Sunday, November 1, 2015

MDC's west-central waterfowl areas ready despite floods

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Wetland conditions fair to good at four areas offering public waterfowl hunting


Kansas City, Mo. – Habitat conditions at four key Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wetlands hit by floods rains in summer will vary from fair to good for the waterfowl hunting season. MDC’s Four Rivers, Settles Ford, Montrose and Schell-Osage conservation areas are all in the Middle Zone under statewide seasons and limits. The hunting season in the Middle Zone for ducks and coots starts with a youth hunt Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, and the regular season is Nov. 7 to Jan. 5.
   
Most waterfowl habit at MDC wetlands in west
central Missouri is in fair condition, as summer
floods shortened the growing season in low-lying areas.
But habitat is good enough for a good waterfowl
season if the weather conditions push ducks through the area.
Spring and early summer brought heavy rains and flooding to the Kansas City region, including the South Grand, Deepwater, and Osage River and feeder streams in west central Missouri. Habitat quality at public waterfowl hunting areas in the region will vary depending on how late flood water stood on managed wetlands, said Chris Daniel, MDC wildlife management biologist and manager for the Four Rivers Conservation Area. The lowest areas holding water into summer provided a shorter growth period for moist-soil plants that provide food for waterfowl, such as wild millet and annual smartweed. Fortunately, the higher and drier areas are in good shape.
   “There’s a lot of variability in habitat quality across the areas,” Daniel said. “Across all areas, fair is possibly the most accurate average of habitat.”
   Despite delays due to wet conditions, MDC crews were still able to implement some management practices that provide food for migrating waterfowl. Cropping was limited to just a few locations and no corn was planted in wetland units. But moist-soil management which promotes native plants such as annual smartweed and wild millet was somewhat successful. Aerial seeding of Japanese millet was done on some areas. Seeds from those plants provide wildlife food.
   Duck populations in the northern states and Canada are strong, biologists say, so large flocks of waterfowl are expected to migrate southward this autumn. That combined with management efforts could make for good hunting on MDC areas, if the weather patterns also cooperate.
   “The waterfowl hunting this year could be very good,” Daniel said.
   However, waterfowl hunting success is very weather dependent. Warm weather can delay ducks in their migration; severe cold fronts can push them quickly south. But if the weather cooperates, MDC public hunting areas are ready for waterfowl and hunters.
   The last flood water receded from the four conservation areas in late July. Overall, vegetation will be shorter than normal this year.
   At Schell-Osage, spring and summer rains provided ample rainfall for areas lakes used as the primary water source for wetland units. Along with fall rains, all hunting positions should be usable by mid-season. Wet conditions prevented any corn from being planted in wetland areas this year. Army worms also destroyed much of the planted and wild millet at Schell-Osage.
   At Four Rivers, hunters should note that the disabled-accessible waterfowl hunting blind at Pool 9 at Four Rivers is closed for repairs until the 2016 season.
   At Settle’s Ford Conservation Area, managers say a dry autumn has reduced water levels in wetland pools. However autumn rains could quickly recharge the system to full levels.
   Hunters will find the MDC Waterfowl Hunting Digest for 2015-2016 at nature shops and offices, or visit http://on.mo.gov/201Jtur. The digest has the complete list of seasons and regulations for all waterfowl hunting in Missouri.
   The MDC MO Hunting app allows hunters to purchase hunting permits online or carry a signed digital permit utilizing devices such as cell phones and tablets. Visithttp://mdc.mo.gov/mobile/mobile-apps/mo-hunting.
   Information on MDC conservation areas that offer waterfowl hunting is available athttp://on.mo.gov/1ikSpa3. The MDC online Atlas gives information about areas including telephone numbers and maps.
   Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt.