Early reports indicate a good duck hunt in ’06

DNR Report

Madison — Early reports and preliminary numbers from the field
indicate that Wisconsin waterfowl hunters are having a good season,
and they should have good hunting opportunities in the remaining
weeks of the 2006 waterfowl season, according to wildlife
officials.

“The early season reports were good,” said Kent Van Horn, DNR
migratory bird ecologist, based on conversations with hunters and
bag checks in waterfowl hunting areas around the state. “As of
(last) week, we had recorded about 38,000 Canada geese harvested in
the Exterior Zone out of our 102,000-goose quota from the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service.”

Officials attribute this season’s early success to several
factors, including adequate water levels and weather which seemed
to be good in most areas.

“And there is still plenty of hunting opportunity out there,”
Van Horn said. “We have lots of room for more hunting under our
Canada goose harvest cap.”

Earlier this year, the state Natural Resources Board approved
shifting the boundary line between the northern and southern
waterfowl management zones farther to the south.

“Hunters asked us to look at the boundary line because surface
waters in the most northern counties of the old southern zone were
already frozen before the end of the hunting season, meaning that
hunters were losing hunting opportunity,” said Van Horn said. “It
required several years to implement this change because of federal
migratory bird regulations that only allow a change in duck zones
every five years, but we listened to hunters and got them what they
wanted. It was a good change.

“If I’ve heard any complaints, it was that the weather was too
nice on the Sept. 30 southern opener,” Van Horn said. “Hunters were
saying that ducks were present, but just not moving – which is the
case when the days are sunny and warm.”

The Sept. 23-24 opening weekend at the Crex Meadows-Fish Lake
wildlife areas “was the best we have seen in 20-plus years,” said
Paul Kooiker, DNR wildlife biologist. “This can be attributed
directly to the earlier opener because of the zone boundary change
and the presence of local teal and woodies.

“Hunter success was more than three ducks per hunter on opening
weekend, and this was with very difficult hunter access due to the
drought and extremely low water levels. These results certainly
confirm what we had hoped, and expected to see, in terms of hunter
opportunity and success with an earlier opener,” Kooiker said.

“Duck hunting has been good to very good overall this year,”
said Mark Andersen, DNR biologist for the lower St
Croix-Mississippi River area.

“After a few successive poor years, last year was good, and so
far this year is better than last. I didn’t think I would see a
time when the number of gadwalls almost equals the mallards – and
significant numbers of both are present.”

With mallards, wood ducks, and blue-winged and green-winged teal
making up the early bags in most areas, biologists report that
diving ducks, scaup, and canvasbacks now are moving into the Upper
Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge and Great Lakes areas.
An Oct. 19 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aerial population survey
estimated about 70,000 scaup and 140,000 canvasbacks in the
Mississippi River refuge.

Grand River biologist Jim Holzwart reported plenty of water and
relatively easy access, with hunters bringing in a mixed bag of
wigeon, green-wing teal, gadwall, and some divers.

Also in the southern management zone, Horicon wildlife biologist
Brenda Hill reported that the second southern zone opener “brought
smiles across the board,” with several groups limiting out. Water
levels were good on the marsh, and bag checks revealed a variety of
species including wigeon, gadwall, mallard, and shoveler ducks.

“If I had anything to suggest at this point, I’d say don’t
ignore the smaller lakes, ponds, and rivers later in the season,”
Van Horn said. “The Mississippi River is a great place to hunt, but
smaller waters can be very productive. They do, however, usually
require a little more scouting to find the birds. The upside is
that once found, you often have it to yourself.”

Van Horn said state hunters bagged about 20,000 local giant
Canada geese during the early season that ran Sept. 1-15.

The DNR also is monitoring the goose harvest reporting
compliance rate during the current goose seasons. The compliance
rate has been ranging from 80 to 83 percent during the past
month.

“This is similar to previous years, with the compliance ranging
between 80 to 90 percent,” he said.

The compliance rate plays into the allocation of the state’s
annual goose quota.

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