In 2012, North America's waterfowl returned to their breeding grounds in numbers that would have made DU's founders proud. Despite this year's impressive survey results, however, the future of this continent's waterfowl is far from secure. Rising commodity prices, diminished wetland protections, and budget cuts to conservation programs
could result in widespread habitat loss on the prairies and in other high-priority conservation areas.
"DU's founders would be the first to warn us to remain vigilant and keep our shoulders to the wheel in conserving vital waterfowl habitat across this continent," says DU CEO Dale Hall. "Conservation is indeed at a crossroads. The Farm Bill
and North American Wetlands Conservation Act
are up for renewal by Congress this year, and we are fighting to increase our investment in wetlands conservation by raising the price of the federal duck stamp. Like generations of DU supporters before us, we must not waver in our support for conservation and continue to work together to fulfill our founders' vision. Otherwise, large waterfowl populations like we've seen on the breeding grounds in recent years could become only a memory."
Liberal Hunting Regulations Stay in Place Waterfowl hunting regulations are drafted each year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in consultation with the four flyway councils. With healthy mallard populations in each survey region and an above-average May pond count on the prairies, waterfowl managers have recommended liberal hunting season frameworks in every flyway this year. Check with the appropriate state or provincial wildlife agency for season dates, daily bag limits, and other regulations where you plan to hunt.
Hunting Activity and Harvest Remain High
As in previous years, waterfowl harvests and hunting activity (measured by total days hunted) remained at high levels during the 2011−2012 waterfowl season. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimates that last season more than 1.1 million waterfowl hunters bagged over 15.9 million ducks and 2.9 million geese in the United States. The previous season, a similar number of hunters harvested almost 14.9 million ducks and nearly 3.2 million geese.
Mallards were once again the most commonly taken waterfowl species, followed by gadwalls, Canada geese, green-winged teal, wood ducks
, and blue-winged/cinnamon teal
. U.S. duck hunters spent an estimated 7 million days afield in pursuit of ducks during the 2011−2012 waterfowl season and bagged more than 16 birds per hunter. Goose hunters spent more than 3.6 million days afield in pursuit of geese last season and bagged about five birds per hunter.
For the latest reports on upcoming waterfowl hunting seasons, populations, and harvests, visit Flyways.US
, a collaborative venture by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management, the flyway councils, and state wildlife agencies.