Story at a Glance
Species covered in this article include:
- Black Duck
- Wood Duck
- Ring-necked Duck
Central Flyway North Dakota's prairie potholes are an ideal setting for gunning greenheads. According to HIP, North Dakota's average mallard harvest of 233,164 birds per year for 2001-2004 is highest in the flyway. Much of this success is linked to the abundance of mallards that breed in the potholes dotted across North Dakota's plains and in Prairie Canada just to the north. Spring surveys indicate that the state's mallard breeding population has exceeded 1 million birds in each of the past 11 years. "On opening day, the ducks are widely dispersed in wetlands throughout the state," says DU Regional Director Jeff Essler, "but around mid-October they begin to congregate on the larger lakes and along the Missouri River to seek available open water."
In the last couple of years, Oklahoma has been home to some of the hottest mallard hunting in the Central Flyway. Harvest data from 2003 and 2004 show that last season Oklahoma had an estimated 70 percent increase in the number of mallards taken, but little change in hunter numbers. The large lakes in the eastern part of the state—Grand, Kerr, Eufaula, Oologah, and Texoma—are top stopovers for mallards as they migrate between their breeding grounds on the northern prairies and wintering grounds in Texas. In the western half of the state, Fort Cobb Reservoir attracts large numbers of mallards because of its location in the heart of the state's peanut-growing region. Although pressure from out-of-state hunters is growing, the total number of hunters remains low in comparison with neighboring states.