The Ottumwa Courier

September 19, 2013

Drought could cause decline in duck population during hunting season

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Hunters looking to nab some game in the early part of the duck hunting season might find some trouble in their regular spots thanks in large part to the drought that has been hanging over Iowa in the latter parts of the summer, according to wildlife biologist Jeff Glaw.

Glaw works for the Department of Natural Resources in the Sugema Wildlife Unit of Iowa, which covers Mahaska, Keokuk, Washington, Wapello, Jefferson, Davis and Van Buren counties.

The Iowa DNR posted a wetland habitat conditions report on their website this week that explains the current status of wetlands throughout the state. In the Sugema unit, as well as most of the other units around Iowa, all of the wetlands are either low or dried up.

“Most of the state wetlands are pretty much dry,” Glaw said. “Typically they are filled by rain water.”

Because a lot of the wetlands in the area are dry, some of the regular hunting spots for locals will not have the same duck population as they generally do at this time of year. According to Glaw, the ducks will probably congregate in areas like lakes and ponds instead of the rivers and creeks where they are usually found in abundance.

The only way to be sure there is adequate water in usual hunting spots is to go out and do some research before hunting.

“Make sure you don’t show up where you usually hunt and find it is dry,” Glaw said. “Scouting definitely makes a difference. Get out and look for where there is water and where the ducks will congregate.”

Winds coming out of the northwest in the next few days will hopefully help to bring the migratory duck population into the area, but Glaw believes the early part of the season will not be as prosperous for hunters as in previous years.

“It’s one of those things that is hit or miss,” he said. “There is more pressure with more people on the weekends but less during the weeks. You might be better getting out during the week with less people.”

The low water could be better for some ducks, though. Glaw said there very well could be a push of local mallards and pintails around, but the teals are generally harder to predict. The DNR also banded quite a few more wood ducks this year. Hunters who shoot a banded duck are instructed to report it by calling the Bird Banding Laboratory toll free at 1-800-327-2263.

Information about the area’s wetlands can be found on the DNR’s website, iowadnr.gov. The early season for ducks begins Saturday and lasts until Wednesday. The second season is not until Oct. 19 in the south zone, which encompasses the Sugema Unit.