Good Survey Numbers Point To Potential For Good Waterfowl Seasons

Nick Carter | September 2, 2011

Blake Wigginton and Duke Daily, both of Carrollton, had a successful outing last January on a local duck pond. With this year’s numbers, Georgia hunters could be in for a good winter for waterfowl hunting.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2011 Waterfowl Population Status report shows potential for good waterfowl seasons this year. Also, biologists are seeing good things from local ducks and geese.

WRD waterfowl biologist Greg Balkcom said excellent habitat conditions in the areas Georgia’s birds migrate from means we’re likely to see good numbers of ducks and geese in Georgia this winter. If weather conditions cooperate, and sustained cold weather and snowfall occurs to the north of us, birds should show up during open waterfowl seasons.

“Hopefully they’ll come down and take advantage of our wetlands,” Greg said.

Overall USFWS population estimates for ducks in North America are up 11 percent over last year to an estimated 45.6 million ducks of all species. That’s 35 percent above the long-term average going back to 1955. Notable were good conditions in areas where Georgia’s ducks come from.

“Everything around the Great Lakes and essentially from southern Hudson Bay across the Great Lakes all the way to the east coast of Canada, it’s probably about 75 percent excellent and 25 percent good, with no fair or poor,” said Greg of the USFWS habitat report. “In their eastern habitat areas it’s all good or excellent.”

From the Great Lakes region east is where Georgia’s migratory waterfowl come from, said Greg, and good, wet habitat conditions make for lots of nesting birds, good nesting success and better juvenile survival. That all equates to more ducks for Georgia hunters.

Of course success for Georgia waterfowlers is highly dependent on resident geese and wood ducks, as well.

“Geese are going strong,” he said. “The population continues to grow, even with the expanded hunting seasons that we’ve got.”

He encouraged waterfowlers to get out there and shoot some geese and went so far as to offer up a culinary suggestion for those who find goose meat unpalatable.

“Make jerky or sausage out of your goose meat, or find a processor who will do it,” he said. “People have historically said they taste bad and are hard to eat, that they just shoot a couple every year and give them away. But the last couple of years I’ve heard a lot of folks say to make jerky or sausage, that it’s just wonderful.”

As for local wood ducks, Greg said banding numbers are down.

“We just haven’t been able to catch as many as we have in past years,” he said. “That’s not necessarily a reflection of the population as much it is a reflection of our reduced personnel. We’re still showing good reproduction in the birds that we are catching. So I think our local wood ducks are still doing well.”

Bag limits remain the same as last year, and seasons similar to last year’s were expected to be finalized at presstime.

Duck Population Estimates

Species                2011         % change          Compared to
pop.           from 2010         historic avg.

Mallard                  9.2               +9%                     +22%
Gadwall                 3.3                  0%                     +80%
Wigeon                  2.1              -14%                      -20%
Teal (GW)              2.9               -17%                     +47%
Teal (BW)              8.9               +41%                    +91%
Pintail                   4.4               +26%                         0%
Shoveler               4.6                +14%                    +98%
Redhead               1.4                +27%                   +106%
Cans                     0.7                   0%                     +21%
Scaup                   4.3                    0%                      -15%
• Estimated population in millions.
• Historic average based on 1955-2010.

2010-11 Proposed Waterfowl Seasons and Bag Limits

Youth Waterfowl            Nov. 12-13

Ducks                           Nov. 19-27
Dec. 10-Jan. 29

Canada Geese               Sept. 3-25
Nov. 19-27

Snow Geese                 Nov. 19-27
Dec.10-Jan. 29

Merganser                    Nov. 19-27
Dec. 10-Jan.29

Sea Ducks                   Nov. 19-27
(Scoters, Eiders,          Dec. 10-Jan. 29

Gallinules and Coots     Nov. 19-27
Dec. 10-Jan. 29

Bag Limits:
(Possession limit is twice the daily bag limit for all species.)

Ducks: Six a day, may include no more than three wood ducks, four mallards (no more than two of which can be hens), two scaup, two redheads, two pintail, one black duck or mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck, 1 canvasback. Season is closed for harlequin ducks.

Canada and White Fronted Geese: Five a day.

Snow Geese: Five a day.

Mergansers: Five a day, only two may be hooded mergansers.

Sea Ducks: Seven a day. Sea ducks count toward the total daily bag limit of six ducks except in the sea duck zone, which include any tidal waters greater than 1 mile offshore.

Gallinules: 15 a day.

Coots: 15 a day.

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