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2015 Waterfowl Season Outlook at Duck Creek

Oct 28, 2015

As waterfowl migration begins to increase and we approach the upcoming hunting season staff are preparing habitat. Wetland management is the primary focus this fall, while renovation activities from a few years ago take a back seat. During the dry weather in October, staff have created openings in the thick vegetation in Units A and B with a disk to stimulate aquatic bugs as the churned ground and plants become flooded. These disked openings also help show the flooded habitat from the air and allow birds to begin to access the vegetation from the side. Water is and will be added throughout the coming weeks to flood the low ground and build up to provide water depths adequate to distribute hunting opportunities across the area.

Areas That Need More Time

Construction and dry conditions are currently limiting the availability of a few positions on the outskirts of Duck Creek, but it shouldn't affect the core hunting opportunities on the area. The fish ponds and the fields near Kinder are positions that will not be available due to the construction contract this fall. Dark Cypress and Greenbrier are reliant on rainfall to provide flooded habitat. These last two sites are currently dry and won't be viable options for waterfowl hunting until the region receives some significant rain. This hunting season Dark Cypress is allocated through the draw as usual. Greenbrier remains an open area and not included in the draw.

That being said, over the last few weeks there has been an increase number of waterfowl passing through, building up on the area, and using the flooded habitat. This trend should continue as we head into November. Waterfowl Reports and Prospects for Duck Creek and other areas across the state can be viewed here.

Youth Waterfowl Hunting Weekend

Current prospects at Duck Creek for the Middle Zone Youth Waterfowl Weekend, October 31st and November 1st, look to be about 14 positions available in Units A and B through the morning draw at the Duck Creek headquarters. The draw time on October 31st is at 4:45 a.m. and then 3:45 a.m. on November 1st due to the time change.

Middle Zone Opener

A couple of additional positions will become available for the Middle Zone Opener, on November 7th as water will continue to be added on the area over time. The new ADA blind in position 16 will also be hunted through scheduled reservations or allocated in the draw if not already occupied. Draw time for November 7th is 3:45 am.

Strategy Extending Through November

Over the next few weeks the lower elevations within the timbered impoundment of Pool 3 will also begin to receive water. The central blinds in this pool will become available first, followed by the blinds on the periphery and corresponding higher elevations. The blinds in Pool 2 will be staggered slightly behind the flooding of Pool 3. As in years past, the gradual and delayed flooding strategy is out of concern for the forest health, in particular the red oak species. Switching which timbered pool is flooded first is another strategy to try and mitigate stress from flooding the bottomland hardwoods within these pools too early. Exact dates on when specific blinds will be added to the draw are not available since the timing of flooding also pertains to local temperatures and conditions.

Balancing Act

At Duck Creek, providing waterfowl hunting opportunity and making sure habitat is available for migrating waterfowl is a balance between seasonal public use and the long-term conservation and management of the different wetland habitats. In early fall the flooded habitats and waterfowl hunting opportunity is focused on the open, non-forested areas; this is where other dabbling ducks typically congregate and forage on the seeds and bugs found in moist soil habitat. As November progresses and the abundance of waterfowl increase, so will the number of positions available at the morning draw. This will correspond with the gradual flooding of timbered areas, which become more important to Mallards later in the season due to changes in their dietary needs and courtship behavior.

Overall, this fall's prospects for waterfowl hunting at Duck Creek look good. The number of positions will increase as the season progresses. As with every year, the weather will likely play a large role in the arrival of ducks, how long they stay, and if the habitat becomes frozen. We wish the best of luck to those that come out to hunt at Duck Creek this fall and thank you for your support and dedication to this great wetland area.

Comments

Correct me if I am wrong. Currently there are 4 positions out of 20 that are required to return the cards to headquarters. 2 are in Dark Cypress. 14 are in Unit A. That is 4 of 20 positions that the kill chart is updated with the previous days hunting success before the next days draw. Are there any other duck hunters out there that think ALL hunting positions should be updated with the PREVIOUS DAYS information?

Bandtaker, I appreciate and understand your concerns but the decision to offer multiple drop off points for green cards was made after multiple hunter complaints years ago.  As time permits, staff do pick up cards throughout the day, but as Keith stated below we will continued to update the harvest chart on the current schedule.  IF harvest numbers are not filled in for 2-3 days for a certain unit/blind that is due to the hunters not turning in green cards. While trying to keep the harvest chart updated is a priority, we have a limited number of staff to fill a 7 day/week schedule that starts at 3am every day.  It does not always make sense to ask staff to stay at work until 3pm (or later for timber units) just to update the harvest chart.  It is also important to note that Duck Creek staff are involved in more than just work at Duck Creek.   Other duties tie up staff time, for example, today part of our Duck Creek staff leave for 2 days of deer check station work in Central MO as part of MDCs surveillance efforts for CWD.  I’ll ask staff to continue to work on keeping the chart as up to date as possible, but please understand staff’s commitments and constraints during this busy time. 

