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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-23-2019, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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Mallard Limit

Thought this article touched on many of the effects of the 2 bird limit.

https://www.outdoorlife.com/atlantic...zDYyrinnVjg2xw



HUNTING
Mallard Limit Cut to 2 in the Atlantic Flyway. Will Duck Hunters Stay Home?
The Eastern mallard population is on a long decline, but will reducing limits also reduce hunting participation?

By Ryan Chelius
August 20, 2019


A hen and drake mallard in flight at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania.Ron Holmes / USFWS

The days of a heavy four-mallard duck strap are over in the Atlantic Flyway. This fall, hunters will be restricted to just two mallards per day, no more than one of which may be a hen.

Proposed last year, the reduced limits go into effect this season. The changes cut last year’s mallard bag limit in half. But why the big drop?

In short, the Eastern mallard breeding population is declining. The USFWS released its annual Waterfowl Population Status Report yesterday, and while it shows duck numbers are fairly stable from 2018 to 2019 and up 19 percent overall, that Eastern population is trending downward. Mallard numbers have dropped 36 percent from 1998 through 2018 in the northeastern United States, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Harvest data for the same period is even more dramatic, with a 45 percent reduction in Atlantic Flyway mallards taken by hunters. You can find the full report here and a handy chart from Ducks Unlimited here.

Meanwhile, researchers aren’t really sure what’s causing the decline. As hunters prepare for this limit adjustment, they’re left wondering how this will affect the future of hunting in the Atlantic Flyway.

The Reason Behind the Regs
Were the previous 4-mallard limits too liberal? Were hunters crashing the population? Not necessarily.

“In most cases, species that reproduce quickly—like mallards—are not affected by hunting,” says Dr. Michael Schummer, a waterfowl ecologist at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “But when carrying capacity declines, a compromise has to be made somewhere. If the past has taught us anything, it’s that the resource always comes first, and the hunter second.”

As a result, biologists have adjusted the limits to align with sustainable population models, Schummer says. "Given all the data biologists have and the population models they are using, biologists believe [the reduction] should help stabilize the population."

Although the causes of the decline aren't fully understood, biologists hypothesize that reduced winter feeding grounds and declining habitat are contributing to the problem. Schummer thinks a shift in migration patterns over the years is partly to blame for declining harvest rates. The eastern Canada breeding population of mallards has remained stable over time, it’s the Eastern U.S. breeding population of mallards that’s cause for concern, according to USFWS surveys.


Biologists suspect that reduced winter feeding grounds and declining habitat might be contributing to the decline in
Eastern mallards.George Gentry / USFWS

“The frequency of mild winters is increasing and birds are hanging farther north,” he says. “These birds will generally stay as far north as they can, and that's based on temperature…and the freeze line. Those two things combined are the real drivers of birds going south.”

Hunters are seeing these declines in the field. Paul Castelli chases ducks near his home in South Jersey, but also travels the Atlantic Flyway, and has seen this decline first hand.

“After 2010, I started seeing fewer and fewer birds in my best mallard hunting spots,” says Castelli, who has been hunting the flyway for 45 years. “Last year was the first year I didn’t shoot a mallard on opening day that I can remember.”

Hunter Impact
Some players are worried this reduced bag limit will deter waterfowlers, resulting in fewer hunting license and duck stamp sales. In an age where hunter numbers are already low, a significant decline in license revenue would mean an even greater loss in conservation dollars. In all likelihood, reducing the bag limit won't do any favors for hunter retainment efforts.

“Mallard harvest is an important factor to waterfowl hunters in a number of Atlantic Flyway states,” says Craig LeSchack, acting chief conservation officer of Ducks Unlimited. “And this will dampen the enthusiasm for some hunters who historically target mallards as their primary quarry.”

Duck hunters enjoy the experience—setting decoys, working their dogs, spending time with friends and family—but some hunters will question whether two greenheads is worth all the work that goes into a day on the marsh. Some may choose to stay home, while others may travel to other flyways in search of larger limits. Any time a game law is altered, there’s typically some push back; those who oppose the reduction believe that shooting a third and fourth bird won’t impact the overall population.

“New limits are difficult for hunters to accept, particularly since factors contributing to the mallard decline are currently poorly understood,” LeSchack says. The USFWS and Atlantic Flyway Council considered shortening seasons, but hunters indicated they preferred more days afield rather than a shorter season with larger limits.

“I would prefer that mallards were abundant enough that I could shoot more of them, but it’s more important to me as a sportsman that we do the right thing and take the correct amount of mallards so that they don’t decline further and can even rebound in the future,” Castelli says. “But the limit reduction was one of the factors that contributed to us planning to go to Saskatchewan this season. The place I usually travel to for early-season mallards in New York has been in decline, and the opportunity to go somewhere else came up.”

