Opening Day Duck Hunting Reports
Opening day falls early in the migration, but there were plenty of local wood ducks around, and a smattering of mallards, widgeon, gadwall ringnecks and teal.
Georgia’s 2006-07 duck season opened Saturday, November 18, and a half-hour before sunrise duck hunters all over the state were watching the skies with high hopes.
The number of birds to be plucked after the hunt varied from place to place, with wood ducks being the predominant duck killed during the early part of the season. The migration south to Georgia was just getting under way by Thanksgiving, so the best waterfowl hunting is yet to come. Here are some opening-day hunt reports from around the state.
• Chatham County: Saltwater fishing guide and sea-duck hunting guide David Newlin of Richmond Hill said he killed a limit of green-winged teal opening day, and again on the Monday morning after the opener.
“I was hunting marshes along the Ogeechee River in saltwater almost out to the sound,” said David. “There was a bunch of teal and some wood ducks. The swamps are so dry the wood ducks have to go to saltwater. I had a friend with me Saturday, and we killed our limit of teal in 15 minutes, and I went alone today (Monday) and did the same. I don’t think decoys matter, but I threw out a dozen.”
David said the migration was just getting under way.
“There has been a bunch of surf scoters show up off the beaches,” he said. “They usually get thick about Thanksgiving.”
• Cherokee County: On Tuesday morning, November 21, Greg Grimes of Ball Ground was hunting over decoys at the swampy upper end of a pond near Canton where a couple dozen ducks and geese had been seen recently.
“The ducks didn’t cooperate,” said Greg. “We got buzzed by one group of hooded mergansers that we missed; we missed one mallard; and another group of mallards wouldn’t decoy in.”
Greg’s hunting party had three groups of geese come in. They dropped four, but were only able to recover two, even with the use of a pair of retrievers.
One of the birds they collected appeared to be a cross between a Canada and some other species. According to Greg, the back of the bird looked like a Canada goose, but it had a broken pattern on the belly and orange feet. “Maybe a speckle-belly/Canada cross,” said Greg.
• Clarks Hill Lake: J.T. Brumby of Atlanta said hunters were scarce and so were the ducks on opening day at Clarks Hill. Hunting Saturday morning, he and a friend dropped three Canada geese out of one of the flocks that flew early, but they didn’t see any ducks until a flock of mallards flew at about 9:30 a.m. They didn’t get any shots at the ducks.
“We saw good groups of geese, but very few ducks,” J.T. said. “We probably saw 10 the whole day. The mallards flew probably at 9:30; we didn’t see a duck until then — no wood ducks, nothing.
“With the water down so far, everything’s got a 10- to 12-foot mud bank off it. We just set up in some trees off one of those mud banks and tried to bring them in,” J.T. said.
The hunters saw all their geese early and didn’t see any after about 7:30 a.m. On the bright side, they had the lake pretty much to themselves. There were very few trailers at the boat ramp.
• Lake Hartwell: Richard Wansley of Martin was hunting a beaver pond at the back of a creek off of Lake Hartwell opening day. His party shot only two wood ducks.
“Someone we knew beat us to the spot we wanted,” said Richard. “They shot seven mallards.”
Richard said they saw a good number of woodies and about 150 mallards.
“We had decoys and were calling, and we had one group of mallards circle about 10 times before they saw something they didn’t like, and they went on.”
They also saw some Canada geese, but they didn’t come in to the pond.
Richard said they heard a good bit of shooting by other duck hunters in the area.
• Hart County: Cameron Flemming of Toccoa and a friend were hunting private land Saturday and Sunday and killed nine ducks total, including gadwall, green-wing teal and woodies. Numbers of mallards didn’t show up.
“We only saw four mallards,” he said.
Cameron was hunting over decoys with his lab, who gets as excited about seeing birds working the decoys as Cameron does.
“The worst thing about hunting where there are other people are the guys who will shoot at 50 and 60 yards. When I hunt, I call them right in. We shoot them at 15 yards.”
Cameron said they killed the gadwall and teal Saturday morning and then he shot a pair of woodies on Sunday.
“There are a bunch of woodies around, but not as many as last year,” he said.
• Lake Juliette: Duck hunters who picked Lake Juliette for the opening-day hunt had low-water problems to deal with.
“The lake is extremely low due to the drought,” said Rum Creek WMA Area Manager Brian Vickery. “There is a lot of exposed ground between the water and the bank, and when you have low water concealment is always a problem.”
Brian was on the lake checking hunters opening day.
