This is something I’ve been harping on for decades, often with tons of push back from folks who refused to see what was coming. The annual Texas Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey is the gold standard for how successful our waterfowl hunting seasons should be. By this point of each season pretty much all of the birds that are going to be here are here and typically any late migration flights that come down due to harsh weather up north are offset by us losing birds that fly into Mexico because of the combination of cold and poor habitat conditions. Starting with geese, back in 2000 we had 1,000,000 light geese, 330,000 white-fronted geese and 75,000 Canada geese. But the 2018 survey that has just been conducted only found 191,000 light geese, 17,000 white-fronted geese and no Canada geese. In all we have lost 90% of the geese that once wintered here. Ducks fared no better with 3,030,000 birds compared with 6,120,000, a loss of 50% from last year. The coastal region which traditionally held the most ducks had just 521,000 birds, 76% fewer than last year and only a third of the 22-year average. Statewide mallards were down to 366,000, an all-time low and only half of the 22-year average. Redheads, normally at 251,000 dropped to 43,500. But the number of hunters on public land continued to set records. Many did well depending on the location and weather, but the East Texas public hunting areas had poor success. Hunters blame the increased acreage of rice and/or corn being grown in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas or Missouri and that certainly is a factor, but of more importance is the dramatic loss of wetland habitat here in Texas. Waterfowl will gravitate to areas that have plenty of food, water and places where they aren’t constantly being disturbed from heavy hunting pressure or development. Rice, once an important food for waterfowl is far less of a draw today here in Texas. Our rice production is down over 70%, mainly due to the high cost of irrigation water and the fact that the farmers can’t always depend on getting water in many areas of the state. Even so, it used to be that the harvesting of fields left significant amounts of waste grain being left on the ground. But improved strains of rice and the newer, more efficient, combines have resulted in very little rice left in the fields.