Delta Waterfowl Calls on USFWS to Reconsider Plan to Reduce Atlantic Flyway Mallard Limit

Delta Waterfowl Calls on USFWS to Reconsider Plan to Reduce Atlantic Flyway Mallard Limit

Atlantic Flyway waterfowlers are encouraged to join The Duck Hunters Organization in questioning a proposed daily limit of two mallards for the 2019-2020 season

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Atlantic Flyway Council intend to reduce the mallard limit in the Atlantic Flyway to two birds daily, both of which may be hens, for the 2019-2020 season. Delta Waterfowl questions this harsh reduction, and believes a limit of three mallards daily, with only one hen permitted, would be more suitable to hunters and more helpful to recovering mallard numbers.

“Reducing the limit to two mallards daily, but still allowing two hens in the bag, makes absolutely no sense to me,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president and chief scientist of Delta Waterfowl. “We think a three mallard/one hen limit is a vastly more logical solution.”

The move by the USFWS and the Flyway Council is in response to population surveys and other data that indicate breeding mallards in the northeast United States have declined about 20 percent since 1998 (eastern Canada’s mallards are steady to increasing). In recent years, the hunter harvest rate under a four mallard/two hen daily limit has exceeded what USFWS population models suggest is allowable to sustain the breeding population.

The goal of the USFWS/Flyway Council plan is to reduce the eastern mallard harvest rate. Delta Waterfowl believes a limit of three mallards (one hen) daily would better meet the required reduction in harvest rate, particularly due to its emphasis on the vital hen population.

“Clearly our suggestion of one hen mallard per day would further decrease the hen harvest, which is truly what matters most,” Rohwer said. “A three-and-one limit would also help correct the drake-skewed eastern mallard sex ratio — which is believed detrimental to duck production and appears to be getting worse — without unnecessarily punishing hunters with a very restrictive overall bag limit.”


Delta’s suggested limit has proven far more popular with waterfowlers. In May, The Duck Hunters Organization delivered a survey to all Atlantic Flyway members. In it, 63.9 percent of the 1,220 survey participants favored a limit of three mallards/one hen. Only 81 respondents, or 6.6 percent, supported the USFWS/Flyway Council proposal of two mallards/two hens. Another 11.6 percent supported four mallards/two hens for a 30-day season (with 60 days for all other ducks). Surprisingly, 17.9 percent favored a two-mallard limit with one hen.

Armed with the survey data, Delta offered its alternative mallard limit to the USFWS and the Flyway Council, and suggested that harvest analysis be performed. Both have declined.

“The current USFWS administration has demonstrated that it’s pro-hunting, notably by increasing hunter access on national wildlife refuges, and requiring a hunting element in this year’s Federal Duck Stamp contest — both fantastic moves,” Rohwer said. “The USFWS has the smartest migratory bird biologists in the country, and we believe they could’ve easily done a three-and-one limit analysis from the start or could evaluate it before a final decision is made. The reality is the analysis may say a three-and-one limit won’t work. If that’s the case, fine, but it has to be explored.”

If no action is taken, in October the USFWS two-mallard limit will become part of Atlantic Flyway regulatory frameworks for the 2019-2020 season.

“I’m calling on every Delta Waterfowl member and duck hunter in the Atlantic Flyway to contact their state waterfowl biologists and the USFWS,” Rohwer said. “It’s time for you to ask your biologists and administrators the same questions we’ve been asking for months: Why is a two-mallard limit the only proposal on the table, why not analyze a three-and-one mallard limit, and why isn’t everything possible being done to best serve duck hunters while also ensuring the health of eastern mallard populations?”

For more information, contact John Devney, senior vice president, at (701) 471-4235 or

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America. 



