Duck season depression
Here are the latest waterfowl surveys from the Illinois Natural History Survey.
My buddy the Head Worm spent Tuesday hunting rabbits instead of ducks, a sure sign that things aren’t very good in the world of waterfowling.
And the Head Worm is not alone. Anderson Lake has had nobody show up to hunt for the past two days. On Tuesday at Rice Lake, hunters shot two ducks, a total that caused some blind holders to pick up decoys. Things were no better Wednesday when the count showed one bluebill and three shovelers by noon.
“I’ve heard people tell me Wisconsin, South Dakota and Minnesota still have birds, but they’re sure not here,” Rice Lake site manager Bill Douglass said. “I’m just surprised we’ve done as well as we have.”
Indeed, with three weeks left in the season, Rice Lake is at 3,488 ducks for 2,500 hunters — ahead of last year’s overall count of 3,433.
But barring a mjor migration, the future at Rice and elsewhere looks grim for the remainder of the Central Zone season. Unlike many recent years, this was definitely a year to hunt ducks early in the season. Those who did, and who already have enjoyed some hot shoots, should feel good about things. Those who have not got into the birds yet may not.
“I know personally, we did the best we’ve ever down early in the season. Then I quit hunting for awhile,” said Tony Colvin, site manager at Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area. “The other day we went out again and didn’t see a duck.”
One cause for that is a lack of ducks, as shown in Tuesday’s aerial survey. The count of 136,460 mallards is well off the 10-year-average of 227,292, as is the overall tally of 147,385 ducks (compared to 279,893 most years).
The only bright spots are in the upper river, where Goose Lake near Peoria was holding 40,000 birds and Douglas Lake had 30,000. No wonder action has been better of late at Woodford, which is located near both those holding areas.
But even there hunting has been hit and miss. Through the first 30 days, Woodford was at 2,100 ducks and looks unlikely to match last year’s overall harvest of 4,036 birds. Tuesday’s tally of 17 ducks was not encouraging.
Worse yet has been hunting at sites south and north of Peoria.
Colvin said overallat Marshall this is “the worst season we’ve had in my 19 years here.” Through Dec. 2, Marshall had 805 ducks.
That’s behind Spring Lake, which was at 806 ducks after 30 days and is ahead of last year’s total of 741 birds. But since Nov. 23, Spring Lake has only added 80 more birds to the tally. Similarly, the Spring Lake Bottoms site was at 304 ducks midway through the season (ahead of last year’ 278 total) but has only added 44 birds since Nov. 23 and now faces the very real prospect of being iced out this weekend.
“We did good early, but so did most people,” Spring Lake site manager Stan Weimer said. “I’ve had people tell me that southern South Dakota, eastern Iowa and the Chicago area are full of ducks. I guess we’ll see.”
The Central Zone season runs through Dec. 23.
One positive development for Central Zone hunters has been the appearance of new geese in the area.