Up the Creek: Waterfowl
By Ken Blomberg
As we speak, the majority of Wisconsin’s waterfowl are floating on open water ponds, lakes and marshes in southern states – waiting for the snow line to recede and lakes to shed their ice.
They’ll work their way north by the end of the month and once again the cycle of life will continue, albeit at nature’s pace. However, men and women with waterfowl and wetland addictions cannot wait patiently.
That is why this Saturday many folks so inclined will gather at the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids for this year’s annual Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Conference. The WWHC was designed, developed and managed by a committee of independent waterfowl hunters. It is supported by individuals, conservation organizations and government agencies. The agenda this year includes everything from dog training to small scale wetland management, UWSP’s wood duck study, DNR’s waterfowl management plan and the impact of hunting on mallard and wood duck populations. For more information contact conference chairman Bob Landerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And while waiting patiently for spring, duck hunters and waterfowl enthusiasts gathered last month at the Mead Wildlife Area’s Education Center for an update on the special hunting regulations in place at the Mead since 2010. Attendees filling the meeting room learned about last spring’s unusual April snowstorm’s resulting in poor brood production and late hatches – resulting in observations of broods in mid-June. In August, crews banded 608 mallards and 84 wood ducks. Despite poor locally produced waterfowl numbers, fall flight counts on the Mead in September, October and November were strong as northern flight birds stopped and used this important waterfowl refuge area on their way south. Opening day hunter numbers dropped this past year as a result of the north and south openers occurring on the same day.
And the long wait for spring also has Wisconsin waterfowl hunters and enthusiasts asking the Governor and our Legislature to consider raising the price of the current $7 Wisconsin Waterfowl Stamp. The price of the stamp has not increased in over 20 years and stamp revenues have continued to decline annually – while the need for wetlands conservation funding in Wisconsin has continued to increase. Each year 100% of funding generated from the sale of state waterfowl stamps is used for the management and improvement of wetlands and grassland nesting habitat in Wisconsin.
According to supporters of “Give Ducks a Raise” petition drive, the USEPA has stated “Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs. More than providing fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands improve water quality, store floodwaters, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, and enhance public enjoyment of outdoor recreation opportunities.” A petition drive is currently underway, asking support for “Giving our Ducks a Raise” – https://www.change.org/p/give-our-ducks-a-raise-support-increasing-the-price-of-wisconsin-s-waterfowl-stamp-to-benefit-wetlands-conservation.
Waterfowl migrating north on my mind. What’s on yours?