If more mallards don't migrate through the Atlantic Flyway in the future, more duck hunters like Castelli might be migrating to new hunting grounds each fall.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-27-2019, 10:01 PM
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No since most of my harvest is made up of black ducks (2) gadflies (2 to ?) pintails (1 or 2) then you can throw in teal widgon mallards blue bulls cans and redheads. It’s been a while since I shot a limit of mallards think 08 or 09 time frame. Plus a woodie or 2
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-31-2019, 09:26 PM
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Guaranteed I wont see any reduction of hunter numbers LOL

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My spot I expect the same
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-02-2019, 07:25 AM
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So hunting does not affect mallard populations but they choose the reduce the limit by 50% when it is hunters that contribute the most dollars to waterfowl research and conservation................
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-02-2019, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by dpms View Post
So hunting does not affect mallard populations but they choose the reduce the limit by 50% when it is hunters that contribute the most dollars to waterfowl research and conservation................
Good point. I wonder how many decisions like this are made so the "decision makers" can say they did something.

BTW the area I hunt is / was loaded with mallards all summer. I seldom see any other species in the area except for early teal, some woodies and buffies which I don't shoot. Cutting the mallard limit may turn me into an archery hunter. Its just not worth going through all the prep and trouble for what could be two quick shots.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-03-2019, 12:16 PM
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I'll still target Mallards at 2 birds. It's really not that big of a deal. I'm a terrible ducks and goose hunter and don't limit every time anyhow so on the bright side maybe I'll get a 'limit' a little more than I accustomed too haha.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-04-2019, 04:56 AM
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Have only seen a handful of mallards this spring/summer along my property. Whereas last year there was piles of them. Could be coincidence for sure as I've seen big numbers over the last few "declining" years.

Outsiders call us sadists or masochists; sometimes both. Others, mostly ourselves, describe our activities in romantic, even heroic, terms. We take ourselves very seriously and tend to forget that much of duck and goose hunting is fun and sometimes ridiculous.

The perils of duck hunting are great, especially for the duck.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2019, 12:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dpms View Post
So hunting does not affect mallard populations but they choose the reduce the limit by 50%
Just like the late Grouse season. Late season barely impacts the population, but they (PGC) closed it to make themselves feel better.

Sounds like both mallards and grouse would benefit from habitat creation/preservation more than season/limit modifications.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2019, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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Eastern Survey Area Reveals Mixed Results



The Waterfowl Population Status Report’s eastern survey area is a key fall-flight indicator for Atlantic Flyway waterfowlers. Conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service since 1990, the eastern survey provides estimates for the six most abundant breeding ducks across the eastern United States and Canada.

Key species increased over 2018, including an East Coast icon: Black ducks are up 5 percent to 729,000, but remain 16 percent below the long-term average.

“Certainly that’s welcome news for black ducks,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, president of Delta Waterfowl. “I expect the daily limit of two black ducks to continue in the United States for the 2020-2021 season.”



Ring-necked ducks climbed 10 percent to 694,000, which is equal to the long-term average, and goldeneyes rose 5 percent to 516,000, 13 percent below the long-term average. A survey of wood ducks from New Hampshire south to Virginia estimated 399,100 birds, a slight increase over 2018, and slightly above the long-term average.

Overall, eastern mallards declined 2 percent to 1.05 million, which is 16 percent below the long-term average. However, mallards breeding in the northeastern U.S. (New Hampshire to Virginia) — the downward-trending population that led to reduced Atlantic Flyway bag limits for the 2019-2020 season — are up 17 percent to 565,000 birds. Although mallards in the northeastern U.S. remain 19 percent below the long-term average, it’s the second straight year the population has increased.

“To me, the increase among northeastern U.S. mallards is the best news in the survey, though I don’t see bag limits increasing anytime soon,” Rohwer said. “The eastern mallard issue isn’t going away.”

In partnership with Dr. Mike Schummer of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Delta Waterfowl is currently studying stable isotopes in the flight feathers of mallards shot in the Atlantic Flyway, in order to zero in on their most critical breeding areas.

“Biologists know so much more about prairie mallards than those that breed in the East,” Rohwer said. “Delta hopes to change that, and in turn, get eastern mallards back on track.”

Green-winged teal also declined, down 11 percent to 303,000, 19 below the long-term average. A decrease in eastern greenwings is more noteworthy given the flyway’s multi-stock harvest system, established last year.

“The Atlantic Flyway sets season lengths and bag limits based on a multi-stock system using the aggregate populations of green-winged teal, ring-necked ducks, goldeneyes and wood ducks,” Rohwer noted. “Of these, only greenwings declined a bit, so I’m confident the Atlantic Flyway will again enjoy liberal harvest regulations. But remember, mallard and black duck limits are now considered independently.”

Rounding out the survey, mergansers declined 3 percent to 643,000, 4 percent above the long-term average.

According to USFWS pilot-biologists, waterfowl production conditions in the East were good to excellent in the southern portion of the survey and poorer farther north. The breeding habitat across much of the eastern survey area was similar to or improved over 2018.

“The reports suggest duck production should be pretty good in the East,” Rohwer said. “I’m optimistic that hunters will have a decent fall flight.”

https://deltawaterfowl.org/eastern-s...201nmMPD83t0kY

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