Blue-winged showed the only statistically significant population change from 2009, with a 14-percent decrease, from 7.4 million to 6.3 million. However, blue-winged teal remain 36 percent above the long-term average. The current teal breeding-population estimate is well above the 4.7-million level that would trigger a more restrictive hunting season.
The number of Canada geese in states north of Missouri has ballooned to more than 750,000. Many of these birds migrate into or through Missouri during the fall and winter, providing opportunities for Show-Me State hunters.
Mid-continent white-fronted geese numbers are estimated as average, while light-goose numbers remain above average.
WEATHER & HABITAT
While these numbers are promising, the number of ducks is only one of three factors needed to produce good hunting. The other two are habitat and weather. Raedeke said habitat conditions differ dramatically across the state.
“This year is really going to be a mixed bag,” said Raedeke. “Rainfall was extremely variable across the state. Places that got heavy rainfall early and then dried out some had very favorable conditions for moist-soil plants, which produce seeds that ducks like to eat. Other places experienced multiple floods during the summer, making it difficult or impossible to plant corn and other food crops. Repeated flooding also limited the growth of moist-soil plants on many areas. Meanwhile, southeast Missouri has had a fairly severe drought this summer, so conditions there probably are not going to be as good as they have been in the past.”
Raedeke said Bob Brown Conservation Area in Holt County is the only large, state-owned managed wetland area reporting good success with crops. He said abnormally wet weather limited habitat development on managed wetlands, especially in northeastern Missouri. However, those abnormal rains also created waterfowl habitat in nontraditional places.
“As of late August, some places that normally are dry had enough water to create excellent duck-hunting opportunities,” said Raedeke. “If we keep getting rain, this could be a year when you find ducks in places that don’t normally have water or ducks.”
Because any area with significant flood-prone acreage could be a duck-hunting hot spot this year, pre-season scouting is more important than ever, according to Raedeke.
Last year, the daily and possession limits for Canada geese were three and six birds, respectively, during the early season, while the limits were two daily and four in possession during the regular season. This year, the daily and possession limits are three and six for both the early and regular Canada goose seasons. Raedeke said this change is intended to allow Missouri hunters to take advantage of abundant migrant Canada geese from the upper Midwest.
Missouri’s resident population of giant Canada geese grew steadily during the second half of the 20th century, thanks to the Conservation Department’s restoration work. Their numbers eventually grew large enough that they became nuisances in some areas. Hunting is one of several measures the Conservation Department uses to minimize such problems. The Show-Me State’s current population of resident Canada geese is estimated to be down slightly compared to 2008 and 2009.
“We have about the right number of geese now, and we would like to keep them around this level,” said Raedeke.
For more information about waterfowl hunting in Missouri, visithttp://bit.ly/bL1NGl.