Hunting outlook up; duck numbers sharply higher
By MIKE CORN
It should be a good year for ducks, especially the hugely popular mallard.
Except for the northern pintail and the canvasback, duck numbers were generally up, according to the 2014 waterfowl breeding population survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Overall, total duck numbers were up nearly 8 percent from last year and up 43 percent from the long-term average.
Total numbers stood at 49.2 million breeding ducks, an increase from last year's 45.6 million.
"It looks like another good waterfowl breeding year for a good portion of the prairies and the boreal forest," said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall.
And it looks like it's setting up for another good year in 2015, given the FWS said waterfowl habitat conditions were improved in this year's survey compared to a year ago.
While overall mallard numbers were up, it was a mixed bag for areas directly north of Kansas.
In the eastern Dakotas, for example, the numbers were down nearly 28 percent from 2.6 million to 1.9 million this year, the result of poor nesting conditions last year.
But in Montana and the western Dakotas, the numbers were up 28 percent, from 794,000 to slightly more than 1 million.
It was the same for blue- and green-winged teal, two of the ducks of choice for Kansas waterfowl hunters.
Green-winged teal were best in the eastern Dakotas but fell flat in Montana and the western Dakotas. Blue-winged teal fell 22 percent from 3.2 million to 2.5 million in the eastern Dakotas but grew a whopping 421 percent int he Montana and the western Dakotas, the FWS said in its report.
Gadwall likely would be the other popular duck for Kansas hunters, and total numbers are up 14 percent but also split between the Dakota regions.
While there's still troubles in eastern Dakotas, conditions this year have improved dramatically in the western reaches of the two states. Conditions in Montana also have improved significantly.