Duck counts remain promising for 2019-20 season

Mississippi duck hunters can hunt until Jan. 31 this season, an extra five days that might make up for reduced duck numbers.
Mississippi duck hunters can hunt until Jan. 31 this season, an extra five days that might make up for reduced duck numbers.

Surveys on duck populations from the midwest and Canadian nesting grounds are in for 2019, and there’s both good and bad news to be gleaned from the counts done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It’s bad that the overall count of 38.9 million ducks is down from 41.3 million in 2018, but it’s good that the 2019 number is still 10% above the long-term average since 1955.

It’s bad that of the six of the top 10 species of ducks that hunters target have shown a decline in the past year, but it’s really good that there’s more of Mississippi’s top three targeted ducks — mallards, gadwall and green-winged teal — in the count. Mallards (9.4 million) are up 2%, gadwalls (3.3 million) are up 13%, and green-wing teal (3.2 million) have increased 4%. Wigeon remained statistically unchanged at 2.8 million.

It’s bad that blue-winged teal showed a huge a decline, 16%, but the 5.4 million blues is still 6% above the long-term average. 

“The one thing in the survey that disturbs me is that the pintails are down again, and by drastic numbers,” said hunter Glenn Woods of Grenada. “They were only down 4% this year, but it’s the long-term average that is so disturbing. They are 42% below the long-term. That’s not good.”

The only other species among the top 10 that is below the long-term average is scaup, which at 3.6 million is down 10% from 2018 and 28% below long-term.

Mississippi’s two hunting periods

Mississippi’s season will be different from past years in that it will have only two periods, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and then from Dec. 6 to Jan. 31. A change in federal regulations now allows states to go to the last day of January, instead of a forced ending on the Sunday before Jan. 31. 

“That doesn’t sound like a big deal to a lot of people, namely those who don’t duck hunt,” Woods said. “But if you’re one of the die-hard duck hunters like me, those extra days are a blessing, a big blessing. This coming season would have closed on Jan. 26 under the old guidelines, and we basically get another whole week to shoot, and it’s at a time late enough in migration to put more birds in the Delta.

“That’s great and something we’ve been asking for since I was a teenager, starting to duck hunt with my dad and uncle. I’m talking 1986 and 1987, back when the state took federal wildlife officials to court over that very thing. We lost of course, and my dad was so mad he almost quit hunting. I hate he didn’t live long enough to see this finally happen. I plan to hunt every single day between Jan. 26 and Jan. 31 in his honor. It might cost me a week of vacation time at work, but so be it.”

About Bobby Cleveland 1342 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.