Waterfowl Habitat Update – June 1, 2015

N723 beached for a night's stay in a lodge. Photo Courtesty of USFWS, Nick Wirwa

N723 beached for a night’s stay in a lodge. Photo Courtesty of USFWS, Nick Wirwa

The 60th annual spring Waterfowl Survey is nearing completion and habitat conditions vary greatly across the nesting region in North America at this time. Aerial and ground crews have experienced a number of weather delays this year and some crews are racing across flight transects to collect data.

Hello folks, and, as always, welcome to Waterfowler.com.

Drier conditions prevail across most of the breeding areas in the United States. The lack of snow that fueled a very fast snow goose migration did little to recharge wetlands in Montana or the Dakotas. The Coteau region and eastern North Dakota had much better conditions but waterfowl numbers are down on those areas and nesting pairs have traveled north to areas where habitat conditions are better. Survey crew condition to report that the number of drained wetlands continues to increase across the survey area at an alarming rate.

In Canada, conditions range from good to excellent in eastern parts of the country to fair in the southwestern areas. In Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec, conditions are similar to last year and production expected to be near normal.

Smaller wetlands are drier in Northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan but permanent wetlands remain good. Duck numbers appear to be better than normal and this is not unexpected because of dry conditions in the Dakotas. Southern Manitoba is reportedly similar to last year with duck numbers good in most areas and other areas reporting record numbers of waterfowl.

Southern Saskatchewan is slightly drier than last year but the bulk of wetlands remain full, or nearly full. In southern and central Alberta it is drier in the south but Parklands remain good with duck numbers high. In Northern Alberta and the Northwest territories, conditions are drier in the south and near normal in the north. Mallard, Pintail Shoveler and Widgeon numbers were up in the boreal region with sea duck numbers lower than normal.

In summary, duck production will see a slight bump in Canada this season due to poor habitat conditions in the United States. Duck numbers in North Dakota appear to be down 25% across the state and down 40% in South Dakota.

CRP enrollment continues to decline in the U.S. Prairie Pothole region. North Dakota alone has suffered a net loss of 1.6 million acres since 2007 and the Farm Bill capped enrollment at 24 million acres – down from 26.8 million acres in 2013 and the lowest since 1987.

A recent study by North Dakota Fish and Game found that 10,330 wetland basins will have a gas well within 110-yards of them by 2020. Which will significantly impact duck production, clutch-size, and duckling survival rates.

The crash of duck production in the U.S was not unexpected, as habitat conditions swing like a pendulum from poor to excellent. What is important to remember that during dry years it is easier to plow wetlands and in the future, when water returns, the wetland will not.

As politics become more partisan and volatile in our nation, one thing is clear the road to sound environmental policy that favors habitat protection, enhancement and good duck production will be extremely rocky – unless hell should freeze over and our elected officials spend more time searching for common ground that differences.

As we await the final publishing of the 2015 Waterfowl Habitat and Breeding Survey (which is usually released the first week of July), waterfowl hunters and can read detailed pilot and survey crew reports at FLYWAYS.US
Until our next update, cross your fingers for good duck production in the northern parts of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR).

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A Benelli First: The 828U Over-and-Under

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Bucking convention while honoring classic design has always been the Benelli stock in trade, and the advent of their new 828U over-and-under shotgun promises to exceed that expectation nicely.

For the double-gun purist, Benelli’s newest offering delivers the mandatory point-ability, custom comb and drop adjustments and the kind of ergonomic feel and balance inherent to all fine shotguns. And the Benelli faithful who are familiar with the brand’s iconic semi-auto’s will instantly see the trademark Benelli performance design aesthetic. The 828U is at once both contemporary and beautifully practical, from the smooth body and exquisite checkering to the wide, low-profile rib bridge, no side rib and monoblock treatment. Continue reading

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President Requests $1.6 Billion U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 discretionary budget request supports $1.6 billion in programs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an increase of $135.7 million over the 2015 enacted level to fund the agency’s high-priority needs. The budget also contains an additional $1.4 billion available under permanent appropriations, most of which will be provided directly to states for fish and wildlife restoration and conservation.

