by Wade Bourne
Hope beats eternal in the hearts of waterfowlers, but right now that pulse is weak and irregular for Kentucky hunters. So far duck and goose seasons in the Bluegrass State have been disappointing. However, a forecast of frigid temperatures in the upper Mississippi flyway has raised expectations of a push of new birds and better shooting going into the new year.
"We probably haven't bagged a fourth as many ducks this year as we did by this time last year," reports Ricky Walden, owner of Walden's Lodge in Ballard County, KY. "However, we're hoping action will pick up. I have a friend who hunts in northern Missouri, and they've been covered up with mallards. He says it's been real mild there, and the ducks are just hanging around. But there's a big cold front moving into the middle part of the country next week, and that should bring a freezeup to that region and move some ducks on down the flyway to us. I think we're looking pretty good for January."
"Slow" has also been the picture in the Henderson area. Connie Morton of the Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area reports that duck and goose numbers are far below last year's count, and hunter activity is low. "Our biologist flew a population survey on Dec. 19, and he counted 5,700 ducks and 175 Canada geese at Sloughs. This compares to 10,000 ducks and 16,000 Canadas at the same time last year. And I think we've lost some of our ducks since this count was taken. The Ohio River has been at flood stage, but now the river is back in its banks. When the floodwaters left, some of the ducks left too. All we have on the area now are 2,100 white-front geese and some snow and blue geese."
Rocky Pritchert is the manager of the Migratory Bird Branch for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. He says this same scenario exists throughout the western half of the state. "All our surveys are running behind the counts from the previous two years. We're just not having any winter. Plus, we've had water everywhere. What birds we do have are scattered all over the place. If hunters find a concentration, they may get one good day of shooting, then the ducks will move somewhere else where they're not being pressured. It's been a very frustrating year, but hopefully we'll see a pickup in bird numbes and hunting activity soon."