Editor’s Note by Ralph Stuart
Duck numbers are down.
That’s the bottom-line takeaway from the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s report Waterfowl Population Status, 2019. According to estimates, this past spring’s North American breeding-duck population was about 39 million, down from 2018’s total of about 41 million but still above the long-term average. Of course, different species fared better than others. Mallard, gadwall and green-winged teal numbers were all up, for example; whereas blue-winged teal, pintails, shovelers and all of the diving ducks showed declines. (More details appear on p. 28.)
At first glance, mallard hunters should be happy—and presumably most are, as the overall mallard population was up 2 percent this year—but drilling down in the USF&WS report reveals that the mallard population in the Eastern Survey area was down 2 percent. This represents a continuing trend of declining Eastern mallard numbers—with the breeding population in the Northeast down by about 36 percent since 1998.
Currently biologists are unable to determine the cause for the mallard decline, but in an effort to stabilize numbers, this year’s mallard limit in the Atlantic Flyway has been reduced from four to two, no more than one of which may be a hen.
Of course, the concern with reducing the limit of a “glamour” species like mallards is that hunter participation may decrease as a result. This would mean reduced sales of state hunting licenses as well as Federal Duck Stamps—a lot of the monies from which go toward conservation efforts and preserving habitat.
Personally, I hope this doesn’t happen, as to refrain from hunting would actually do more damage than good. Not only would revenues destined to help ducks be lost, but also the clout that hunter numbers represent would be diminished. And neither ducks nor hunters can afford to pay those prices these days.
As inspiration to “keep on duckin’,” we present our annual “waterfowl issue.” It includes features on the latest and greatest fowling guns (“Tools to Take ’Em,” p. 64) as well as techniques for connecting on ducks when the temperature plummets (“Mallards Below Zero,” p. 72). Also included are articles on gear, loads and methods that can help you enjoy more success this season.
Here’s wishing you cupped wings and close shots.
Tools to Take ’Em
The latest flock of fowling guns
By Phil Bourjaily
Mallards Below Zero
Finding open water—and ducks—in the late season
By E. Donnall Thomas Jr.
Quail & clays at the Beretta Shooting Grounds by High Adventure Company
By Ralph P. Stuart
Reflections on a Season Not Hunted
The things I remember missing
By Bob White
From the Editor
Why we should keep on duckin’.
Cheers for the 680, points on pointers, a Chessie champion, the “raptor” factor, etc.
An incoming flight to remember
Game & Gun Gazette
A new Purdey clays gun, New Jersey grouse, John Dickson & Son, duck numbers, Legacy Lanyards and more
The Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro
By Bruce Buck
’Fowl-weather gear for duck and goose hunters
By The Editors
To Louisiana for wintering woodcock
By Ben Brettingen
Mixed-bag shooting with Wingshoot Africa
By Douglas Tate
To the Point
What a boy will sacrifice to buy better decoys
By Tom Huggler
Great advice for the sporting life
Shining a light on headlamps
By Ralph Stuart
The Gun Rack
A Browning Citori White Lightning
By Ralph Stuart
Tricks for taking ’fowl
By Chris Batha
From the Bench
Choke work as a means to proper patterns
By Delbert Whitman Jr.
New shotshells of interest
By Tom Roster
Helping your dog “find the front”
By Shawn Kinkelaar
Arguing for the practice of plucking
By George Calef