  1. Dennis Caruthers June 21, 2018 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    I have hunted ducks for 55 years and hope to never stop until I have a dirt nap. Dr. Rohwer is exactly right with his point of allowing only one hen in the bag. As far as I’m concerned, every effort should be made by the USFWS to stop the harvest of hen mallards and hen pintails. This is exactly why our DNR doesn’t allow the harvest of hen pheasants. I know its tough to identify between the hen and drakes in the early season but unforgivable late.
    Dennis Caruthers

  2. Jim June 21, 2018 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    how about 2 mallards, one hen daily ????? Do you have data that contradicts the AF council decision?

  3. Rich June 21, 2018 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    I’d be much more supportive of a two bird-one hen (or no hen) limit, although a “mistake bird” seems to be warranted. Scientific data suggests the declining population, so what kill three birds daily?

  4. Rex Bowen June 22, 2018 at 10:11 am - Reply

    2 mallards no hens makes more sense.

  5. David Crolick June 23, 2018 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Why is the Canadian mallard population thriving? Let’s find out more on why the New York and Eastern mallards are in trouble. 3 mallards with 1 hen is fine. If we find out different, then maybe more cuts should be implemented.

  6. Roy June 24, 2018 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Biologists have predicted things wrong in the past. I’m fairly certain that they will mess this one up as well. We have a lot of Black Ducks on Elliott’s Island, a place where I’ve hunted since i was 13, I’m now 55. Mallard Ducks ( Drakes out number the hens 6 to 1, The drakes are so agressive, that they actually started inbreeding with the Black Ducks, which has mess there numbers up for years. Reducing the intake of hens ( that lay eggs…& increasing Mallard Drakes, is a no brainer !!!! (3 Birds,only 1 hen) Delta, keep up the GREAT WORK !!!

  7. Jimmy Jackson June 26, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

    I am told only 20Percent of the hens born survive to return the following years so allowing two hens makes no sense.

  8. Edward Fort July 8, 2018 at 10:30 am - Reply

    The reduction of the limit to 2 mallards will be great for SC. Maybe it will put the brakes on this out of control releasing of farm mallards. This act of releasing mallards should be outlawed. Let’s focus on habitat, refuges, and hunter management. Let’s quit contaminating our wild stock with farm raised mallards. And above all, let’s NOT teach our children that this is waterfowling.

  9. Edward Fort July 8, 2018 at 10:50 am - Reply

    One of the reasons for the eastern mallard decline “could be” the releasing of domesticated mallards.. I’m not sure the rest of the flyway knows what is going on here in SC. There is an epidemic of people and organizations making corn impoundments and then releasing tamed mallards.(mostly for profit) The South Carolina Waterfowl Association started this several years back and it has spread like a cancer. Our SC waterfowl heritage has been destroyed along with our wild bird population. The poor children think this is waterfowling. PLEASE, call in to the feds and let them know your concerns about this. Perhaps we have part of the answer to our Eastern Mallard decline. How many mallards raised in chicken houses were released into the wild? We have no idea, thousands and thousands here in SC and increasing yearly. How can we join forces to stop this practice which affects us all on the Atlantic Flyway?

  10. Matt Gross July 22, 2018 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Two mallards allowed with one hen. Limits the urge to pass shoot on unidentifiable ducks. Too many birds are pass shot and wounded and not killed committed to a decoy spread. The rule will keep the duck killers out and allow better hunts and less educated ducks for the duck HUNTERS. I believe true waterfowlers care more about the quality of the hunt and number of birds seen than the amount killed. I’ve seen a decline in all duck numbers around my area for years and we get a lot of hunting pressure around NW PA. Something needs to change

  11. Forrest Simmons November 14, 2018 at 8:53 am - Reply

    I believe that the releasing of mallards in South Carolina is what waterfowl associations should be most concerned about! The 2 man limit would be a great set back for the people that profit off of this. Not only is it educating our uneducated youth the wrong way, we shouldn’t have to kill a bird and wonder if it is wild or not! Think of all of the diseases these farm raised birds are causing that are being dumped right next to wildlife refuges. Not only are they breeding with each other and creating resident mallards with no clipped toe, they are breeding out black ducks. Please help raise awareness!!

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