The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently released its annual waterfowl forecast report, “Trends in Duck Breeding Populations,” and the results look promising for waterfowlers this season.
The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, conducted over 2 million square miles of North American waterfowl habitat in May and early June, estimates that 49.2 million birds will take to the skies in 2014.
Start finessing the final touches of your blind blueprint. It could be a busy season with the report projecting an eight percent increase in total duck population over last year’s estimate of 45.6 million birds.
The preliminary estimate puts 2014 at a 43 percent increase over the long-term average thanks to high spring precipitation levels and a total pond estimate (U.S. and prairie Canada combined) reaching 7.2 million ponds.
“This spring, as has been the case for the past several years, saw abundant moisture across much of North America’s most important duck breeding areas,” Ducks Unlimited Chief Biologist Scott Yaich said. “That bodes well for duck breeding success this summer and, we hope, for hunting this fall.”
Despite opportunities for heightened breeding success, continual loss of wetland and grassland nesting habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region still hampers strong fall flights.
Overall, the survey found 2014 to be an especially encouraging year for blue-winged teal and American wigeon. Blue-winged teal estimated abundance is 8.5 million, surpassing the 2013 estimate of 7.7 million, 75 percent above the long-term average. The American wigeon estimate of 3.1 million is 18 percent above the 2013 estimate. Mallard numbers remain similar to last year’s with an estimate of 10.9 million birds turning hunters’ eyes to the sky this fall.
<h2>Great Salt Lake</h2>Mud motors and airboats dominate the <a href="http://www.friedfeathers.com/" target="_blank">Great Salt Lake duck hunting scene</a>, but when the access areas freeze solid, airboats rule. Roar across the ice and snow towards open water, stick a hundred duck silhouettes in the shallow mud bottom and toss out a few dozen decoys. When the birds are in, the action can be crazy. Hunting is done from layout blinds or coffin tubs, low plastic tubs that allow you to keep a low profile while staying dry. Some hunters hide in the vegetation close to open water. Limits of green-wing teal, spoonies, goldeneyes and other species are common.