Duck Creek CA UpdatesMore posts

Whole Foods

Nov 19, 2014

I always enjoy seeing what is happening in the marsh.  Whether it is while you’re picking up decoys or tromping back through the muck to the truck, you never know what you may see.  If you spend a day in the field and look around, odds are you may notice an extensive buffet available for the migratory waterfowl that have recently surged in numbers due to frigid weather further north.

Setting the Table

Sometimes this means looking past the mud to see the buffet. Prior to flooding the habitat this fall, staff disked and mowed openings in the moist soil vegetation. The purpose for this was multi-faceted.  One reason was to be able to show water from an aerial perspective.  If this isn’t done a fully flooded unit can appear bone dry from the air because of the rank plant growth covering up the water. 

Cooking Up Bugs

Another reason for disking is to give the bugs a jump start.  Just like pureeing food for a baby, cutting up stems, mashing them in the dirt, and adding water aids in the digestion and decomposition of plant matter by the miniature population of bacteria and bugs. These small creatures in turn function as power packed snacks filled with vital nutrients and proteins for early migrants.   

Instant Meal

In nature, when one plant dies there is typically another species ready to take its place. Disking is a tool used to mimic these natural cycles.  Fall disking can set the stage for annual plants to resurge in the spring by breaking ground and chopping up the root structure of longer lived, perennial plants. Sometimes, we don’t even have to wait until next spring to get a beneficial plant response.  This fall the small, narrow, and light green leaves of common water starwort can be seen sprouting in the shallows. These tender shoots are thriving in the cool waters and functioning as a submerged salad bar for ducks.  The evidence can be seen in the crops of the fowl, as well as in wind rows of roots and shredded leaves that mark the leftovers of foraging ducks. 

These aren’t the only menu options available for hungry dabblers, globs of algae float within the water column and rafts of seeds cling to the water surface for easy pickings. Elsewhere small water beetles, which also prey on the plant shredding bugs, can be seen darting from one stem to another.  Virtually, everything from the mud through the water column could be linked to contributing to a duck's meal plan as they pass through this fall. As you visit the duck’s diner this season, take a look at what has been prepared in the last year, and what is being served up on the menu that day. Whether it is to stock up after a big flight or just to help those bright new feathers to come in, waterfowl require a healthy diet of whole foods this time of year.


Duck foods under decoys
Duck foods under decoys
Floating moist soil seeds, submerged leaves, plums of algae, and darting bugs are just some of the duck foods you might see right under your decoys.


Common water starwort
Common water starwort
Common water starwort is an annual plant that grows submerged under water during the winter months in seasonal wetlands at Duck Creek.


Wind-rowed common water starwort
Rows of water starwort
Small roots of the common water starwort can be easily dislodged and become wind rowed as ducks feed or hunters tromp through the soft muddy habitat.


Foraging Migratory Waterfowl
Snow Mallards Feeding
Migratory waterfowl can find a variety of foods necessary to meet energetic needs, rebuild muscle, and manufacture new feathers in managed wetlands.


The Department has a limited number of hunting opportunities and there is a variety of ways these positions are allocated.  Some folks, like yourself, prefer to hunt in smaller parties and the odds at a One-Member Draw area, like the current system at Duck Creek, has better odds for these folks.  One side effect when people choose to hunt by themselves is that it reduces the total number of folks that are in the marsh on a particular day.  This isn’t a good or bad thing; it just is what it is. However, with such a high demand for waterfowl hunting on public land, especially on certain areas, the Every Member Draw system was set up to encourage a greater number of people to get out in the marsh by incentivizing them to team up with family and friends and hunt together.  This was implemented on managed wetland areas that had high turn away rates.  This of course isn’t the only option when you consider filling up your truck with gas and throwing your decoys in the back. The Department has a variety areas and draw procedures in which hunters can weigh the pluses and minuses when deciding to hunt on public ground. Admittedly, there isn’t a perfect scenario for everyone, but hopefully we have made options available that will work for most people. I hope this helps provide a little more background information and answers your question. For further questions regarding the waterfowl hunt program please contact as the intent of this blog is centered on the renovation activities at Duck Creek.Thank you. Have a Merry Christmas.

What is the logic behind the everyone draw poor boy? I hunt by myself a lot and spend $95.00 in fuel per trip. I am at a 4-1 odds of not drawing. I don't understand why I don't have the same equal chance as everyone else. Or how someone would even think this is fair. Thanks.

