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Declining # of Waterfowl Hunters

Discussion in 'Chesapeake Flyway Forum' started by Duckin' Lost, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. 7bartman

    7bartman Elite Refuge Member

    Jan 10, 2006
    Hanover/Cambridge, Maryland
    The reasons for the decline are manifold, but I definitely have seen a massive decline in the public marshes of Dorchester. I ride all around the county looking for sika deer and ducks and I don't see the ducks (or any for that matter) that I used to. In the last couple years I've had access to some top notch flooded corn impoundments in Dorchester and I can say I've been totally underwhelmed. I've noticed the same phenomena others have mentioned with the birds leaving impoundments before legal and disappearing to only appear after legal.
    All that being said, I've definitely observed a change in the timing of the migration patterns. I've said it on here before, but I found the black and white video that Pitboss posted of guys shooting cans on the flats with the leaves on the trees very enlightening. It kills me to ride past the devoid marshes of FB December only to see it packed with birds in February. IMO it's not a factor of pressure. I've seen 60+ boats on the opener out of Bestpitch 15 years ago, but we still had birds to shoot. The migration pattern has changed, I think it's time to revisit the archaic rules.
  2. Allan

    Allan Elite Refuge Member

    Jun 7, 2000
    So far it seems to be enough for them to bide there time until the end of January, and that's all that really matters.

    Not only that, every impound is not on Delmarva. Many are North which keeps the birds from getting here (ie. normal migration).

    I don't hate impoundments, I have hunted them and I would not mind building one or more if I find the right place, but I won't be kidding myself as to why duck movements are screwed up. Been doing this too long to think it is anything else in certain areas, and certainly adds to it in others.

    But this isn't the only reason we have fewer ducks in my area in DE. As Scott mentioned, losing Prime Hook, not to mention a decline at Bombay Hook, as well as a decline in the quality of many other state marshes in DE over the years(Logan and Little Creek for instance), results in fewer birds hanging out. Fewer birds, regardless of the limits or "fall flight forecasts" result in fewer hunters each subsequent year. Add more fees and hurdles to jump through each year and I wonder why anyone wonders what is happening to hunter numbers. Pretty obvious to me.
    gone goosin likes this.
  3. wac49

    wac49 Senior Refuge Member

    Jan 2, 2006
    Towson/Trappe, Maryland
    There are lots of reasons for the decline in the number of hunters, many of which have already been cited in this thread. I think another factor is the way some of the public areas are managed. It is pretty hard if you are new to it for people to figure our how the whole thing works. Too many fixed blind sites, blind site that are boat access only, and parts of the areas closed to hunting where the birds have no pressure to move. For example, toward the end of the season this year, I visited the Assawoman Wildlife area near South Bethany Beach, DE on a Sunday. The only waterfowl hunting allowed there is from fixed blind sites on the perimeter of the area. Unfortunately, thousand of ducks were loafing on the ponds in the internal areas that you can't hunt.
    I also think the impoundments have had a great impact. In the areas I hunt, he birds have abandoned the marshes and creeks for the most part and sit on impoundments where there is plenty of food and not really much pressure as they don't get hunted that often in some cases.
    I think it is all about access to areas that have ducks. We can recruit all the kids we want to go ducking with us but if they sit in a blind all day and don't have many opportunities they won't be back.
  4. eyeonyou

    eyeonyou Elite Refuge Member

    Jan 18, 2005
    maryland's eastern shore
    Agree nature has been the best mother for all species, substitutes have been added and sometimes better, sometimes not. Not saying I totally agree or disagree with the way things are, but they are legal and so are the methods.
    Im a Republican and I don't agree that nature intended for a person to collect welfare for their entire life, nor do I agree that becoming a politician be a lifetime career either.
    Fact of the matter is some have, others do not and usually those who don't expect those that do to pay for all and that aint right either.
    While looking at the graph showing the decline in number of hunters just from 1980's to present I started thinking of how many other things have changed that could also effect those numbers. I know during the 80's I was looking at High school graduation, but locally sports were nothing like local sports of today. We had baseball and football and wrestling. Today lacrosse, ice hockey and soccer are other options to keep young kids busy. Modern technology, like computers and all the addictive time consuming activities for kids that come along with that. Add both parents with full time jobs that keep them from having one on one time with kids. We always had family supper at the table, now seems to be a grab and go from a fast food place between sporting events or practices. I think a lot of kids/teens don't have the interest that we all did because they have way more options to occupy their time. I remember carrying my 410 on the school bus and have the driver hold for me until school was out so that I could go squirrel hunting after school. I would be curious as to how much the decline is in the number of squirrel hunters is, let alone the number of school bus drivers who would let you bring a gun with you to the bus stop, lol. I think while there are certainly younger hunters out there but nowhere near the interest in hunting in general let alone in waterfowl hunting that once existed. There is always the loss of the older generations who have gone on that too adds to this decrease in numbers. There are more factors to this then we probably realize but it sure doesn't seem like it when we are afield, atleast here locally.
  5. carolina girl

    carolina girl Elite Refuge Member

    Jan 17, 2008
    How about he increase in deer. There weren't many deer when I was young, not like it is now anyway. So, I think you had far more water fowlers because there was more waterfowl. Id be interested in seeing if there's an actual decline or just a transition to different game?
  6. drahthaarducker

    drahthaarducker Elite Refuge Member

    Mar 20, 2006
    somewhere in Cali
    I've lost my "Passion" for the sport as well.
    My plan is to move to the Pacific Flyway and start work around 7/24/17.
    If the hunting isn't any better there I can find other things to do.
    Alan is (IMO) 100% spot on with his assessment of the effects Impoundments on Delmarva.
    I've seen Tudor Farms in daylight without a single bird in site.
  7. Montauker

