November/December 2019

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Editor’s Note by Ralph Stuart
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November/December 2019

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.

Ralph P. Stuart

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.

Georgia Snow

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


Departments

From the Editor

Why we should keep on duckin’.

Letters

Cheers for the 680, points on pointers, a Chessie champion, the “raptor” factor, etc.

The Opener

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

Gun Review

The Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro

By Bruce Buck

Field Gear

’Fowl-weather gear for duck and goose hunters

By The Editors

Going Public

To Louisiana for wintering woodcock

By Ben Brettingen

Going Places

Mixed-bag shooting with Wingshoot Africa

By Douglas Tate

To the Point

What a boy will sacrifice to buy better decoys

By Tom Huggler


Scattershot

Great advice for the sporting life

Gear Guide

Shining a light on headlamps

By Ralph Stuart

The Gun Rack

A Browning Citori White Lightning

By Ralph Stuart

Shooting

Tricks for taking ’fowl

By Chris Batha

From the Bench

Choke work as a means to proper patterns

By Delbert Whitman Jr.

Shot Talk

New shotshells of interest

By Tom Roster

Hunting Dogs

Helping your dog “find the front”

By Shawn Kinkelaar

Conservation

Arguing for the practice of plucking

By George Calef


On the cover: A cold-weather fowler photographed by Doug Steinke

Additional photos: Lee Thomas Kjos; Rick Adair


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