Where Are the Ducks
duck harvest in the 1960s were in the top 10 in the 1990s. The proportion of harvest on public and private land has remained steady over the last 10 years, with only 15 percent of the annual harvest occurring on Department of Conservation managed wetland areas.
In most regions where we restored wetlands and added refuges, harvest and duck numbers on the existing areas remained steady. The new areas have attracted more ducks to these regions. For duck hunters, this has translated into more hunting opportunity and improved harvest.
Wet vs. Dry Years
Wet years give us a glimpse of what might occur if we could restore more wetland habitat. In the fall of 1998, the Missouri River flooded in central Missouri and created an abundance of shallow water habitat in the region around Eagle Bluffs CA. Hunters reported excellent hunting on the habitat created by the floods, and Eagle Bluffs held a record number of ducks.
A similar set of circumstances occurred around Schell-Osage CA and Truman Reservoir during the fall of 2004. Timely rains caused Truman Reservoir to rise, creating an abundance of habitat. As a result, Schell-Osage held more ducks than it had in several years and hunters on nearby Truman Reservoir reported great hunting.
These cases suggest that ducks don’t just spread out from managed public wetlands when more habitat is available. The additional habitat actually attracts more ducks to the region and improves hunting for hunters on both public and private lands in the region.
Quality vs. Quantity of Wetlands
Hunters who feel we have too much habitat also point to the many ponds and reservoirs that have been built in the last 30 years. However, these lakes and ponds provide a very limited amount of food. Wetlands that have more food tend to attract more ducks.
Ducks require a diversity of food sources to obtain adequate amounts of protein, lipids, minerals and vitamins. Many native wetland plants supply ducks with these resources. Corn also can serve as an important source of food. It provides a great source of energy, but lacks other essential nutrients necessary for a duck to survive.
Managers strive to provide a variety of food resources. During a typical year, the Department of Conservation leaves fewer than 500 acres of flooded standing corn in refuges statewide and around 1,000 acres of flooded corn in wetlands that are hunted. Ducks use lakes, ponds and streams without food less frequently and for