to a major feeding site. Like clockwork this cycle moves through the days, months, and years.
Deer movement is largely determined by their digestive systems coupled with their preferred initial foraging times, dusk and dawn. Moonlight or no moonlight, deer movement is slave to deer digestion; there is no way they can “feed all night”. So, continue to expect dusk and dawn deer activity. [Thanks to Ron Spomer, www.ronspomeroutdoors.com, of Sporting Classics for this revelation.]
At the October meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, updates were presented on chronic wasting disease (CWD) and an ongoing turkey research project. Crockett and Gibson counties are now being classified as CWD high-risk counties. As a result, wildlife feeding and carcass expiration restrictions now apply there. However, the counties will remain in Unit L, not Unit CWD. Additional CWD public meetings are planned for Crockett and Gibson counties on Nov. 7 and 14, respectively.
During the 2019-20 deer season thus far, 17 CWD-positive deer have been detected in West Tennessee; the combined total, including those from the 2018-19, is 203. In a related issue, privately-owned landfills operators in southwest Tennessee have decided that no deer will be accepted at these facilities. Although TWRA does not have authority or legal responsibility for waste disposal, the agency will work with other state agencies to honor this decision.
A five-year study on turkey declines in southern Middle Tennessee has reached the half-way point. The preliminary report to the TFWC indicates turkey populations in the area are declining because of poor productivity. Experimental habitat management is being implemented to address limitations in nest success and brood survival. Hunters are very concerned about the status of turkey hunting and are willing to consider regulatory changes, according to surveys. Turkeys are being exposed to a variety of diseases but there is little evidence that these diseases are limiting populations. [Coyote predation?]
The next TFWC meeting will be Dec. 12-13 in Gatlinburg.
The 2019-20 fall duck hunting for Tennessee begins in the Reelfoot Duck Zone on Nov. 9-10 and continues on Dec. 5 – Jan. 31. The Statewide Duck Zone will again have its familiar 60-day split season, opening on Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 (Thanksgiving Day weekend) and continuing Dec. 7 – Jan. 31. The Youth Waterfowl Hunts are Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 for both zones.
The daily bag limit is six ducks, consisting of no more than four mallards (maximum of two females), three wood, three scaup, two redhead, one pintail, two canvasback, and two black.
The season for Canada geese in the Northwest Canada Goose Zone continues Nov. 9-10 and Dec. 5 – Feb. 14. The Statewide Canada Goose Zone continues Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 and resumes Dec. 7 – Feb. 14. The daily bag limit is three in all zones. Most of the other goose species are open Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 and Dec. 7 – Feb. 14. For more see the waterfowl section in the 2019-20 hunting guide, pp.22-27, or see it at www.tnwildlife.org.
It looks like another good season is in the offing for waterfowl and duck hunters. The 2019 Waterfowl Population Status Report, conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service since 1955, puts the breeding duck population at 38.90 million, a 6 percent decrease from last year’s population of 41.19 million, but still 10 percent above the long-term average (LTA). The 2019 survey marks the first time since 2008 that the estimated breeding duck population has fallen below 40 million.
Even though breeding duck numbers are down overall, the lower numbers are a reflection of last year’s dry conditions for nesting ducks. The U.S. prairies were incredibly wet from south to north, which will lead to strong duck production. Conditions remained wet and actually improved during the breeding season, with temporary and seasonal wetlands retaining water into July and August. This should also increase the number of more easily decoyed juveniles in the fall flight, compared to the savvy, adult birds. For detailed information on the various species of ducks, see this blogs full story on 8-28-19; for more general information on the seasons go to www.deltawaterfowl.org.