As waterfowl hunters across the United States excitedly await the heart of a promising fall 2022 migration, let’s look back at the 2021-2022 waterfowl season, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released Migratory Bird Hunting Activity and Harvest Report.
The 75-page report, which breaks down hunter numbers, days afield and species harvest totals state-by-state, contains a wealth of information on waterfowl hunting in the United States. Notably, the number of active waterfowl hunters in 2021-2022 dropped below 1 million for the third time since 2015. After bouncing up to 1.042 million in 2020-2021, the number slipped to 991,200 last season. The number of active waterfowl hunters in the United States was the third-lowest estimated since 1952-1953 when the USFWS began recording the statistic.
Not surprisingly, fewer hunters in the marshes and fields led to a reduced duck harvest. In 2021-2022, U.S. hunters shot a total of 9.46 million ducks, a marked decline from 11.14 million in 2020-2021. Dry conditions across a large swath of the prairie breeding grounds certainly led to fewer ducks in the fall flight last season, and likely contributed to a reduced harvest total.
Hunters shot 2.54 million mallards last season, making the species by far the most commonly taken duck in the United States. Green-winged teal ranked second at 1.45 million, with wood ducks in third at 1.08 million. Blue-winged/cinnamon teal came in next at 841,091, with gadwalls rounding out the Top 5 at 827,555. Ring-necked ducks were the top diving duck species at 365,154 taken, ranking 9th behind (in order) wigeon, shovelers and pintails. Buffleheads finished 10th.
California duck hunters shot 929,800 ducks, edging out Arkansas waterfowlers, who took 915,900 ducks. California waterfowlers averaged a high of 21.1 ducks per hunter, while Arkansas hunters took the most mallards at 389,125. Texas hunters shot the third-most ducks at 694,200, while Louisiana came in next at 614,000. Minnesota filled out the Top 5 with 428,800 ducks.
The total goose harvest declined to 2.65 million last season, down from 2.88 million in 2020-2021. The majority of the goose harvest was Canada geese, with 1.78 million honkers taken last season in the United States. Snow geese were the second-most commonly shot, with 281,785. White-fronted geese were close behind at 234,655.
California hunters shot 229,700 geese, by far the most in any state. North Dakota goose hunters came in second with 162,700 geese taken, followed by Arkansas at 152,200, Michigan with 152,100 and Minnesota at 144,500. Waterfowl hunters in Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas also took more than 100,000 geese last season.
If you’d like to look at the statistics for your state or flyway, the entire report can be found at https://fws.gov/media/migratory-bird-hunting-activity-and-harvest-during-2020-21-and-2021-22-hunting-seasons. — Paul Wait