“Of the guys we checked, we saw one goose, a handful of mallards and maybe one wood duck,” said Brian. “There were a lot of parties on the lake, and a lot of them struck out.”
Brian said the Canada geese are not using Lake Juliette much.
“The geese are pretty much gone, and I don’t know why,” he said.
• Rhetts Island: According to Altamaha WMA Area Manager Jason Chapman, there were 30 to 40 boats on Rhetts opening day — down from 70 or more last year.
“The hunters who know Rhetts did well,” said Jason. “There were a lot of limits that included teal, gadwall, shovellers, ringnecks and woodies. But I’ve heard from some others who only shot one or two ducks.
Someone attempted to vandalize the pond prior to the season.
“A week and a half before the season, someone cut the chain to the water-control structure trying to prevent us from flooding Pond 1 and Pond 2,” said Jason. “We fixed that, but a week and a half isn’t enough to flood the ponds completely. They were a little low. We work hard to get things just right, and then somebody tries to ruin it. I don’t know what people are thinking.”
DNR Law Enforcement Sgt. John Harwell was checking hunters returning from Rhetts Island opening day. He said the variety of ducks was amazing.
“We saw a lot of widgeon, maybe a couple of mallard hens, green- and blue-wing teal, a lot of mottled ducks, a few black ducks, lots of shovellers, some ringnecks and a few pintails,” he said. “The most ducks we saw in one boat was 10. Most hunters just had one or two ducks.”
Jason said the hunters picked for the first quota hunt on Butler Island were in for a “monster hunt.”
“I am talking about thousands of ducks using Butler Island,” said Jason.
• Rocky Mountain PFA: There were about 15 groups hunting at Rocky Mountain opening day, according to area manager Todd Binion. “They all got to do some shooting, but apparently they weren’t shooting too well — we only heard of one duck that was killed. They didn’t sign the bird out, but we assume it was a woodie. Small groups of wood ducks is about all we are seeing on the lakes so far. There just haven’t been many ducks arrive here yet.”
• Sumter Co: Former DNR Law Enforcement Capt. Ken Athon said he didn’t hunt opening day because of a lack of water.
“We have a beautiful old cypress swamp that usually has about 80 acres of water, and it’s full of ringnecks, and teal and wood ducks,” said Ken. “This year it has about 10 acres of water and only a few ducks. The drought has killed us.”
• Tift Co.: Jay Daniel of Tifton said he hunted a local farm pond opening day.
“It’s about a 16-acre pond and real shallow with some cover for the ducks in the middle,” he said. “There were more wood ducks using it than I have ever seen on a farm pond — maybe 150 birds. There were six of us hunting, and we all limited.”
If there was a catch, it was that there was almost nothing but wood ducks using the pond.
“We saw some teal,” said Jay, “but we didn’t get a shot at them.”
• Lake Oconee: Jay Kirby of Athens was hunting Lake Oconee over a big spread of decoys opening day and said he saw more hunters than ducks.
“We talked to some other guys who had found some wood ducks way up the lake in the Oconee River, but we saw mostly big ducks,” he said. “It was hard to get them to decoy. If they went over and turned to look, if they swung wide someone would take a shot at them too high. The birds were so high they stood a better chance of hitting them with a deer rifle.”
Jay and his partner ended up shooting one banded greenhead that had been banded by an individual near Macon.
• Lake Seminole: Jack Wingate said there was a heap of shooting on the lake opening day.
“There was a lot of shooting from daylight on up to about 9:30, and then there was a lull, and it picked up about 2:30 and went on all the way to dark,” he said. “Best duck hunting we’ve seen in a long time. There were two bass tournaments on the lake, and the boats running around the lake hunting fish kept the birds stirred up. Duck hunters had a walloping day.”
Canvasbacks haven’t showed up on the lake in any numbers, said Jack. “But they were shooting a cross-section of everything else: teal, widgeon, a few mallards, wood ducks, ringnecks and there were a few redheads on the lake, too.
“There’s plenty of hydrilla in the lake to attract the ducks,” he said.
Also on the lake were U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement officers, said Jack.
Other reports from Seminole said there were good numbers of ducks on the lake and most hunters came away with at least a duck or two. WRD Waterfowl Biologist Greg Balkcom said there had been good numbers of ringnecks using the lake prior to the season. As usual, competition for the better locations was tough, and there were the usual reports of a good bit of skybusting. The canvasbacks usually show up at Seminole in mid December.
If you had a successful duck- or goose-hunting trip in Georgia, send pictures to GON
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