Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

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Waterfowl hunters: Expect a mixed bag

Local mallard numbers are down

By Bill
Parker
Editor

Lansing – Despite glowing reports of increases in the
continental duck breeding numbers, state waterfowl experts are
approaching the upcoming season with cautious optimism.

‘On the duck side of the season, I think hunters will find a
mixed bag,’ said Dave Luukkonen, a wildlife research biologist with
the DNR. ‘On the big scale, the continental scale, mallard numbers
are pretty good, good enough to offer a 60-day season. On the local
level, mallard numbers are down in the Great Lakes region. In
Michigan, the local mallard numbers are down this year. I expect
that hunters will probably see fewer mallards, especially at the
beginning of the season. They also had low mallard (production)
numbers in some parts of eastern Canada, where a lot of our
mallards come from.’

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the continental
mallard count was about 7.3 million birds this spring, a
500,000-bird increase over last year. But in the Great Lakes Region
(Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) the count was approximately
588,000 birds, down from over 700,000 in 2005.

Mallards are a big part of the duck harvest in Michigan. Last
year hunters killed a total of about 284,000 ducks in the state,
and 135,000 of them were mallards, according to Luukkonen.

‘All-in-all, in the Great Lakes region, mallards probably won’t
be as abundant as last year. But there should be good numbers of
wood ducks and teal in the early season,’ Luukkonen said. ‘The
numbers of pintails and canvasbacks are also up, which is
good.’

Continental pintails numbers increased by approximately 32
percent this year to 3.4 million birds, while the canvasback count
came in at 700,000, an increase of 33 percent from last year.

‘We have a full season on all species this year,’ Luukkonen
said. ‘There is no season within a season on canvasbacks and
pintails like we’ve had in the past.’

Blue-winged teal numbers increased by about 1.3 million birds to
5.9 million, and green-winged teal numbers increased by 20 percent
to 2.6 million. Gadwall and redhead numbers also increased.
Gadwalls jumped up to 2.8 million, a 30-percent increase over 2005,
and redheads increased 55 percent to approximately 900,000
birds.

Mallards comprised the lion’s share of Michigan’s duck harvest
in 2005 at 135,000 birds. Wood ducks were second at 32,000.

This year’s duck season will run Sept. 30 through Nov. 28 in the
North Zone; Sept. 30 through Nov. 26, and Dec. 2-3 in the Middle
Zone; and Oct. 7 through Dec. 3, and Dec. 31 through Jan. 1, 2007
in the South Zone.

Geese

The best news about waterfowl hunting comes from goose
numbers.

‘Canada goose numbers are going to be excellent for Michigan
hunters with the Southern James Bay population and local numbers
up,’ Luukkonen said. ‘It was an early spring on James and Hudson
bays. When that happens, it’s generally a good production year.
There should be a good crop of young birds produced by the migrant
birds.’

The Southern James Bay 2006 spring population of Canada geese
was up 54 percent from 2004 at 160,430 birds, and the Mississippi
Valley population increased to 704,954 this year, the highest it’s
been since 1999, according to USFWS. The DNR estimates that
Michigan’s resident goose population is about 187,000 this year, up
from 168,000 in 2005.

The USFWS estimates that Michigan hunters killed approximately
225,000 geese last year, down from 271,000 in 2004.

Goose season will run Sept. 18 through Nov. 6 in the Upper
Peninsula’s MVP zone; Sept. 30 through Oct. 29, and Nov. 23 through
Dec. 12 in the Lower Peninsula’s MVP zone; and Oct. 7 through Oct.
16, and Nov. 23 through Dec. 12 in the Lower Peninsula’s SJB
zone.

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