Nothing seems to get chili aficionados heated up like a debate over whether to add beans to the pot. To some, chili just isn't chili unless it's bean-free. Others eagerly add beans to the mix, but that can spark further debate over which beans to use.
The 19th-century explorer and geographer John Wesley Powell defined a watershed as "a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community." Powell wisely recognized that all living things in a watershed, including waterfowl and people, are united by and dependent on its central element—water.
Biology plays a bigger role in duck hunting than most hunters realize. Duck behavior is governed by instincts such as feeding, mating, and surviving. In winter, for example, ducks spend much of their time seeking mates for the spring breeding season and building energy reserves for the coming northbound migration.
Widely distributed across North America, Asia, and Europe, the mallard is the most abundant duck in the northern hemisphere. Mallards are successful because they are adaptable, which allows them to exploit diverse habitats and resources. Mallards are also one of the most prolific breeders in the waterfowl world. In some cases, hen mallards have been observed making up to six nesting attempts in a single breeding season.
A wildlife painter by trade and a duck hunter at heart, David Maass has made a waterfowl-hunting pilgrimage to Manitoba's Delta Marsh during each of the past 35 years. The man has seen plenty of ducks, but in his eyes the good old days might be right now.
It was 1985, and the continental duck population had fallen to its lowest level in two decades. Of even greater concern was a change in the historical relationship between wetlands and breeding ducks. Winter snowfall and spring rainfall yielded a 93 percent increase in May ponds from 1980 to1985, but duck numbers decreased by 31 percent during the same period. Up until then, pond and duck numbers had moved more or less in lockstep. It appeared that habitat loss had taken its toll, and biologists had new evidence to back the claim.
In my last column we talked about the prospects of yet another phenomenal waterfowl season, based on the record 2012 count of 48.6 million breeding ducks in the traditionally surveyed area. This fall, we may have had 120 million to 160 million birds migrating down the flyways.