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More changes for duck hunters

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Big changes are coming next season for the avid waterfowl hunters. However, we don’t know quite what those changes are just yet. Or do we?

I have often stated that duck hunting is one of the more challenging forms of hunting out there. First of all, duck hunters have to endure the most rotten weather conditions. Why? Because harsh weather conditions are what ducks love.

Is it too cold for the normal human to venture outdoors? Well, that means it is perfect for ducks. Is there a threat of rain, freezing rain or sleet? You better have the boat, gun and dog ready, because the ducks sure are. Is the wind blowing so hard that mud puddles have white caps? Awesome! Ducks will really love it.

If it is so cold the waters have frozen, things are even better. After turning your boat into an icebreaker, opening a small area surrounded by ice to cast a few decoys works great, as the ducks need a place to land and you can supply that one lone location. Easy shooting, right?

Secondly, waterfowl hunters have to be at the top of their game in wildlife identification. Because there are various restrictions on different species of waterfowl, a hunter has to be able to determine the species and sex of a bird flying at 40 miles per hour, in the near dark through heavy fog, mist or rain. Of course, the hunter has to be able to do all that and throw the shotgun stock upon his shoulder, lead the duck the appropriate length of distance determined by the speed, direction, and distance away from the hunter the duck is flying, then squeeze the trigger. 

Yep, duck hunting is super easy.

So, what are the changes? The Atlantic Flyway Council, which is basically the Bilderberg Group (if you don’t know what it is, look it up) of wildlife biologists on the eastern coast of the United States and Canada, have determined the mallard population has hit a point where changes need to be made to keep them at a sustainable number.

Mallard bags will be cut in half to two total birds, only one of which may be a hen starting during the 2019-20 season. After seeing a reduction in population of 20 percent and the number of drakes vastly outnumbering the number of hens, the biologists agreed the reduction was necessary.

Groups such as Delta Waterfowl have argued the bag limit should allow more male mallards, but cut the taking of hens since a large number of competing drakes as well as a small number of hens prevents proper growth in the populations. While the Flyway Council listened, they decided not to increase the bag to three birds. However, they did limit the hens to the one maximum.

Mallards are not the only species being affected. Canadian geese are also seeing restrictions implemented. Canadians just experienced their worst breeding season in 22 years, according to biologists. Additionally, the geese have a lower reproduction potential and are affected by hunting much more. This has caused the council to limit Canadian geese to two birds per day in the majority of the Atlantic Flyway, and to one bird in the Delmarva area (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia coastal waters).

If the coming restrictions do not see an improvement in numbers of mallard and geese, further plans could bring about shortened seasons with limited bags or even moratoriums in certain areas or the Atlantic as a whole.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.