PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

September 14, 2013

Chester Moore column: Waterfowl dynamics are mind boggling

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —  A successful duck season requires many factors to fall into place just right.



    What looks like it would be a strong early teal season just kicked off and the number of ducks on the prairie breeding grounds is solid.



     But that situation could be completely different next year.



     All it takes is a lack of rain.



     If the prairie pothole region which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, parts of Montana and Prairie Canada were to have the type of drought we have had over the last few years in Texas, duck numbers could drop dramatically.



     Various parts of that zone have stayed wet over the last decade and allowed us to have strong breeding duck numbers and the long season and liberal bag limits that come with it.



      If we were to have just one year of little to no rain it would put things into question. If we had two years of it, then season and bag limits would need to be looked at for potential change. And if we had three years of drought then we will see the entire waterfowl hunting setting turned upside down.



      That all centers on rain.



      This of course is only on the production side of things. Waterfowl are migratory so they need healthy habitat all along their fall/winter travel corridor.



      The Middle Coast of Texas has lots thousands of acres of flooded fields over the last couple of years due to the drought and the Lower Colorado River Authority’s prohibition on pumping water for duck leases.



     What if our area went into the same kind of intensive drought and we were to face a similar prohibition?



      You could have a record fall flight of ducks and if there is no quality habitat, then they will not stick around for long.



       Hunting pressure is another factor to consider.



       The combination of habitat loss and increased pressure from hunters has sent a huge portion of Texas’ wintering snow geese elsewhere. Why fly to Jefferson County where you have relatively little food and are shot at in every field when you can stop in Arkansas where there is plenty of food (rice) and little goose hunting pressure?



       There are other factors coming into play as well and the main one is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which sets aside agricultural acreage for wildlife habitat by paying farmers subsidies.



      I honestly think that kind of thing will be a distant memory within just a few years. If a politician has to justify paying farmers to not plant crops versus myriad other issues, CRP will lose.



     The unfortunate part for waterfowlers is CRP has been a major factor in keeping waterfowl populations solid even during decades of habitat loss. Without it, things will be vastly different.



     I am not trying to bring doom and gloom to your hunting season but instead instill a little appreciation for what it takes to make a successful hunt. A whole lot goes into duck production and if any of these factors were to change one-way or the other the whole dynamic changes.



    We should be thankful for all opportunities to hunt these amazing creatures.



(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com . You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com . You can watch him on GETV (GETV.org) Saturdays at 10 a.m.)