Pool 1 has adequate water to flood Pool 8 this year. It is not possible to flood Pool 7 during dry conditions. It is dependent on large amounts of precipitation. Mingo NWR will make the decision to begin flooding these pools when they believe the trees have sufficiently achieved dormancy. This is tied directly to soil temperatures, so the warmer the weather, the later we’re looking at.

The daily hunter card drop boxes will remain where they are. The waterfowl harvest chart will continue to be updated before draw time with the cards which have been turned in at HQ and then again when staff retrieves the previous day’s cards from the remote drop box locations. The chart is and will continue to be updated daily.

Is there enough extra water in pool 1 this year to help flood pool 8? Will pool 7 still be only reliant on rain? Always keeping the fingers crossed for a good soaker! Will the above average temps we are experiencing put a delay on Mingo closing the gates to the wade and shoot?

All hunting parties should be required to return post hunt cards to the area headquarters. Then there would be NO EXCUSES for not updating THE kill chart accurately and DAILY. Now we are lucky if the kill chart is updated every 2 or three days. This is not acceptable. If hunters want to gripe about having to drive back to headquarters they can chose a closer hunting position. Hunting situations change daily the kill chart reflects those changes and helps every hunter make a better choice of a hunting position. DO AWAY WITH THE DROP BOXES OR MAKE TIME TO PICK THE CARDS UP EVERY EVENING OR MORNING BEFORE THE NEXT DAYS HUNT!!!

If Duck Creek's policy is to delay flooding of the forested hunting areas until the soil temperature reached 38 degrees, wouldn't it make sense for Duck Creek to be in the south zone which opens almost 3 weeks later? I agree with Ryan, I too have been to these zone meetings and feel the decision has already been made, that it is just for us to gripe and make us feel better. With a south zone designation, Duck Creek should be able to have upwards of 75 hunting positions (including wade and shoot) for opening day instead of the current 20 positions which would benefit everyone.

I know you all take a lot criticism, but I wanted you know that I appreciate how easy it is to talk to you all, how your numbers are up to date, and how you let us know in advance what positions are open and the plans for the other spots. It sure makes it easier to plan knowing all the information ahead of time. Thank you!

The Missouri Department of Conservation has one of, if not the best, programs I have seen! They take all the scientific data, public input, and provide programs that benefit the wildlife while still providing excellent hunting opportunities. I have lived in Missouri for 15 years and am still amazed at the public areas available. I hunted Duck Creek last year for the first time and had a great time. The season timeframe seemed perfect last year but, I understand how easily that can fluctuate with weather from year to year. I have not seen a Conservation Dept that listens to the hunters needs like MO does. Thanks for the great work ya'll do, I can't imagine a better job.

A two week split starting after the first 4 weeks would be as close to satisfying everyone as could be. The early season hunters would still have November, and those of us who love late season timber and field hunting woul have a decent amount of time in January to utilize the unique habitat at Duck Creek. I have been to 3 of those zone meetings over the years and honestly it felt like the decision was already made and the meeting was just to let us gripe about it. Either way, you Duck Creek guys are doing a great job even though you cant please everyone all the time. This will mark my 33rd year hunting Duck Creek so thanks for keeping it going!

Thank you Frank and mdc staff for insuring my children will get to enjoy some of the experiences all waterfowlers should be able to have. South zone for duck creek!

I used to hunt DC 30 years ago n pool 2 pool 3 n pool 8 was flooded by Nov.1 The hunters pay for this property. the problem was poor timber management take the water off after duck season the timber will be fine by the way DC n MINGO would hold about 100k

