MDC offers western Missouri wetlands outlook ahead of waterfowl seasons

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Kansas City
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Kansas City, Mo. – Migrating waterfowl will find food sources good at Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wetlands this fall on the state’s west side, biologists say. Though all the marshes could benefit from rain after a dry summer and autumn. Low water or dry wetlands could limit hunting opportunities at some areas. MDC wetlands are prime autumn resting and feeding places for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, with refuge acres as well as areas open for waterfowl hunting. But they need rain.

Wetlands are products of topography, weather, and in many cases water management by people. MDC crews work year-round to maintain pumps, levees, and water control structures to maximize benefits for wildlife and outdoor recreation. Sometimes, though, drought or floods greatly affect conditions and that’s the case this fall as hunting seasons near.

Youth waterfowl season

A youth waterfowl hunting season for hunters ages 15 and younger will be Oct. 22-23 in both the North Zone and Middle Zone. The North Zone duck hunting season will be from Oct. 29 through Dec. 27. Middle Zone will have a split season, from Nov. 9-13 and Nov. 19-Jan. 8. For maps of the zones and complete information about the upcoming migratory bird hunting seasons, visit

Hunters will need to consult conservation area maps, as large areas of wetlands are also set aside as wildlife refuges during fall and winter months. They can also consult area web pages and call area offices for current conditions. Here are the mid-October wetland conditions at MDC conservation areas that offer public waterfowl hunting.

Kansas City Region

The Four Rivers Conservation Area had four floods in the spring but that was followed by a dry summer. Timely water drawdowns and dry summer conditions enabled good growth of moist soil plants that provide waterfowl food such as seeds and insects. A few summer rains helped, said Shane Allen, MDC wildlife management biologist. Corn and Japanese millet were planted in some pools. Dry conditions enabled crews to reduce invasive plants and woody growth in wetland pools.

Waterfowl hunters can expect great conditions in Unit 2 to start the season, Allen said. Unit 1 needs rain, it has extremely low water conditions and pumping is limited due to low water levels in the Marmaton and Little Osage rivers. Water levels are also low in Units 3 and 4, they need rain. The boat lane in Unit 4 is currently unusable. But if rains occur and water levels rise, Unit 4 has excellent millet and smartweed growth to attract waterfowl.

At the Schell-Osage Conservation Area, Waterfowl Hunting Only zones will be open through self-registration. The wetlands at the area were drained for a major renovation project that is ongoing. But water will be held in the wetlands if significant rains or rises in the Osage River occur. Renovation work early in 2023 could limit some hunting access. All hunting and refuge zones at the area remain in effect.

The lake elevation at MDC’s Montrose Conservation Area continue to drop due to dry conditions, said Brian Bokern, MDC wildlife management biologist. Hunting opportunities will be limited due to low lake levels but could change depending on rainfall.  Currently only eight hunting positions are usable. But moist soil plant growth is excellent, and rainfall could improve hunting opportunities. The area will be operating under normal hunting blind draw procedures this year.

MDC’s Settle’s Ford Conservation Area wetlands have low water or no water due to summer and fall drought. But moist soil plant growth is excellent in the pools. Rainfall could improve conditions. Also, Pool 3-1 had a levee breach this summer and pending repairs cannot hold water. All waterfowl hunters on Settle’s Ford must utilize the self-registration process at designated parking lots.

“A lot of rainfall is needed to have waterfowl hunting on Settle’s Ford because we do not have the ability to pump water into any of the pools and hunting opportunities are currently very limited,” Bokern said.

The Ralph and Martha Perry Conservation Area wetlands lack sufficient water due to the drought. The area has almost 40 acres of wetland on the east side. Moist soil plant food for waterfowl is excellent. But the area needs significant rain.

Northwest Region

The water conditions at the Bob Brown Conservation Area and the Nodaway Valley Conservation Area are normal, which is good news for waterfowl hunters. Wetlands are in good shape, said Craig Crisler, MDC wildlife management biologist. But if dry conditions persist then water issues may arise.

“Food resources for migrating birds are about average,” Crisler said. “The natural foods such as millet and smartweed are fair this year, and the food plot crops are fair to good.” 

The Fountain Grove Conservation Area is undergoing pump station construction and may not be pumping water to Pools 1, 2, 3, Pool 2 Walk-In, Pool 3 Walk-In, Green Wings Flats with the ADA blind, and H and J pools. Water conditions in those areas will be contingent on rainfall and flooding. Water management on the east side wetland complex will be normal with 4-12 positions available, depending on rainfall. Moist soil plant conditions are good to excellent and agricultural crops are fair to good.

MDC’s Grand Pass Conservation Area will offer 15 to 40 hunting positions, depending on rainfall and water levels in wetlands. Moist soil plants are excellent and agriculture crops are fair to good.

For more information about waterfowl and wetlands in Missouri, visit