Jul 6, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
Since returning to work after the Fourth of July holiday, you may have noticed a hint of a smile on the face of your waterfowl hunting colleagues. I likely just doesn’t seem to go away, either. If so, the reason is probably that they heard the report on the 2012 Annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey released earlier in the week. The news is good! Very, very good news to duck hunters.
Conducted each May by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service, this year’s survey puts the duck population at 48.6 million birds. That represents a 7 percent increase from 2011′s record number of 45.6 million.
Highlights of the survey include 10.602 million mallards which is up 15 percent from last year and 40 percent from their long term average. Scaup (known affectionately to many of us as blue bills) numbers are up 21 percent to 5.2 million, and represents the seventh-straight year the bluebill count has gone up. Scaup are at their highest breeding population since 1991. Blue winged-teal, green-winged teal and shovelers are all at all-time highs.
While overall duck numbers are at record highs, everything is not “perfect” in the world of waterfowl. Pond counts were down. The survey is calling 2012 an “average to below-average” year for moisture. The total pond count for prairie Canada and United States combined dropped 32 percent, from an estimated 8.1 million ponds last year to 5.5 million this year. However, it’s important to remember that the winter of 2010-11 was incredibly snowy and the spring extremely wet in the prairie pothole region and the reservoirs that feed them. The winter of 2011-2012 and this spring have been the opposite in much of the zone.
Drier conditions may account for the one species that shows a significant drop in the survey area. Northern pintails are down more than one million birds, from 4.4 million birds last year to 3.4 million. One possible explanation is that pintails didn’t like the look of the drier conditions and just kept flying north. Only the fall flight will tell for sure.
Check out the full report with charts, maps, images and graphics from Delta Waterfowl.
Overall, there’s a great deal to put and keep those knowing smiles on the faces of waterfowlers everywhere. It’s time to start getting the hound in shape to make all those retrieves this fall. And all you need to do for the first step is click over to the “In the Dog House” blog right here at From the Lodge on NBCSports!
If this great survey report pushes you over the edge to book a guided waterfowl hunt this fall, a great place to start your search is with OutfittersRating.com. Their free, objective directory allows you to search duck and goose outfitters across North America.
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