The flood of 2019 may not have broken any records but its impact will not soon be forgotten to hunters. With areas on both sides of the river still inaccessible, many public and private land hunters will be putting in extra work for a successful season. The most affected hunters will be waterfowlers.
The Mississippi Flyway, one of the most notoriously productive migration routes, has taken a hit this year thanks to near-record flood damage. Although hatch reports from Delta Waterfowl’s breeding population survey show mallard populations continuing to rise, these ducks may be taking different routes to the south because the flood waters have left behind little food and cover.
In bottomlands near the river, public and private lands have been left largely uncultivated because the height and duration of flood waters this spring. Numerous levee breaks along the Mississippi have left previously controlled areas forcefully flooded and covered in sediment and debris. The result is thousands of yards of dirt between the river and the nearest food source which will cause migrators to move through the affected area rapidly, if they stop at all.
With the flyway impacted, birds could detour as far as Carlyle Lake to find food. Hunters should anticipate a concentrated migration window and capitalize on it by monitoring weather in the northern states. When it’s time for the ducks to move south, there is a good chance they are going to come hard and fast then pass through before you can get your waders on.
Hunting grounds impacted
The ducks may have trouble finding food, but hunters may have trouble finding their blinds! The washout may have completely washed away or destroyed blinds beyond repair and much of the natural brush cover could be gone as well. Many public hunting locations have suffered extensive damage due to exterior levee breaks and because of this, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) was forced to remove their pumps in certain locations, leaving water levels in the hands of Mother Nature.
As a result, the MDC is considering opening up areas that were previously reserved or morning draw locations. Gary Calvert, MDC wildlife management biologist for the Elsberry District of the St. Louis Region says, “It’s not going to be a normal waterfowl season, that’s for sure. Infrastructure has been destroyed, as well as natural habitat and cover, so there are a lot of unknowns.” Hunters will have to work much harder to find success this season.
But don’t give up hope! Hunters/conservationists have made some last-ditch efforts for vegetation by planting millet wherever possible. With reports of lush growth, this could spur some great early season duck hunts. Another early season bonus could be goose hunting. The region has large numbers of resident geese hanging around for opening day which could make it possible for hunters to hit those early season Canada Goose limits.
The 2019 waterfowl season will be what you make of it. Here are a few tips for a successful hunt:
- If you’re lucky enough to get corn planted in time and are able to control water, you may be in for a hot season.
- Prepare to deviate from your normal spots and be willing to hunt in new areas.
- Call ahead to outfitters, bait shops, hotels and outdoor stores located near public land and ask if duck hunters are coming in, buying shells or seeing ducks. The majority of the time, they will give out insider information.
- Find a public spot or knock on doors and ask for permission to access private property.
This season may be more work but that’s why they call it huntin’ and not shootin’.
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