“Investing in the conservation of our wildlife and habitat resources results in myriad health and economic benefits to U.S. communities,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Investing in the next American generation is also critical, so we are creating new ways to engage young audiences in outdoor experiences, both on wildlife refuges and partner lands. With 80 percent of the U.S. population currently residing in urban communities, helping urban dwellers to rediscover the outdoors is a priority for the Service.” Continue reading

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Kaumeyer Named Delta Waterfowl Board Chairman

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BISMARCK, N.D. — Larry Kaumeyer has been named chairman of the board for Delta Waterfowl.

Kaumeyer, 52, a life-long waterfowl hunter from Edmonton, Alberta, has served on Delta’s Board of Directors since 2007.

Kaumeyer credits his father, Gerry, for igniting his passion for waterfowling as a young man.

“I absolutely love hunting ducks,” he said. “If I have a choice of doing anything in the outdoors, I will hunt ducks. I enjoy every aspect of being out there.”

The chief executive officer of Infracon Energy Services said he joined the board because he respected Delta’s long history of excellent waterfowl research and involvement in protecting hunters’ rights. Continue reading

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Eliminate Decoy Line Tangles

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Any duck hunter who has been at this great pursuit for any length of time has experienced the exasperation of dealing with hopelessly tangled decoys.

Duck hunting is hard work, no doubt about it. Just getting to a duck hole is often a
rigorous adventure, whether it’s a dark-of-night boat ride or a long trudge in waders
pulling mud through chest-deep water. Then it’s time to set the decoy spread. All
that time spent in the garage the night before the hunt, carefully wrapping decoy
lines, securing anchors and bagging the dekes… a waste of time. With shooting light
approaching and the sound of wings overhead, you’re still trying to untangle decoys.

Decoy Buddy, by Game Smart, is a weighted 8-ounce reel that hooks onto your
floating decoy. Simply pull out the amount of line needed for the depth of water you
are hunting, and toss out the decoy. No wasted time unwinding decoy lines, and best of all, no tangled mess of decoy lines to deal with in the dark. Continue reading

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New FLX Series of Electronic Game Calls

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The need for high quality, great-sounding Electronic Game Calls has never been higher. The exhilarating experience of hunting with electronic calls is attracting many newcomers to the world of electronic calls for the first time. Others are introduced to electronic calls out of necessity. Vermin like coyotes are taking too big a bite out of wildlife populations in many areas, and those sportsmen realize something needs to be done. In either case, the new FLX Series of Electronic Game Calls from Flextone Game Calls has you covered.

Flextone Game Calls is proud to announce the FLX Series of Electronic Game Calls, new for 2015. The FLX Series includes four models ranging from the easy-to-handle FLX 50, a lightweight remote caller, on up to the FLX 1000. Continue reading

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Plano announces purchase of Zink Calls

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Plano Synergy Outdoors, the leading manufacturer of hunting, fishing and other outdoor related products announces its purchase of Zink Calls, Avian-X and 24/7 Productions. Zink Calls and Avian-X are leaders in the premium waterfowl call, turkey call, A-Frame blind and hunting decoy categories. With field tested products, the long-term mission of Zink Calls and Avian-X is to promote waterfowl and turkey hunting to the consumer in a traditional, ethical, responsible, and enjoyable manner.

The acquisition of Zink Calls and Avian-X, along with its existing brands, enhances Plano Synergy’s ability to provide retailers with a one-stop shop for all waterfowl-hunting accessory and product needs. Tom Hurt, President & CEO at Plano Synergy comments, “The brands are a natural fit for the growth of Plano Synergy. They represent best of class in innovation and quality- driven products that consumers and retailers demand, while at the same time complementing our existing position within the category. The addition of Zink Calls and Avian-X helps to further our position as the nation’s premier hunting and fishing outdoor products company.” Continue reading

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Hail Mary Mallard Call – New for 2015

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The Hail Mary in football is that desperate, last-hope long bomb of a pass into the end zone as the seconds tick off the scoreboard clock. In duck hunting, a hail call to a distant flock with one of the two new Hail Mary Mallard Calls from Flextone is far from an act of desperation.

The new Hail Mary duck calls from Flextone offer reach beyond the range of other duck calls. Attract those distant birds with a loud, sustained sequence that doesn’t wear the caller down.

Flextone’s new Hail Mary Single and Double Reed Mallard calls are designed for open-water hunting when volume and reach is needed. The Hail Mary features smaller port holes to provide added back pressure. This means the caller can scream
louder and longer with hail calls and follow-up with comeback calls without running out of breath. Continue reading

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