Some hopes for waterfowling's current state and future
Duck season rolls on in many parts of the country, but the advent of a new year makes folks pause and reflect a bit. Everyone wishes for standard stuff, of course, but waterfowlers often have a specialized list. I'm no different, so here's a rundown of my hopes for another trip around the sun.
I always hope for rain in the prairie pothole region, which produces most of North America's ducks, especially in these days of mounting habitat challenges for many waterfowl species. Abundant moisture leads to strong production, which results in long seasons and high limits, but it's more than that. Knowing the birds we pursue are in good shape long-term just makes me feel better.
Of course, Ma Nature cannot grant this every year. Droughts have forever been part of nature's cycle, especially in the prairies, so I also hope for understanding and perseverance when dry conditions inevitably return. Those cycles actually help rejuvenate many wetlands and boost habitat for the future.
No one wants more boats at their local landing. I sure don't. But we should strive to increase overall duck hunter numbers. Basically, there are about half as many of us as there were in 1970. Many of us are aging out of active hunting, and we're not replacing ourselves adequately.
Fewer duck hunters results in fewer dollars for waterfowl and wetlands conservation, and greatly reduced clout at the conservation table. Robust waterfowler ranks pump money into our beloved natural resources and allow a greater voice in important conservation decisions. So take a kid. Take a buddy. Heck, take a stranger. Help us stay relevant and influential in the coming decades.
I'll also wish for fewer shouting matches and harsh feelings afield. Many hunters have embraced the trend of working together, whether that means joining forces when two groups have permission at the same field or teaming up to find a good timber hole at a crowded WMA. However, people being people, we continue to see bad blood and crummy behavior in some crowded situations.
Take a breath. It's just duck hunting. That guy who's in your spot is just like you — someone who wants to enjoy a morning outdoors and get a few birds. Make an effort to be civil rather than competitive, and encourage others to do the same. We're a small group, so we need to stick together.
Most of us appreciate and admire modern technology, especially with shotguns and shotshells. It's made the process of killing ducks more efficient. But it has not given us superpowers.
Can you kill ducks at longer ranges nowadays? Certainly. But you cannot consistently make clean kills at ridiculous ranges, and unfortunately, I see guys try that every season.
Know your effective range. Pattern your gun, choke and load, and learn how to judge distance. And when you question the viability of a shot, don't be afraid to hold off.
Remember, some of the ducks you miss at long ranges are in fact hit but not immediately mortally wounded. When in doubt, wait for one more pass until you can cleanly fold them in the decoys. Really, if a bird is so far that you question the shot, you didn't win the game. And if you wing it or put a BB in its chest only to watch it fly away, you've really lost.
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