March - April 2016

MA16

Habitat for Hunters

For most of us, the word "habitat" conjures up attractive mental images of the many natural places where wildlife live. Ducks Unlimited's mission statement makes this connection explicit by stating that DU "conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl." The statement goes on to say that "these habitats also benefit other wildlife and people." While that sentence recognizes the fact that many other wildlife species benefit from DU's efforts to conserve habitat for waterfowl, the last word highlights the most important beneficiaries of DU's work: people. Everyone who enjoys waterfowl and other wetland wildlife benefits from DU's conservation programs. But hunters, who make up about 85 percent of our current membership, have traditionally provided the greatest support for DU's mission.

10 Off-Season Projects for Waterfowlers

Fill your spring and summer schedule with a few exciting projects, and before you know it the first cool weather of September will push teal down the flyways and the hunting season will start all over again. Here are 10 productive waterfowling-related activities that never go out of season.

Authentic Duck or Goose "Street" Tacos

Although for tacos I do occasionally slow-roast large goose breasts until they are pot-roast tender, I prefer to cook them the way that I learned from the Mexican street vendor. Cut them into chunks and pound until flat. Apply a liberal amount of seasoning and slap them into a lightly oiled hot cast-iron skillet for about a minute or two per side. Chop and serve with your choice of a frosty-cold beverage; mine includes a squeeze of lime.

Shotgunning: Practice Like You Play

Recently, a well-known basketball coach told a rookie player to practice only the shots he would take during games. The coach's point was that not all practice is equal. The same advice holds true for waterfowlers wanting to sharpen their shotgunning skills in the off-season. The closer you mimic actual hunting conditions, the more you'll get from your time on the skeet range or sporting clays course. Here's how.

Retrievers: The Bottom Line

The decision to get a new retriever is seldom merely a matter of weighing the costs versus the benefits. Some folks can't imagine living without a dog, much less hunting without one. The choice often comes down to heartstrings as much as it does to purse strings. Nevertheless, all prospective dog owners should understand that the investment they're about to make will be significant. Here's a rundown of just some of the expenses you're likely to incur if you decide to take the plunge and get a new dog this spring.

Understanding Waterfowl: Wood Duck Box Management

The 1930s marked the rise of the wildlife management profession, as well as experimentation with the use of manmade nest boxes to help revive wood duck populations depleted by years of habitat loss and overharvest. Dr. Frank Bellrose, regarded as the father of wood duck management, and his colleague Arthur Hawkins began using nest boxes and studying nesting female wood ducks at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois. Since their pioneering efforts, nest box programs have become popular among government agencies, conservation organizations, and private citizens for studying and propagating wood ducks.

DU's Peaks to Prairies Initiative

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana span some of America's most beautiful landscapes. The high-mountain peaks in this scenic region are also the sources of some of the continent's largest rivers, including the Missouri, Colorado, Arkansas, Platte, and Yellowstone. Their cold, clear waters are noted for outstanding fishing, as sportsmen and women come from all over the world to catch trophy trout and enjoy majestic scenery and iconic wildlife such as bears, moose, and elk. These mountain headwaters are also important for something else: waterfowl. Western rivers and their associated tributaries and high-elevation wetlands provide vital breeding, migration, and wintering habitat for a great abundance and diversity of ducks, geese, and swans.

Some Years Are for the Ducks

As I write this, the 2015-2016 duck season is drawing to a close. It began with great promise for a fantastic season with a record 49.6 million nesting birds counted across the northern parts of the United States, into the prairies and Great Lakes of Canada, and up in the Boreal Forests. Then the September teal season in the south and the regular season in the north seemed to bode well for great harvests and healthy populations. Millions of migratory waterfowl rested on the Canadian prairies and in the northern United States awaiting the normal push of the Arctic blasts that would encourage them to move farther south for the winter. But the weather didn't follow the normal patterns this year, either with hard freezes in Canada or temperatures and rainfall in the United States.