    Montauker Elite Refuge Member

    Dec 1, 2005
    Virginia/Montauk NY
    Regarding impoundments, I agree with all stated thus far. However, I hunted next to a big one down in Dorchester for a few years. They seemed to have a different pattern. They got consistent flights of birds all morning with a heavy dose around 8am and 9am. The birds would fly about 3 miles from the bay or come from Blackwater about 5-6 miles away. Everyday, same pattern, September - Spring. They had a decent evening flight but the heaviest was typically that morning flight. The birds would typically loaf on open water 200-400 yrds away during the morning/day.

    So the question is what can be done? Moving the season into Feb. would be a huge uphill federal level battle. Similarly designating flooded standing corn as baiting would also be a huge uphill battle, but probably best fought at the federal level rather than in the state.
  8. eyeonyou

    eyeonyou Elite Refuge Member

    Jan 18, 2005
    maryland's eastern shore
    Standing corn, milo etc does indeed provide a food source to waterfowl. Corn also eaten by deer both whitetail and sika. Milo can be consumed by massive flocks of blackbirds in a matter of days. Full moon nights can allow geese the opportunity to clean out corn ponds as well. I have witnessed ducks come to corn ponds that were baited with milo (not planted but poured from a bag) the ducks will go to grain on the bottom before "working to strip it off the cob, simply because its easier. Moist soil impoundments hold ducks as well, smartweed, nutsedge etc... provides and excellent source plus invertebrates are also prime food for ducks. So to say "we need to have corn ponds classified as a baited area IMO is not a correct or accurate accounting of what baiting is.
    Years ago I remember hearing waterfowl hunting is a rich mans sport. Ofcourse at that time the reference was about folks who paid big money for the best marshes and the ones who complained were those who were not in position to compete physically or financialy. Nothing has really changed in that regard, we are still hearing the same end complaint, they have and we don't. I do believe that any habitat enhancement be it moist soil or plant and flood impoundments absolutely provide food, loafing and roosing areas for waterfowl. Yes 50 years ago those areas were the salt marshes but today better habitat is available as are mud motors and other tools that make accessing those back water slews more accessible which allow disturbance of traditional loafing areas. So if the ducks are becoming acclimated to loafing in impoundments vs backwater marshes should we be looking to other reasons as to why that may be. Not saying this is the only reason they are not there. If were able to go to a good restaurant that severe good food and great atmosphere with less effort, cost or fear of being shot or harassed by local hoodlums what would we choose?
    I think more is being made of the" impoundments are ruining waterfowl hunting and the decline in number of hunters" then is the truth. It is a complex issue and blame cannot be laid on these areas.
  9. Scotty

    Scotty Elite Refuge Member

    Jul 9, 2002
    Salisbury, MD
    That would kill Missouri lol.
    And, you would almost have to outlaw hunting rice fields and any other flooded crops. Tha would destroy waterfowling in many many states.
  10. Smackdown 870

    Smackdown 870 Elite Refuge Member

    Sep 4, 2002
    While I think that there is several points on here that are all valid but overall I think there are many factors…

    • The older you get the less likely a person is to want to get into waist deep mud….

    • Kids now are different than the generations of old…..I think they are more lazy.. don’t want to get out of bed

    • Parents don’t have as much time to teach them how to

    • Kids have too many other things pulling at them.. Facebook, Video games, Smartphones

    • Add in all the other factors that have been talked about….

    I am 42yrs old…my hunting partner is my 71yr old father and has been since the age of five. The first 17yrs of my hunting life I grew up on one of the best hunting spots on Delmarva. I remember seeing old timers wearing green work clothes out to the blind. I remember growing up in a marsh where if you could not call ducks…you were pretty much SOL.

    • I watched my father start painting decoys full body goose decoys in the end of July and would finish with a full spread of Cork handmade decoys in late September.

    • Would lace handmade switchgrass mats by hand for blinds. There was no fence.. just bailing twine and grass

    • Would walk out on the ice with a chainsaw and cut a pothole to hunt the next day

    • Reload his own shells

    I feel privileged that I grew up in the time of “old time waterfowlers”. Most of them lived the “true” waterfowl lifestyle.

    I feel privileged that I grew up in a family of pretty good waterfowlers… I hope that I would be considered one

    Thinking back to when I was 5+I don’t see kids now a days with that kinda love and passion that I had when I was young… the sleepless nights before opening day… Studying waterfowl books to know all the different ducks and what they ate and where they were found..ect. I carved my first cork decoy at the age of 17.

    Things have changed a lot since I started doing this back in 1982…….I don’t lose sleep before opening day……I do lose a little sleep over 20degree days with 30mph winds and a hint of snow… I get a little frustrated over the lack of birds and having to put up with Donkeys at boat ramps…but the part I love the most is seeing my 5yr old study the Mack’s prairie wing book, ask to get into my duck boat so he can try to pick up the decoys, and the small things like that.

    I would love to give many of the kids nowadays a pushpole and have them show me how to use it…..

    I will say that being a father of a 5yr old that is showing that he has the interest in it… I could only hope that I can teach him all that my Dad taught me and that he follows to be the third generation to learn the craft.

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