Each year is different and this one is definitely followed suit. The record drought restricted the amount of options migratory waterfowl could use as stopover habitat during their southward migration over the Mississippi Flyway. With this being the case, areas that that did have water, food, and refuge also had a lot of birds during the course of the season.
In 2011,at Duck Creek waterfowl numbers peaked just under 54,000 ducks towards the end of November. The numbers exceeded 30,000 birds the week before and after this peak and then spiked a little at the end of December. This year waterfowl peaked at the same time period, which was during the last week of November. However, the total amount and duration of a large number ofbirds was substantially greater than last year. The peak total for 2012 was 62,850ducks and the weekly counts remained above 30,000 birds for six weeks. Granted, it is easier to count when the birds aren’t hiding in the timber, but Mingo saw a similar pattern in the duration of a large number of waterfowl between this year and last year.
In terms of hunting opportunity, the drought’s impact was also felt here as well. Unfortunately, we did not flood Pools 2 or 3 this year because of low lake levels. However, we got Units A and B online just in the nick of time. Overall, 1,912 hunters harvested 3,379 ducks. Now you might remember last year it was opposite and the timber units were flooded while Units A and B were under construction. I don’t mention this to stir up bad memories, but to note a difference in harvest. Last year the wood ducks kept the harvest aloft at the beginning of the season and there were more than 2,000 woodies harvested when the gun smoke finally settled. Since the timber was out this year, this year’s woody cohort could fly a little safer and perhaps live another year. Only 180 wood ducks were harvested this fall. Mallards, of course, made up the majority of harvested birds with a total of 1,521, which accounted for 43% of the harvest. Northern shovelers and gadwall totaled a combined 30% of the harvest, followed by green-wing teal and ring-necks at roughly 7% each.
Looking to next year, as I stated before, no two years are the same. The three month outlook by the National Weather Service is projecting an increase in precipitation for our region. This bodes well for recharging Pool 1. Hopefully, we won’t repeat the same kind of drought conditions we experienced this year and the timber will be available to hunt once again. We are excited to conduct normal drawdowns on the newly configure pools in Units A and B and are looking forward to managing for more food and cover out there in the coming year. As C.W. graciously stated in a previous comment, we’ve had some hard knocks, but there have also been some highlights. Thank you for your patience and understanding throughout this renovation project. We greatly appreciate your support.