Duck Numbers Remain High For 2017 Season

Daryl Kirby | September 1, 2017

Migratory waterfowl numbers are again high, but much of the Georgia harvest will be wood ducks, many of which are resident ducks.

The reports are good—duck numbers remain high, as they have been for several years in a row now.

So Georgia duck hunters may be wondering, when do we get to see high numbers of ducks in the Peach State?

The reality is that Georgia isn’t part of a major migration flyway like Arkansas. We’ll never have those awesome Arkansas flights of mallards until Georgians decide to start farming rice instead of pine trees.

Georgia does get ducks, and the hunting can be fairly good in some spots, but one key is good water—not too much water or the ducks get spread out, but enough that your local beaver swamp can wet a duck’s feet.

The biggest factor for good hunting on the lakes and on the coast is cold weather up north. A mild winter doesn’t bode well for good flights of ducks heading to Clark Hill, Seminole and the Georgia coast.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its 2017 report based on duck surveys conducted in May and early June. Overall duck numbers remain high. Total populations were estimated at 47.3 million breeding ducks in the survey area, similar to last year’s estimate of 48.4 million. Duck numbers are 34 percent above the 1955-2016 long-term average.

According to biologists, the main determining factor for duck-breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the Prairies and the Boreal Forest. The total pond estimate for the United States and Canada combined was 6.1 million acres, which is 22 percent above the 2016 estimate of 5 million and 17 percent above the long-term average of 5.2 million.

Said Ducks Unlimited Chief Scientist Tom Moorman, “DU remains concerned about northern pintails and scaup in particular, as the survey information continues to indicate these two species remain below their long-term average populations. Hunters may notice in the report that mallards declined 11 percent, or about 1.3 million birds, from 2016. Overall, mallard populations remain in great shape, and FWS estimates the mallard fall flight will be similar to last year.”

Mallards populations are 34 percent above the long-term average.Gadwall are 111 percent above average numbers; wigeon are up 6 percent; green-winged teal are 70 percent above; blue-winged teal 57 percent above; redheads 55 percent above; and canvasbacks are 25 percent above the long-term average.

GA Waterfowl Seasons

Early Teal: Sept. 9-24
Canada Geese: Sept. 2-24;
Oct. 14-29; Nov. 18-26;
Dec. 9-Jan. 28
Duck: Nov. 18-26; Dec. 9-Jan. 28
Youth Waterfowl: Nov. 11-12

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