Mallard populations were down 12 percent from 10,488,000 birds to 9,255,000, while blue-winged teal dropped 18 percent to 6,450,000 and green-winged teal fell 16 percent to 3,043,000, according to USFWS survey data. Kansas teal season kicks off Sept. 1, with many teal reportedly already moving into the state.
The biggest year-over-year population decline by percentage was among gadwall, which saw a 31 percent decline from 4,180,000 birds in 2017 to 2,886,000 in ’18.
However, the gadwall population was actually 43 percent above the long-term average, according to the data. American wigeon was the only duck species to see a population gain in 2018 over the previous year, a 2 percent rise from 2,777,000 to 2,820,000.
Northern shoveler, which saw just a 3 percent decline in 2018, has improved the most over the long-term average, growing 62 percent. The green-winged teal population is up 42 percent, just below the gadwall for growth percentage-wise, with the redhead seeing a 38 percent hike and blue-winged teal at 27 percent. Mallards were up 17 percent long term despite the short-term loss.
The most worrisome species remains the Northern pintail, which has seen its population decline 40 percent long-term and dropped 18 percent over 2017 to 2,365,000 birds.
Scaup also has seen a decline over the long term, down 20 percent from the average and 9 percent over 2017 with 3,989,000 birds spotted, according to the USFWS data.
“The dip in the population for prairie-breeding puddle ducks is not unexpected and by no means unprecedented given that conditions on the prairies this spring were drier than last year,” Ducks Unlimited chief scientist Tom Moorman said in a news release. “As a result, 2018 populations dropped accordingly. However, populations of all key species except northern pintails and scaup remain above long-term averages.
“This year’s breeding population decline is a reminder of the need to sustain the capacity of breeding habitats, particularly in the prairies as we go through natural variation in wetland conditions. Waterfowl populations are adapted well to short-term swings in habitat conditions, but we must continue to guard against the long-term loss of prairie breeding habitat.”
Canada goose numbers on Central Flyway Arctic nesting grounds saw a 35 percent increase over 2017, up to 2,562,000 birds from 1,892,000 but down 2 percent over the 10-year average. Estimates for the Mississippi Flyway weren’t available as of the release of the report, but the 2017 population was 1,776,000. Western prairie and Great Plains bird populations dropped by only about 3,000 birds over 2017 to approximately 1,350,000.
Light goose numbers mostly increased in 2018. Mid-continent lesser snow goose population estimates rose greatly in 2018, according to the report, with a 29 percent increase over 2017 but a healthy drop of 3 percent over 10 years for the overpopulated species. Lesser snow goose numbers from primary monitoring surveys show bird numbers up to 11,913,000 over 9,248,000 in 2017. Ross’s geese saw a 28 percent decline from 624,000 in 2017 to 447,000 in 2018, but greater snow geese rose 17 percent from 747,000 to 877,000.
Mid-continent population white-fronted goose populations dropped year-over-year by 23 percent, from 1,000,000 to 772,000.
Waterfowl hunters at Jamestown Wildlife Area, located about 18 miles northwest of Concordia, may still run into a few closed-off areas as construction continues on the wetlands.
Huntable habitat can be found on the south end of the property throughout the waterfowl season, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and staff will pump select off-channel storage pools from Marsh Creek and Buffalo Creek Marshes for the waterfowl season.
Gamekeeper and Gun Club Marshes both will be kept at low levels as construction on a division berm is underway in Gamekeeper Marsh.
The state says construction projects on the wetlands are more than halfway done now.
“These areas have excellent moist soil food production and teal are starting to show up,” Matt Farmer, public lands manager for Jamestown, said in a news release. “We just ask that the public be mindful of the tighter spaces this season, and we appreciate their patience while we make improvements to the wildlife area.”
For more information on the construction taking place at Jamestown Wildlife Area, contact area staff at (785) 439-6243. For information about other public hunting areas, visit https://tinyurl.com/yd7uyx5j/.
Ducks Unlimited events
Those wanting to meet and chat with other waterfowlers will have several opportunities to do so in northeast Kansas, including:
• The 51st annual Topeka Area Ducks Unlimited banquet from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Topeka. Tickets are $40 single, $70 for a couple and $20 for Greenwings. For more information, contact Thad Wende at (785) 845-5212, Cheech Kehoe at (802) 233-1472 or Jeff Neal at (785) 221-6625.
• The Jefferson County DU chapter will host its annual banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Perry American Legion, 410 Perry Place. Tickets are $40 per single, $55 for a couple and $20 for Greenwings. For more information, contact John Hertlein at (785) 640-3113.
• The Sabetha DU Sportsmen’s Night will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 29 at Smoke’s Tavern, 1223 Oregon St. in Sabetha. Tickets are $25 for a single ticket or $40 for a couple/buddy. For more information, contact Mike Bulk at (785) 294-1280.
• The Atchison Area DU Dinner will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Atchison Elks Lodge. Tickets are $55 for a single ticket, $70 for a couple and $15 for a Greenwing, with a $75 family pack also available. For more information, contact Dave Paul at (913) 651-3002, Doug Thomas at (913) 426-6085 or Mike Arnold at (785) 850-0270.
One final note
With all of the negativity in the world right now, it makes my day when I receive something positive from a reader.
I received one such letter from Michael Rose, a 71-year-old reader from North Topeka, that I thought was worth sharing. Rose is a retiree from Westar Energy and has been hunting and fishing with his family and friends his whole life.
In 2001, he shot trap for the first time in the Sunflower State Games at Cedar Hill Gun Club in Lawrence, got the high score and received a gold medal. When the Games moved to Topeka in 2002, he continued competing in the events, with trap and skeet shooting held at the Capital City Gun Club and sporting clays at Ravenwood Lodge. He says he’s shot ever year since that time, and in 2012 he was named the overall male athlete of the year.
This year, he pulled off quite the accomplishment, taking a gold medal in all three events in his age group — trap, skeet and sporting clays. The trifecta had long been a goal of his, and he was thankful for the opportunity to compete in the Games all these years.
“It is always a great time, and meeting lots of shooters from all over Kansas is the best part,” Rose said.
Rose said that anyone who has a shotgun and likes to shoot should come out to the Capital City Gun Club and Ravenwood Lodge with their family and friends and give it a shot. Even if you don’t win a medal, he said, it’s a fun time all the same.
“We would like to thank all the volunteers for all the events in the Sunflower State Games,” Rose said. “Because without them, there would be no Sunflower State Games each year. A big shout out to Mitch and his staff for all the hard work they put in to make the Sunflower State Games happen each year.”
I’m glad to see you’re still getting out and enjoying the sport, Michael. Thank you for the uplifting letter!