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Banding Together for Waterfowl

North Woods 'Bills and 'Eyes

Bluebill hunting and walleye fishing on Ontario's pristine Lake of the Woods
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A quiet hour later, about the time we're growing weary of the rain, a goldeneye drops into the spread as well. Bruce's gun is rested over his shoulder, but he nonetheless ends the hunt with a successful snap shot.

After we load Bruce's boat for the trip home, we of course discuss the week's slow hunting pace. I don't know that it has really bothered anyone. I'm sore from laughing at Ole and Lena's exploits for three nights, and my hands are raw from unhooking fish. I've learned a lot about ducks from two biologists who've been studying and hunting them since before I was born.

"This isn't always the best place to shoot a bunch of ducks," Bob tells me. "But it's a great place to spend time with family and friends." Although I was a complete stranger to this crowd only three days ago, I have to agree.

For more information on do-it-yourself hunting and fishing at Spruce Island Camp, visit spruceislandcamp.com, or call 807-543-4087 (summer); 320-732-2689 (winter).

DU and Bluebills

Although 2009 spring surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicated that breeding scaup numbers were above 4 million for the first time since 2000, they remain 18 percent below their long-term average and continue to be a species of concern to waterfowl managers.

Biologists don't fully understand the reasons for the decline in bluebill numbers, but as referenced in "The Great Scaup Mystery" (November/December 2007 issue of Ducks Unlimited), degraded spring staging and breeding habitat conditions likely contribute to poor nesting success and are among the most pressing concerns. Contaminants found in mollusks that are eaten by scaup are also possible factors in the birds' decline.

DU is working to brighten the future for bluebills and preserve the diver hunting tradition. The Living Lakes Initiative seeks to restore previously drained shallow lakes and wetlands and protect existing habitat through water-level management and by controlling invasive species in wetlands of the upper Midwest. These wetlands, like Lake of the Woods, are early stops for bluebills during fall migration. DU is also participating in the Lesser Scaup Study, a multi-partner research project documenting lesser scaup migration corridors, which will aid in conservation efforts. The final report from the study was scheduled to be submitted in December 2009.

For more information on the Lesser Scaup Study, visit: www.ducks.org/scaupresearch. To learn more about the Living Lakes Initiative, visit: www.ducks.org/livinglakes

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