Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

September 20, 1999

Glory days of duck hunting ­ now!

"Boy, there used to be ducks out there, thousands of them, and the hunting was sure good. Too bad they're gone, those were the glory years of duck hunting."

That's what I heard from an older and long-time waterfowl hunter last week. Actually, I've heard many statements like that from older gentlemen in the last few years.

In most cases, I take great pleasure in correcting their opinion on the number of ducks that are out there today and on the quality of hunting.

These well-experienced waterfowl hunters, I'm sure, are referring to hunts and seasons in the '40s and '50s - the glory years of waterfowling when fields across the prairie and farm belt were dotted with undrained potholes and filled with ducks.

On my part, I can only imagine that or compare it to areas where those potholes still exist. For those who experienced it, I'm sure there were ducks in the air and the hunting was good.

However, in many areas across the midwest and prairie pothole region, the glory days of waterfowling are occurring today, right now, at this very time.

Potholes are, and have been for a few years, filled with water. Good nesting habitat is there.

Places to hunt, especially in western Minnesota and the Dakotas are many, and there are more ducks out there than have been recorded before.

Good duck surveys began in 1955, and this year, the total duck breeding population in the Dakotas, Montana, Alaska, and much of Canada is estimated at 43 million birds, the largest number since surveys began.

The ducks are out there, and in big numbers.

Another well-experienced waterfowl hunter stated, "The hunting around here used to be so good. They say ducks are supposed to be out there in good numbers, but I don't see them. I've haven't seen a duck on South Lake for weeks."

In this particular case, the guy is right. Although there are a lot ducks in the region or upper midwest, they just aren't around here.

Our area does have some good duck habitat, but most of what is considered to be good waterfowl areas are just areas of marginal habitat.

In most cases, the water in those marshes or lakes is just too deep for puddle ducks. Add that to the excellent conditions for ducks in the western part of our state and in the Dakotas, and it's easy to guess that the ducks have moved to where the conditions are better.

Actually, you don't have to guess. All you have to do is get in your vehicle and head west for about an hour to and hour and a half; you'll see ducks and in big numbers.

"Boy, there are ducks out there and the hunting is sure good." That's what you'll be saying if you head west to do a little waterfowling this season.

These are the glory years and they may never be better.

Outdoor notes

  • The small game and archery deer hunting seasons opened Sept. 18.
  • All small game hunters are reminded that the wearing of blaze orange is required while in the field. Refer to page 25 of the 1999 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook for more information.
  • It's not too late to plan a hunting trip for this fall. Call now and finish up the details before it's too late.
  • The 1999 Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 16. The hunting in our area should be very similar to last year.
  • Now is the time to do some scouting for the upcoming waterfowl season. Bring your binoculars and get out at dawn and dusk. Look for flight patterns and specific areas ducks are using.
  • The most comprehensive recreation maps available in are Minnesota Public Information Recreation Maps (PRIM) put out by the DNR. For more information or to order, call 1-888-MINNDNR.
  • The ruffed grouse hunting season in much of northern Minnesota looks to be excellent again this year. If you're an avid grouse hunter, get out as much as you can. Experts say the population will follow its 10-year cycle and begin declining next season.
  • The Minnesota youth waterfowl hunt was Saturday. Look for info from a few young hunters in next week's column.
  • The fishing on our area lakes has continued to improve and will only get better as fall moves on. Fish shallow and don't miss the full moon.

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