Zone boundaries are established by reaching a consensus of where the majority of hunters wish them to be. All hunters will have an opportunity to express their opinions on this matter late this winter across the state. Three locations are in the southeast region: Kennett National Guard Armory on Feb. 16; Dexter National Guard Armory Feb. 17; Jackson Knights of Columbus Hall Feb. 18. See page 7 of the 2015-2016 Waterfowl Hunting Digest for Details. Trees do not adjust to flooding conditions. They simply respond to physical conditions. There used to be a lot of old, large acorn producing red oak trees in these pools. These trees are dead and dying and do not produce the amount of acorns they used to. For over 40 years, early flooding prevented young red oak trees from thriving. Once this was realized in the 1990’s, flooding schedules were beginning to be held back later in the season. By early 2000’s there was much optimism when we discovered there were large crops of sprouting red oaks and If we do not nurse the young trees to a mature age where they can become the next generation of acorn producers, there will not be any acorns at all available for ducks to eat 40 years from now. Delaying flooding until soil temperatures reach 38’F gives these younger trees the optimum amount of time to send energy in the form of carbohydrates to their roots which provides a vigorous emergence of leaves and stem growth the next year. Flooding these young trees prior to this temperature halts this process and gives them a much weaker start of growth next spring. Continuous halting of this process by flooding over several years will eventually kill these younger trees. It is a slow process and one which is not readily observable until the damage is done and irreversible. Pools 2 and 3 provide very important resources to late winter and early spring migrating waterfowl on their journey back north to the breeding grounds and it is not uncommon to see tens of thousands of waterfowl using them in January, February and early March. It is imperative that these pools remain productive for years to come and able to provide necessary resources to these birds. The Duck Creek Management Plan recognizes the importance of providing habitat to early season migrating waterfowl and that is exactly what we have attempted to do with the renovations of Units A and B instead of reforesting them to bottomland hardwood communities which existed in these locations prior to European settlement. There are also many thousands acres of wetlands developed in a 50 mile radius to the Mingo Basin in the past 30 years which provide additional habitat and hunting opportunities which did not exist when Jay Bowmaster was at Duck Creek. We will continue to manage the open marsh areas of Units A and B for early hunting opportunity while Pools 2, 3, 7 and 8 will follow a more natural hydro-period where flooding will coincide with the onset of natural rain events and the peak of mallard migrations in mid to late November. If hunters wish to hunt mallards in flooded timber for a longer portion of the season in future years, the zone boundaries will have to reflect Duck Creek in the south zone. It is up to you to voice your opinion at these scheduled meetings which are held once every 5 years.

If Duck Creek was in the south Zone as Geographically IT SHOULD BE the area would have an extra two weeks in the fall for the young oak trees to adjust for the annual flooding. I have seen both pool 2 and Pool 3 covered with thousands of Ducks within 1 to 2 weeks after the close of the "regular " duck season. I remember when Jay Bowmaster was at duck creek Unit A Pool 2 and Pool 3 would be at full pool by October 15th a full 2 weeks before the duck season would open assuring ANY EARLY MIGRANTS would have plenty of "wetlands" to choose from. What is the chance of Duck Creek reverting to South Zone Time frames for the Waterfowl season?

Water has been going to areas within Units A, B, and the central part of Pool 3 all this week.

Grim and C Pool are part of the current construction contract, which is still underway.  This is why they will not be hunted this year.  The non-forested part of the Grim tract has a well.  The forested section will rely on rainfall. C Pool will also have to rely on catching rain or water out of the ditch. 

sounds like the area should change its name.....less then 20 available spots for the opening day of duck season. Also those woods have been flooded since Duck Creek was formed. The last 10 years have been sad. Now its trees this and ducks dont like the woods early that. Sorry....sounds like a bunch of excuses. I just hope its not you local boys making these decisions. very fustrating

Is more water being added to Unit B 52 54 55?

Will the C pool and Grimm track be in the draw at all this year. Also how do they get water, through pool 2 or do the have their own well?

According to the annual regional mast report for the state, although the red oak acorn production is still above the long-term average it is slightly down from last year.  However, last year was really good and this year’s crop is still considered fair to good. To put things in perspective this year’s crop is still nearly double of the 2012 mast crop, which was the lowest in 56 years. If I hear something more specific to Duck Creek I’ll let you know, but it should be similar to this report. 

Yes, as Keith stated below, there is plenty of water this year. The variability of flooding is related to the weather and the trees. On a related note, I’m checking with our forester on the acorn production and get back to you once I know. 

Is it safe to assume that water needed to flood the units will not be a problem this year?

How is the mast crop on the area looking this year?

You are correct. Pool 3 will be partially flooded prior to Pool 2 this year. Pool 2 elevation is 1 foot higher than Pool 3 and is more difficult to flood when water levels in Pool 1 begin to drop so it typically receives water first. This past summer experienced above normal precipitation and Pool 1 remained at or above full pool until September which is unusual. There is enough water available in Pool 1 to introduce some variability to the flooding schedules this year.

In the past pool 2 was always flooded before pool 3. Is this not the case this year?

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