Unless things freeze up we typically see a shift later in the season as Mallards move from the open marsh to the timber.  Correspondingly, we see a shift in the location of our harvest go towards the timber.  Another component of this is that up to now Units A & B have been under steady hunting pressure from the beginning of the season.  As folks back off and these positions aren’t filled every day it reduces the disturbance and the bird use can improve.  When bird use improves, then the hunting success bumps up when someone gets back in there.  We’ve seen a little bit of this as of late as well.

A few of buddies have been hunting duck creek the past week pretty hard and tey have been lucky enough to get low numbers. With that being said is wade in shoot cracking up to what everybody is saying about? Because it seems to me that pool 8 is the only spots doing decent? Also is any spots in unit A doing any good? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Each area is unique and the Department tries to provide a diversity of hunting opportunities across the state, as well as providing lots of opportunities on these different areas. Not every area can be the same because they vary in habitat (timber versus marsh, etc), water management capabilities (water from the river, wells, or a reservoir, etc), and even the soils.  For example, the west side of Ten Mile is an old abandoned channel with tight soils, whereas the east side is the old point bar and has lots of sand that just can’t hold water as well. This in itself cuts down the potential acres that could be hunted.  In my position can’t speak to the distribution of hunting positions specifically on Ten Mile, but there are aspects like the ones above that make it different from Duck Creek or Otter Slough.  A few other differences are the size of the units, all day hunting, and being closer to Mississippi River that make it a different opportunity available to hunters.  I know this might not totally answer your question, but hopefully it helps a bit.  Also just wanted to remind folks the original intent of this blog is to help inform folks about Duck Creek and isn’t to feed the rumor mill or talk about individuals or other areas. I hope you understand. Thanks. 

The location and orientation of the blinds were set years ago so the exact rational behind their placement has been lost over the years, but overall they set up and kept there with the intent to have them located with the best placement for shooting in that particular opening.  A few blinds, like AA3, have been switched in recent years for this same reason.  Depending upon the day, wind direction, and individual preferences I’m sure the particular blind orientation could be debated, but overall they seem to work. In terms of your question specifically on why more blinds wouldn’t be turned to the east, having to squint into the sun in the morning and not being able to see the birds as well would be a potential downside for this orientation.  Thanks for the question. Glad you were able to get out and get a good hunt.

Sorry for changing subjects but why does an area the size of ten mile pond only hunt 10 spots? Water, bird use, the amount of refuge provided? I have seen them hunt 24 spots before but only because it was the last day of the season. Mdc pushes maximum hunter use on areas like otter and the creek but ten mile seems to do as it pleases. Just ask it's former manager, I'm sure everyone has heard the rumors. Just saying that ten mile could stand a little tlc like the creek and otter get

We were down recently and had a good hunt out of a blind. However, I was wondering how the location of the blinds in the holes was chosen. I know you can wade the blind hole you are hunting, but to be it seems that if possible the majority of the blinds would be better of facing east.

It is important to remember waterfowl counts are a snapshot through the season. That being said there some trends that we do see when counts are done.  Due to lack of disturbance we typically see more birds in the refuges then in the hunting units. During this week’s survey the densities of birds in the refuges of Otter Slough and Ten Mile Pond were defiantly higher than Duck Creek.  Part of this could be attributed to these other two areas not having major water manipulations.  In contrast we’ve been dumping water quickly into Pools 3 and 8 from Pool 1 to flood the timber.  This significant drop of water in Duck Creek’s refuge has resulted in Pool 1 looking like quite different than it did a few weeks ago. Waterfowl use in Pool 1 has reflected the dropping water levels.  This just so happens to be the primary location where most of birds have been counted up to this point in the season.  As the habitat stabilizes we could see a shift back.

I’ll admit I was surprised too and don’t think a water level manipulation is the whole story. I typically view the number of ducks on Mingo and Duck Creek as a combined total for the Mingo Basin because I don’t believe that the waterfowl stick to just one of these areas because it is under different ownership. During the week of Thanksgiving the basin total was around 85,000.  This week’s Basin total was lower at 72,859 ducks, which could reflect a loss of birds like several other areas across the state. However, another change appears to be in the habitats that ducks and geese are currently using.  During the time of the count the birds were not stacked in the moist soil habitat or emergent vegetation in Units A, B, Luken Farm, Pool 1, or Monopoly.  The majority of birds I saw were in small groups scattered throughout the shrub-scrub habitat dominated by buttonbush. Most of this flooded habitat is on Mingo, which is reflective in their higher count.  We typically see this shift every year as Mallards begin to use the timber later in year and as birds begin to pair up and try to space themselves from the competition.  I’ll admit that when the birds are in the scrubby habitat it is harder to see them from the air, which is why I deferred to the ground count that Mingo did.  It appears that there are several things going on. A shift in habitat use, an immediate reaction to water levels, birds that have been in the basin for a long time, and potentially loss of birds could all attribute to the lower harvest per hunter average that we’ve been experiencing in the last week.  One thing we can count on is that things will change and next week it will be a little bit different, hopefully, for the positive.

