Gulfport, Miss. (AP) – This time of year, waterfowl hunters
across the nation are asking the same question. “Where are the
But duck hunting enthusiasts are in for a bountiful season,
according to Duck’s Unlimited conservationists.
“It would appear that we had a very good hatch,” Ducks Unlimited
chairman Tommy Schafer said.
“But ducks have wings and they could be here today and gone
Some hunters have been wondering if the ducks will be as
plentiful, as some experts are predicting while others are trying
to figure out why they cannot find a good duck hunting area these
Schafer said if duck hunters are scratching their heads these
days, it is because after Hurricane Katrina many of the coastal
wetlands were lost in southeast Mississippi creating high levels of
saline in the waters.
“That changes the vegetation and ducks go where the food is,”
“Mother Nature has a lot to do with where the ducks go. One
thing you can count on is that everyone has an opinion about duck
David Hector, also with Ducks Unlimited, said there are several
reasons why he and the experts know there will be a healthy season
“I feel like the adequate rains and cooler weather that we have
already experienced is a good sign for duck hunters.
“Something else is at play here too. Since we have had so much
rain, the farmers cannot get out to their fields to harvest them so
there is a lot of food for the ducks to feed on.”
Some duck hunters say more ducks migrating south from Canada has
created a lot of optimism. The bottom line, they said, is that
ducks only come south in order to find food and to find water that
is not frozen.
While Hector said migratory patterns change over time, he said
that it would not force so many ducks to change migrations in such
a short time.
Birds go where they find food, water and safety, and they stay
as long as the habitat they are in can satisfy those needs. A duck
can store up to seven days’ worth of fat on its body before it must
Some ducks, Schafer said, will migrate with the photo period, or
the amount of sunshine in the day.
“But the freeze line affects the mallards more than any other
“Scientists have studied duck behavior for many years and when a
duck migrates there are a lot of factors involved in trying to
figure out what kind of season you are going to have. But things
look good this year,” said Schafer.
Kirk Mauffrey, of Hancock County, said he is sticking with deer
hunting because there are not enough areas for the public to hunt
duck on the coast.
“There are no managed areas anymore,” said Mauffrey. “I simply
cannot find any ducks to hunt but there is plenty of deer. I always
thought they should turn the buffer zone into hunting areas but now
two-thirds of that is closed off to us.”
The consensus was that there was a good hatch in three major
breeding grounds, the Northern Prairie, the Canadian Prairie, and
the north arboreal forest. Coupled with cooler weather and more
than adequate rain, the duck season looks promising.
Gary Gibbs has been duck hunting since he was 4 years old and
said he will never stop the sport because of the money he has
invested in it.
“Horse racing is supposed to be the sport of kings,” said Gibbs.
“But if they say that then they have never been duck hunting.’
Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores and manages wetlands and
associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl.