Story at a Glance
Species covered in this article include:
- Black Duck
- Wood Duck
- Ring-necked Duck
Simply put, the prime redhead location in North America is the Laguna Madre along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Mexico. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports an estimated 80 percent of the continent's redheads winter in this highly saline, very shallow lagoon. It lies between Padre Island and the south Texas mainland and continues south of the border into Mexico. The ducks arrive there in October to eat rhizomes (roots) of shoalgrass, aquatic vegetation critical to their diet. They are hunted in the lagoon from seasonal palmetto blinds or from the banks of nearby "hurricane ponds" where they congregate to drink fresh water.
The South Shore of Long Island and the deep lakes region of the upper Midwest have fostered strong scaup-hunting traditions. These places continue to be somewhat productive, but prairie wetland loss in the Midwest and an overall decline in abundance in some areas have given rise to new hotspots for shooting scaup. Devils Lake in North Dakota is a vital staging ground for lesser scaup during their fall and spring migrations. In the fall, numbers peak from mid-October until the lake freezes, typically in November. DU Regional Biologist Scott McLeod says, "The main attraction is the lake's abundant supply of amphipods, also known as freshwater shrimp, which make up a significant part of the scaup's diet." Local gunners hunt the main lake with big rigs and layout boats or stake out the backwaters by hiding among the cattails. Other top scaup destinations include the fresh and brackish marshes of coastal Texas and Louisiana. These regions serve as the lesser scaup's primary wintering grounds. In January 2004, biologists counted approximately 15 percent of the continental population between the two states, about 215,000 in coastal Texas and 309,000 in southern Louisiana.