After a promising start to Mississippi’s duck season, bird numbers dwindled and hunting became much tougher in December, but it appears an influx of new ducks may be arriving in the state’s Delta region.
“Duck numbers have been pretty low because we just had a big heat wave,” says Darrin Hardesty, waterfowl program biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP). “It’s been a really warm winter so far.”
Hardesty notes MDWFP officials “still don’t have a good idea about bird numbers yet” because some aerial surveys this week were delayed because of foggy conditions.
In addition to above-average temperatures, unseasonably dry weather has also plagued waterfowlers in the Magnolia State. “Habitat in many areas has been pretty poor due to a lack of rain. The Mississippi River is starting to rise, but it’s not yet high enough to really flood up any good habitat,” Hardesty says.
Last week portions of the north Delta received significant rainfall, improving habitat conditions in certain areas. “We’re hoping for some more birds to get pushed down now that we’ve got some more water on the landscape. In fact, we’re thinking some more birds have started showing up,” Hardesty says.
Others are seeing a change for the better as well. “I just did a survey on the Coldwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and it did seem like we got some new ducks in,” says Becky Rosemond, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Rosemond plans to survey the Tallahatchie NWR next and expects to see similar improvements.
Brennan Chapman, an outfitter who primarily hunts the Coldwater River area between Crowder and Lambert, has also seen more ducks in his area. “Our weather now is so much better. I’m not going to say I woke up overnight and there were mallards everywhere, but we have seen an uptick in the number of birds in the area,” Chapman says.
The transition in the weather and increased numbers of ducks, Chapman says, has him optimistic for the remained of the season. With more rain and seasonably cold weather in the forecast, Mississippi waterfowlers will hopefully see more typical numbers of ducks in the days ahead.