Warm weather hampers state waterfowl hunters

Marquette, Mich. – The low roar heard throughout Michigan’s
lakes and marshes this fall was likely the grumbling from duck
hunters about the poor season.

According to officials and hunters, once the Great Lakes Basin’s
local flocks were gone, there were few birds to be seen throughout
most of the season.

“The comment I keep hearing over and over again is that hunters
just kept waiting for the birds to show up,” Barbara Avers, the
DNR’s waterfowl specialist in Lansing, told Michigan Outdoor News.
“And at the end of the season, they were left waiting.”

Avers said the Upper Peninsula saw a poor season, with few
birds.

U.P. waterfowlers Tom Pink, of Sault Ste. Marie, and John
Thompson, of Big Bay, echoed this sentiment.

“It was very slow because of the weather,” Pink said. “It was
good during a brief October cold snap, but most of the season was
just too warm.”

Pink reports area hunters did well during early goose season,
but in general it’s the slowest season he’s seen in years.

Thompson spent most of his hunting time on Lake Independence in
Marquette County and said the birds never showed up on the lake. He
reports few divers on Bays de Noc and only local birds in the
Kewaunee Bay area.

“It was one of the worst seasons for flight ducks we’ve ever
seen all across the U.P.,” Thompson said.

DNR biologist Craig Albright, of Escanaba, reports even opening
day was slow in the southern U.P.

However, Scott Berg, regional director for Delta Waterfowl, was
hunting the U.P. opening day and reports hunting was great with
bluebills, gadwalls, and lots of wood ducks around. He attributes
this to local water conditions.

“Into the season a bit more the bird numbers started dropping,”
Berg said.

He believes it was simply a matter of no cold weather to drive
the ducks down from up north.

Berg said that late in the season there were some major pushes
of mallards that came through, and he saw plenty of ducks around
open water during the two-day hunt in January.

“Success was mixed across the state,” he said “The guys that
really did their homework made it happen.”

In the northern Lower Peninsula, success it was spotty. “Some
areas did pretty good, others not so good,” Avers said.

In the early part of the season there were a lot of wood ducks
around.

The Thumb region saw some good field hunting, and the Shiawassee
Managed Waterfowl Area had a good opening and an average
season.

On Saginaw Bay, success depended on what side of the Bay you
were on, according to Avers

At the Nayanquing Managed Waterfowl Area on the west side, the
season was poor. However, at Fish Point on the east side, hunters
had a good season.

Southeast Michigan hunters enjoyed good shooting the first three
weeks, but it tapered off into the season. At Harsen’s Island on
Lake St Clair, St. Clair Flats, and at Point Mouillee in Monroe
County on Lake Erie, hunters saw few species other than mallards.
Usually common species like gadwall, wigeon, and pintail were rare
sights, and teal were in lower numbers than in the past.

In these areas, there was a larger percentage of adult mallards
than usual, which doesn’t bode well for production, according to
Avers.

On the southwest side of the state, Muskegon Managed Waterfowl
Area, which is dependent on goose harvest, saw the poorest season
on record. Avers said this is likely due to a late crop
harvest.

“With standing crops, the birds never stopped and stayed. They
just flew by,” Avers said.

Goose hunting in the South Zone continues through January.

Delta’s Berg said hunters are seeing plenty of geese during the
late season.

The good news for duck hunters, according to Avers, is that the
wetland basins around the state have more water now than they have
in several years, and Lake Michigan and Lake Huron levels are
up.

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