By Paul Wait
Every waterfowl season begins with renewed optimism of swarms of decoying ducks and geese, the camaraderie of sharing the blind with friends and family, enjoying excellent shots at working birds and perfect retrieves. Memories are made, moments cherished.
But now, it’s over. Sure, a few states offer extended goose seasons, and the light goose conservation will ramp up, but duck season 2016-17 officially ended yesterday. Many hunters are already experiencing withdrawal symptoms, albeit while dreaming about and making grand plans for next season.
We asked Delta Waterfowl employees from throughout North America to rate their duck seasons from 1 to 10 and briefly explain the rating they chose. Most had very good to excellent seasons, as you can read below. We want you to weigh in. How would you rate the 2016-17 waterfowl season? Please tell us in the comments where you hunted and the reason for your ranking.
T.J. Mallette, Development Director, Mississippi
It was a great season. The combination of cold weather and ducks made the hunting in the south a 10.
Jim Fisher, Director of Conservation Policy, Manitoba
I hunted in Manitoba and give the season an 8, as it was not quite as good as past five years, but still saw plenty of birds and spent a lot of time afield. The teal shooting continued to be fantastic where we found shallow flooded areas and capped the season with a few great bluebill shoots.
Kyle Wintersteen, Managing Editor, Pennsylvania
Unseasonably warm weather proved a challenge for much of my season, with the exception of two weeks in December and about 10 days in January. During those periods, ice concentrated mallards and black ducks on creeks and river systems, and the hunting was exceptional. However, ample open water promptly returned, leaving me with plenty of leftover shotshells. Rating: 5
Joel Brice, Vice President of Waterfowl & Hunter Recruitment Programs, North Dakota
I hunted exclusively in North Dakota. Season score: 10. Why? Every season is a 10 when you’re a “half-full” hunter. Plus, my young kids (ages 10 and 7) have taken a very strong interest in hunting. The outlook is bright!
Paul Wait, Editor & Publisher, Wisconsin
A very wet August and September spread out local ducks in Wisconsin, making early-season hunting difficult. The migration of diving ducks through big waters such as Green Bay and the Mississippi River was drawn out by unseasonably warm temps in October and November. Mallards finally showed up in numbers at the end of the season, providing a good finish. Overall, I’d rate the season a 6.
Cooper Huff, Regional Events Director, Mississippi/Alabama/Florida
I hunted in Mississippi, and would rate it a 5. We had some great hunts early in the year. As the season pushed on, it became harder to find new ducks. Numbers were down across the board for second year in a row. Had the opportunity to hunt with a good bit of old and new friends this year! Have great stories that will be passed on for years. Any day in the blind sure beats a day behind a desk!
John Devney, Vice President of U.S. Policy, North Dakota
Duck season in North Dakota I think fell below expectations primarily because of very dry conditions close to home and an incredibly mild fall. Those conditions coupled with the heavy rains in prairie Canada, certainly provided the ducks and geese up there all they needed up there and provided little motivation to push down. That being said, we still had a number of memorable hunts, especially as I had my new puppy Taig in the blind with me this fall for his first season.
Terry Thomas, Regional Events Director, Illinois/Indiana
I hunted in Central Illinois. I’d say a 7, although we didn’t get birds until the last 10 days or so. Not as many greenheads but shot a very nice mixed bag of birds.
Jeffrey Howell, Vice President of Development – Individual & Major Gifts, Tennessee
Season has been a fantastic: I’d rate it an 8 to 9 for a lot of places I was fortunate to hunt (some places would argue 10) here in East Arkansas and Mississippi Delta where we had water and food. Lack of rain for two months before season concentrated the ducks more but on flip side, public WMAs suffered early because of lack of rain, so maybe a 4 there. Unique year because of rain and none of the rivers came out the banks here the entire season, which is rare. More ducks than we’ve seen in years. With duck populations at or near record highs and a forecasted wet spring season on prairies we hope for a great 2017-18 season.
Ty Jean, Regional Events Director, Arkansas/Oklahoma
Hunted Southwest Arkansas. Other than on a couple of occasions, we just didn’t seem to get the big pushes of ducks. Rating 3.5.
Bryce Seefeldt, Corporate Partnership Director, North Dakota
My season in North Dakota started off great with a lot of local birds in the area. Typical slowing toward mid-season with a very good push of late season birds that pushed through before freeze-up. If you were hunting during the peak migration, scouting paid great dividends. Overall rating 7.5.
Garrett Trentham, Regional Events Director, Missouri/Kansas
Region: Missouri and surrounding states. Season Rating: 7. The regular duck season was slow to get off its feet with our first true fall cold fronts not arriving until mid-December. Almost immediately thereafter, we entered a roller coaster freeze-thaw pattern that persisted until the end of the season with thaw days being consistently productive. I had the opportunity to share time afield with a wide array of waterfowers and Delta Waterfowl volunteers, which made this one of the more memorable seasons I can recall. I’m looking forward to next fall already!