If you have been lucky, you have been in Argentina recently, hunting ducks, or maybe shooting doves, or perdiz and pigeons. I hope so. I have not made my way to Argentina (yet) this summer, and I’m running out of time. If you have been away, perhaps you have not heard the good news about ducks on this side of the equator? According to the counts published by the USFWS in early July, North American waterfowl counts have reached numbers not seen since 1955. In 2012, a year of dry conditions across the U.S. and a lot of Canada, ducks produced in excellent numbers because they enjoyed good breeding conditions in the early part of the year. They were down slightly in 2013, but still above long term averages. But this year, the prairies of Canada and the upper Northwest and the Dakotas were buried in snow and inundated with rains, producing a record 49.2 million breeding ducks in the surveyed area. This represents an increase of about 8 percent over 2013.
Specifically, Mallards and Gadwalls are in excellent shape-both species registered the second-highest counts in the history of the survey. Breeding Mallards were counted at 10.9 million birds and gadwalls were tallied at 3.81 million ducks, up 14 percent over 2013. Both types of teal are in excellent shape. I would anticipate 16 day teal seasons in all the states that offer early teal hunting. Green-winged teal were counted at 3.44 million ducks, with Blue-winged teal at an astonishing 8.5 million birds. Both species of teal maintain populations 75% over long-term averages. Wigeon are up as well, and there are shovelers everywhere. Bottom line, there will be a lot of ducks in the pipeline this season.
But will you see them in the spots you are hunting? It is hard to say. Weather influences duck migrations, and in past years, I have been covered up in teal, or I have seen few, depending on September cold fronts. You just don’t know what you are going to get. The same goes for ducks like mallards and gadwalls, if you don’t freeze up early, you can have good shooting in the plains and northern states. If you do, then the duck clubs in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana will wear them out.
Regardless of weather, great duck numbers are cause for celebration wherever you live and hunt. Get your dog in shape, patch your waders, and lay in some extra ammunition. It could be a great year!