Do ducks exist in Missouri? You bet…but you probably won’t see them. With over 90,000 ducks at Four Rivers Waterfowl Management Area and another 90,000 loafing at Schell Osage we should be covered up with waterfowl. Oh sure, they’re “stale ducks”, birds that have been here a long time and know where not to go. But in my opinion that’s only part of the problem.
I’ve hunted in Bates County, MO since the 1970’s and I know for a fact that our hunting was better in the 80s, the low point in the continental waterfowl population. In those days the refuge areas were loafing areas and the birds flew out to feed in grain fields twice a day. We used to see ducks coming into our decoys at mid-morning with mud caked on their feet from feeding in grain fields. Now we’re lucky to see a duck. Period. Grain planted on the refuge areas makes it possible for the birds to loaf all day, then fly a few yards to feed on government corn, then fly back to their loafing areas without ever encountering a duck hunter. They are waterfowl welfare recipients.
Our best hunting occurs in seasons when early floods destroy the food on Four Rivers and Schell Osage and the birds resume their normal patterns. We waterfowl habitat owners bust our butts all year long creating duck habitat that’s ignored come duck season.
Waterfowl conservation is important. We are all members of Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl. But area managers need to start managing their habitat for hunters as well as waterfowl or funds from licenses and contributions will eventually dry up. It’s hard to get a youngster interested in duck hunting when he sits in a blind for three hours staring at a blank sky.