CASPER - Duck numbers are up this year by an average of eight percent in key waterfowl nesting areas and goose numbers are about the same as last year which should mean good opportunities in the coming months for Wyoming waterfowl hunters.
Game and Fish Waterfowl Biologist Larry Roberts said counts indicate that numbers are up for Wyoming’s most popular duck species. The increase from 2013 to this year includes a five-percent bump for mallards, 18-percent increase for widgeon, 14 percent for gadwall and more than 10 percent for teal in the traditional nesting areas of Alberta, Montana and the western Dakotas.
“The good water year Wyoming experienced in 2014 in most of the state was also good for resident duck and goose production,” Roberts said. “We did get some cold wet weather during the key nesting period this year, but many of the birds re-nested and we still had good production. In addition to an increase in water in ponds and marsh areas, the good moisture conditions provided improved cover, which was very beneficial to nesting birds.”
Goose hunters should also see good hunting opportunities this year. According to Roberts, goose production is about the same as last year. “There are lots of young birds which is good for hunters,” Roberts said. “Our resident goose production is about average, but there should be good numbers of geese around both for early hunters and later on when the northern marshes freeze up.”
Ice-up in the northern marshes in Canada, the Dakotas and Montana, is still some time away, but resident birds, as well as early migrants like teal, should provide decent hunting opportunities for Wyoming hunters.
“It is difficult to predict the weather a month in advance,” Roberts said. “But the icy water conditions and snows that typically occur in Canada and Montana in November will eventually push the birds our way.”
Another plus of the good water year is that both resident birds and migrating birds are likely to stay in Wyoming longer. Birds tend to stay in Wyoming as long as the state has an abundance of open reservoirs and ponds.
This year the added moisture in the state and improved habitat conditions are giving Wyoming a better chance of keeping resident birds longer and holding migrant birds. “But, the importance of the weather cannot be overlooked,” Roberts said. “The ideal situation for us would be harsh weather and an early freeze-up in the states to the north and Canada and more mild conditions here that would keep the birds in the state once they enter Wyoming.”
In general, the birds are distributed quite well across the state around waterways. Wyoming’s most popular waterfowl hunting areas are the Bighorn Basin and Goshen County. Both are expected to be good again this year.
Seasons vary depending on the flyway and zone, but most hunts for ducks and geese run into early to mid January. Hunters are advised to check the waterfowl regulations for seasons and bag limits for the different zones and the various species they will be hunting. Complete waterfowl regulations are available at Game and Fish license agents and on the Game and Fish website wgfd.wyo.gov.
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)