I’ll check on the posted goose numbers.  I know there were about 2500 white-fronts flying over Pool 1 during the count, but all of the Canada Geese I saw were tucked away in different pockets of Mingo. I could have missed them due to the shrubby habitat they were using and as aerial surveys are quicker than ground counts. Like I said in the post above I believe the birds move back and forth among the areas and the geese could easily have flown back over to Duck Creek after the count was completed. No survey is perfect and accounts for every single bird, but I do believe they do a good job reflecting the seasonal trend of more or less birds as we move through the season.

Surely the latest ground count is incorrect? I've never seen a mass exodus of birds like that in a small amount of time with no significant ice. I understand your birds travel back and forth between mingo and private wetlands but still, that's a huge drop. I can only pray most of those birds were hidden in timber, but I doubt that's the case

I am wondering how an area such as Duck Creek is only holding 6k birds and ZERO geese. where as, Otter Slough, Ten Mile Pond, and Mingo is holding over 60k birds. Just seems weird... I know migration is a big factor but is there not any food on duck creek?

You are right, last week the bird/hunter averages took a dip.  I don’t know if there is an easy answer.  There are some locations that are consistently better than other spots, but even these will vary depending upon if it is early or late in the season, how long people stay to hunt, severity of weather that day, etc. I think things have picked back up in the last couple of days and such is the ebb and flow of a typical waterfowl season.  All positions close at 1 except for blinds in Pools 2 and 3. 

I see that the bird/hunter average has really dropped the past week. Is the entire area slow or are there still spots that are having consistent success? Which areas close at 1pm?

As noted previously, flooding Pool 7 is dependent upon rainfall. We haven’t had enough to precipitation for water to get out of the ditch and inundate the impoundment.  We’d be in a similar scenario with Pool 8, but we were able to maintain water levels in Pool 1 enough to have a little extra this year. 

Any news when pool 7 will open up to hunting??

This was a temporary closure for part of the area, which has since expired. The notification has been removed from the web. Thank you.

On the mdc website the area info for duck creek states that portions of the area are closed to deer hunting. Could you tell us what areas these are?

The 50 degree weather and rain has done its job on the ice. It is thawed out and we have resumed flooding in Pool 3 without any threat to the trees.  It should take a few more days to get this impoundment fully flooded and add the remaining blinds to the draw.  

Pools 7 and 8 flood when water gets out of the adjacent ditches and get into the timber.  As noted in previous posts, the water control structures on these ditches have been closed. Pool 7 is reliant on rainfall. We received a little less than an inch of rain over the weekend, which did little to bump up the ditch.  Right now there aren’t any positions allocated to Pool 7 in the draw because of the dry conditions.  We can and have been diverting water from Pool 1 into the ditch 1/111, which then bumps up and spreads out into Pool 8.  Currently, water is in the south 500 acres which is the chunk south of BB parking lot.  This week there are 10 individual positions in the morning draw for Pool 8. Over the week water will continue to be diverted to flood Pool 8 and we should have 20 individual positions in the draw by the weekend.  

How many positions in pool 7 and 8 are you guys allowing now? I am assuming they are being flooded???

Is water being diverted into Pool 7 and 8 again? Is the ice gone in the wood blinds? Is pool 3 fully flooded yet? I know I will not get an answer until Monday. Thanks for your patience and info!!!!

Recent Posts

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Great Golden Digger Wasps: Scary Good

Aug 02, 2020

Discover WHY you want this wasp around and HOW scary good Great Golden Diggers are in this week's Discover Nature Note.

American Badger

Brawny Badgers

Jul 26, 2020

The American Badger is built for digging. And equally fierce on both offense and defense. Dig them in this week's Discover Nature Note.

differential grasshopper

Grasshopper Rhythm

Jul 20, 2020

Discover the insect that makes our unofficial song of summer in this week's Discover Nature Note.