available in a wet year, Crisler said, the area should attract even more waterfowl.
Although mallards are the main draw for hunters visiting Nodaway Valley Conservation Area, other species of "dabbling" ducks also use the area. Their numbers fluctuate depending on the time of year. Because of the nature of the habitat, diving ducks, such as canvasbacks and redheads, aren't as numerous.
"Most of our wetlands are really shallow," Crisler said. "They attract a lot of dabbling ducks, like teal, wigeon, pintails and wood ducks.
"Our birds, mostly blue-winged teal, start arriving the first or second week of August, but their numbers start increasing dramatically in late September," he added. "That's when we start seeing a lot of green-winged teal, pintails and gadwalls. The mallards start arriving in mid-October and remain through the end of November, depending on the weather."
Weather is the key factor that determines how long ducks linger in Missouri, and Nodaway Valley is especially sensitive to it. As the northernmost of all the Conservation Department's wetland development units, it usually experiences severe weather first. Because its marshes are shallow, they freeze over quickly. When that happens, the ducks depart.
"Generally, we start getting ice in November, and you can count on the entire marsh freezing up by the first or second week of December at least every other year," Crisler said. "We're always one of the first areas to freeze up, so we're also one of the first to be done with good hunting."
Hunting access at Nodaway Valley is managed primarily by a daily drawing that takes place before legal shooting time. The west half of the area is open marsh with no blinds or designated hunting sites. Hunters who draw in are simply assigned to a pool, and hunting ends at 1 p.m.
Hunting on the east side is similar to the west side, but hunters are allowed to hunt waterfowl until sunset. One pool on the east side contains four duck blinds. These have been popular with hunters during the past two seasons.
The southern end has marsh units that are open to walk-in hunting. Drawings are not held for this area. Hunters self-register and pick a spot. These units are popular among those who want to hunt after work.
"The open area can have some really good hunting," Crisler said. "The first season the east unit was open to hunting, in 2002,