The main reason several guys go together and spend a lot of time and money to buy, develop and manage a piece of duck hunting property is so they’ll have their own duck hunting place. It’s a yearlong job but a labor of love.
Many things can thwart a promising duck season: weather patterns, migration irregularities, competition from nearby waterfowl habitat. But whether or not the Duck Gods favor you in the fall, the habitat you develop will be valuable to the birds on their long, dangerous journey north in the spring.
This video was shot in Bates County, MO after an early spring thaw. Most of these birds are probably mallards with a sprinkling of pintail, gadwall, widgeon and teal. They are enjoying this little 185 acre parcel of wetland habitat as a resting and feeding stop-over on the way north to their breeding grounds in the prairie pothole regions of the northern United States and Canada.
This little 185 acre parcel of marsh and woodland not only benefits ducks. Canada geese nest here every year. Snipe, herons and other shore birds frequent it year-round. White tail deer, raccoons, possums, turkeys, bobcats and countless songbirds make frequent use of it.
Want to help conserve wetland habitat? Even if you don’t hunt, buy a federal duck stamp.They’re available for $25 every fall from your local post office. And support Ducks Unlimited http://www.ducks.org .
The Lone Oak Duck Club is an L-shaped tract of land in Bates County, Missouri. As the duck flies it’s roughly three miles northwest of the Four Rivers Waterfowl Management area. It was founded in 1979. I know because I was one of the founders.
“Duck Club” sounds like a fancy place where rich guys hunt. This duck club is nothing like that. Our “club house” used to be an ancient trailer with mushrooms growing out of the damp carpet. We shared the place with mice and the occasional blacksnake. We kidded ourselves into thinking we managed the water level but the beavers and Mother Nature had the last say on everything. Later we built a little five-bedroom cabin with two johns. It still wasn’t fancy but it was a definite upgrade from the leaky old trailer.
Actually one guy who knew what he was doing built it and the rest of us tried to stay out of his way.
Like all duck hunting places we had good seasons and not-so-good seasons. Thankfully, this past summer the food at Four Rivers was destroyed by high water so the ducks can’t sit on the refuge all day, cashing their welfare checks for flooded corn and smartweed. They have to get out and fly around like normal ducks, so this season is showing some promise. I bugged out a couple of years ago when the hard part of hunting started out-weighing the fun part. So I’m not there to enjoy it in person now, but I’m keeping up with the action thanks to Jay Lang and his son Chuck’s photography.
Now if they’d just overnight me a big, tasty mallard…
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.