Almost more bills than you can count
By Tom Wiest | (email@example.com)
This year’s North American duck population is doing magnificently. The total spring duck population is the highest ever recorded, according to the annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey released last week.
Conducted each May by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service, the survey puts the duck population at 48.6 million birds, which is a seven percent increase from 2011’s record number of 45.6 million.
The conservation organization Delta Waterfowl’s scientific director Dr. Frank Rohwer described it well. “This is the highest duck count since we started the survey in 1955. We had excellent wetland conditions in 2011, the second-highest pond count ever. So last year, we made a pile of ducks. This year, we are counting them.”
Mallards, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwalls, canvasbacks, northern shovelers, and scaup are all up significantly from last year, with both species of teal and shovelers at all-time highs. Here is a breakdown.
Mallard breeding numbers sit at 10.6 million, a 15 percent increase over 2011 and 40 percent over the long-term average. Blue-winged teal are estimated at 9.2 million, green-winged teal number more than 3.4 million and shovelers now top 5 million. Gadwall increased 10 percent over last year, and now total 3.5 million. The population is nearly double the long-term average for gadwalls.
Canvasbacks jumped 10 percent to 760,000, the fourth-highest count on record. Scaup numbers are up 21 percent to 5.2 million, the seventh-straight year that the bluebill count has gone up. Scaup are at their highest breeding population since 1991.
Redheads declined slightly to just under 1.3 million, but still registered the second-highest population estimate in the history of the survey. American wigeon are up slightly to 2.1 million, but are still 17 percent below their long-term average.
While the total breeding population is strong, the news is different for breeding habitat. Even before our hot, hot June and July weather, the May survey is calling 2012 an “average to below-average” year for moisture.
The total pond count for prairie Canada and United States combined has dropped 32 percent. The large ponds have survived but the small ponds have dried up. However, the overall pond count is still nine percent above average; but if the prairies dry out, we can expect a direct impact on the fall migration and hunting.
• Every hunter should plan on visiting Nashville on the second weekend of August.
Two major events have combined to present an extravaganza for all hunters and outdoorsmen, especially those interested in managing their land for wildlife. On Aug. 9-11 it will be extremely busy at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center with both the second annual Bass Pro Shops Land and Wildlife Expoand the 12th annual QDMA National Convention. Bass pro Land is a three-day indoor event featuring a massive hunting dealers exhibit hall, seminars by leading biologists, live music and entertainment. This event is co-sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The TWRA will host the popular Big Buck contest for recently mounted trophies. Outdoors on 105 acres adjacent to the exhibit hall, there will be a playground for ATV and vehicle test drives, crop and food plot demonstrations, tractor pulls, an airgun range, clay target shooting, and archery range. The Kid’s Village features activities for all ages including a zip line and treestand safety demonstrations.
Meanwhile the QDMA — committed to ethical hunting, sound deer management and the preservation of the deer hunting heritage — is full of informative speakers and seminars, research sessions, auctions, games, activities and family fun.
A complete schedule of events and ticket information is available at the following websites. To learn why QDMA is the future of deer hunting, call 800-209-3337 or visit http://www.QDMA.com . For more information on the Bass Pro Expo, visit http://www.LandandWildlifeExpo.com .
Tom Wiest welcomes news, questions and comments from readers. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org)