The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Waterfowl hunters on the prairies of the Middle Coast have suffered the first real casualty of drought amongst Texas’ hunting community.
Last year the Lower Colorado River Authority prohibited “duck water” being sold to landowners and leaseholders. In other words, there was not enough water for extracurricular activities.
This sent shockwaves throughout the Lone Star State as several of the counties involved are the most heavily hunted in the state. Groups like Ducks Unlimited (DU) got involved because it affected tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and scores of hunters.
Water is the new gold and with Texas’ population, growing at a rapid pace its value will continue to increase and the struggle between wildlife and sporting needs will pop up all over the state. It is not a matter of if but when and the fact of the matter is people’s needs will win every time.
Something like this is coming on a much grander scare and it centers on the prairie pothole region of North Dakota, South Dakota and prairie Canada. That region has been at least fairly wet (and in recent year very wet) for better than two decades and that will not hold. At some point, perhaps in the very near future the region will suffer a drought and when it does, what is happening in the LCRA counties will look like a minor squabble.
The vast majority of mallards, pintails, gadwall, shovelers and other key waterfowl in the Central Flyway are born and raised there and when a prolonged drought comes duck production goes down in a major way.
That will translate to two immediate things: smaller bag limits and a shorter season.
And it will likely cause a drop in duck hunter numbers.
I started duck hunting twenty years ago and not a single hunter who started during that timeframe has ever experienced anything less than a five-bird limit or long seasons.
How many will keep hunting if the limit is cut to three and the season is shortened to say 30 days?
My suspicion is a good portion of these hunters, particularly those under age 30, will use it as an excuse to bail on an increasingly expensive sport.
That will translate to fewer duck stamps sold and less money for conservation along with a host of other problems.
We have raised at least two generations of totally limits driven hunters. Instead of learning about conservation and ecology, many are now more worried about tweeting “Five man limit this morning!” than understanding the dynamics of migration and the cause and effect relationship of drought on ducks. All generations have had limits driven hunters but this one has social media to push it to a new level.
I have discussed this with several leaders in local, regional and national waterfowl circles and everyone is concerned. A few have said, “Good, it will get rid of the riff raff.”
To a certain point that is true. The handful of unethical hunters who disobey the rules and cause problems will likely focus their attentions elsewhere but it could be a breaking point for the long-standing and conservation centered tradition of duck hunting.
That is why it is vitally important to teach your children about the value of wetlands and how migration itself works. There is a much greater appreciation to be had for those who know its complexities. These are the hunters who will enjoy their quest no matter the season length or limit and wait until a wet cycle returns and rejoice.
I hope we never have that giant Great Plains drought but history tells us we are due. When will it happen? It could be next year or it could be 10 years from now but in the interim, we should do our best to educate this generation about waterfowl conservation.
It is a vitally important issue, not only for the ducks but for all creatures that utilize the wetlands we conserve in their name.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI. You can watch him Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV (GETV.org) on God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore.)