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I received this from the Tennessee Wildlife Federation Blue Ribbon Waterfowl Panel. Pretty interesting.

BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
Research shows mallards are not falling prey to hunters' tactics

Sunday, February 18, 2007

By Bob Marshall

This just in: Ducks are smarter than hunters.

That's the major headline developing after a two-year study by two LSU graduate students on the movements of mallards wintering in Louisiana.

Although many waterfowlers have complained that the recent string of poor seasons was because of factors beyond their control -- a paucity of ducks, a change to nocturnal habits by the birds and the safe heavens provided by state and federal refuges being off-limits to hunting -- preliminary results from research by Bruce Davis and Paul Link revealed something else.

Mallards, at least, have been around in basically the same numbers, have been using open lands instead of refuges and have been traveling during hours. They just aren't falling for hunters' tricks.

"Many times we would track birds to sites right next to hunters set up in blinds with (decoy) spreads including spinning wing decoys, and the hunters never knew they were there," Link said. "The birds just weren't falling for whatever the hunters were trying."

Working under the direction of LSU professor Al Afton, Davis and Link placed radio tracking devices in small backpacks on almost 400 mallard hens trapped in southwest and northeast Louisiana during the winters of
2005 and 2006.
Using laptop computers, they were able to travel across the two regions tracking the movements of the birds. Similar research will be conducted on gadwalls and mottled ducks in the next two winters, Afton said.

The research was prompted, in part, by growing frustration of hunters because of plummeting success the past six years in what has long been one of the most productive waterfowling grounds on the continent. For decades Louisiana hunters led the nation in the number of ducks killed, often topping 3 million birds, more than the entire population of ducks on the Atlantic Flyway. But that began to wane in the late 1990s.

Biologists and hunters have looked at several theories for the decline, including the disruption of traditional migration patterns caused by warming winter weather patterns along the Mississippi Flyway, degradation of coastal habitats by tropical storms and the impact of hunting pressure.

The waterfowling community mined some insight into the trend from a similar tracking study Afton conducted on pintails a decade ago. That research shed light on the impact of hunting pressure by revealing pintails quickly changed their habits after opening day. Once started, the birds became primarily nocturnal, retreating to the safety of protected refuges during daylight and venturing into hunted areas after sundown, when hunting had stopped. It also revealed that pintails on the Louisiana coast often would travel more than 400 miles in a day in response to weather changes that promised better feeding conditions as far away as Arkansas.

But the key preliminary findings by Davis and Link on winter movement of mallards might be even more surprising:



-- Mallards traveled in much smaller numbers than pintails, staying in groups of less than eight birds. Pintails often traveled in flights of more than a dozen.

-- Hunting pressure had little affect on mallards' activities. The birds remained primarily diurnal, and continued to primarily use lands open to hunting.

-- In northeast Louisiana, mallards preferred to feed in flooded timber, avoiding the open water where most hunters tend to set up. The smaller numbers meant they were more able to land in smaller patches of open water in the flooded timber. It also meant they were less likely to be attracted to large decoy spreads.

-- In southwest Louisiana, mallards tended to remain in the marsh, preferring that habitat for foraging over the flooded rice and other agricultural fields favored by pintails and other species. Mallards surprised the researchers last year by sticking to the marsh even after its apparent suitability had been reduced by the saltwater tides from tropical storms.

-- Perhaps most surprising of all, most mallards did not leave Louisiana until mid-March, and some stayed until the first week of April.

It has been accepted wisdom even among biologists that mallards left the state by mid-February and made a gradual return to nesting grounds in the Dakotas and prairie Canada. Link and Davis found them staying later, and often returning in one hurried flight.

"I followed one back to South Dakota, and I was traveling 70-miles per hour, but the bird beat me," Link said.

The findings will be embarrassing to some hunters who have been demanding that state and federal wildlife agencies open refuges previously off limits to hunting. They claimed the protected areas were contributed to the recent poor seasons because birds were crowding onto the properties in response to hunting pressure.

"That just wasn't the case," Afton said. "They didn't turn nocturnal.
They didn't use refuges as a way of avoiding hunters. They continued to use areas open to hunting. In many cases they were very close to groups of hunters.
But they were moving in small groups. They were very adept at finding sources of food in areas where hunters just were not located."

Davis and Link said they often would see birds ignoring hunters'
greatest efforts, including motorized, moving-wing decoys and expert calling. The ineffectiveness of hunters and the feeding tactics of the mallards might well be adjustments to hunting pressure, Afton said. When birds find an effective strategy, they stay with it.

"This could be something that has been developing over the years, and hunters just haven't noticed it, and have yet to adapt," he said.

Link said his education in duck marshes of his native North Dakota prepared him for the findings.

"I was taught a long time ago that one of two things happens when a gun goes off in a duck marsh," said Link. "Either a duck falls out of the sky , or it flies away a smarter duck."

The research shows that these bird brains, at least mallards, have been smarter than Louisiana hunters.
 

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If you don't mind, I just found my new sig
"I was taught a long time ago that one of two things happens when a gun goes off in a duck marsh," said Link. "Either a duck falls out of the sky , or it flies away a smarter duck."
:D
 

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very interesting! we see it all the time up here in the north east- ducks landing 100 yards away, feeding unconcernedly right out in the open. after thanksgiving, you either change tactics or shoot few ducks!-paul
 

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DuckTruk said:
BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
Research shows mallards are not falling prey to hunters' tactics

Sunday, February 18, 2007

By Bob Marshall

This just in: Ducks are smarter than hunters.

"Many times we would track birds to sites right next to hunters set up in blinds with (decoy) spreads including spinning wing decoys, and the hunters never knew they were there," Link said. "The birds just weren't falling for whatever the hunters were trying."

-- In southwest Louisiana, mallards tended to remain in the marsh, preferring that habitat for foraging over the flooded rice and other agricultural fields favored by pintails and other species. Mallards surprised the researchers last year by sticking to the marsh even after its apparent suitability had been reduced by the saltwater tides from tropical storms.
I know Bob Marshall, he is the Outdoor Editor of the New Orleans' Times Picayune newspaper. