Friday, December 20, 2013

The Mallards Have Been Found

Mallard shooting has been somewhat skimpy, well maybe not skimpy, but not the numbers we have seen in other years.  Sitting in the blind and staring skyward, many days I would see high fliers winging their way south when riding a strong north wind.  Why should they stop?  With a 30 to 40 mph wind from the north, and they fly almost 30 mph, they are really moving and bypass our fine looking place for a rest.
Ernie is checking out the landscape.

I am going to call my friend Dean in Texas and ask him what he is seeing in the rice fields of Texas.
Sunrise is a sight to see in the early morning.

It was time to do some research.  When talking with old friends, we always remember the days when a good snowfall in South Dakota would push massive flocks down to Nebraska and Iowa along the Missouri River.  The blinds are just 0.5 mile from the river, and we are right in the traffic zone.
Keith with a really big goose.

What is different today from 25 years ago is striking.  I fish northeastern South Dakota, and when I drive up I 29 to  Webster, SD,  the landscape has changed.  While there are more potholes, thanks to government purchases of wetland areas, the farmers now grow corn. Twenty-five years ago this was pasture ground or dry land wheat.  With the new hybrids, the Dakotas can grow corn with a shorter growing period than years ago.  They are matching yields in Nebraska and Iowa which have a longer growing period.   When the corn harvest is completed,  there is always a certain percentage of spillage left in the fields.  This is what is happening. When the farmers harvest in our vicinity, we have the same feeding fields for the waterfowl. Unless there are six inches to a foot of snow on the ground in the Dakotas, the birds do not leave.  There is plenty of open water and the giant reservoirs of South Dakota provide a great place to get a drink and some sand from the North Dakota border to the Nebraska border. 
There goes Jackson after a downed bird.

The one thing we do get is Canada geese and lots of Canada geese.  With limits now moved up to five per day, the group has been having outstanding shooting.  Still, I like the Mallards the best, even though they all eat the same.  It is just that the Mallard is a bigger duck with a bigger breast.
Windy days in the decoys.

The State of South Dakota has published Missouri River Waterfowl Counts (  The count is for November 26th and shows how many ducks are in South Dakota.  The top of the list is the northern most location and each site moves further south. Not shown are the counts of geese.  I assume that the majority of the ducks are Mallards as historically they are the last of the ducks to come.

        1. Upper Oahe                      119,600
        2. Lower Oahe                      272,500
        3. Pierre Area                           3,400
        4. Lake Sharpe                      275,725
        5. Lake Francis Case            124,600
        6. Red Lake                            45,000
        7. Lake Andes                              -
                                   Total                                      840,825

What more can be said?  When the numbers show the massive number of birds up north.  I wonder how many came through already.

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Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck.  Hank


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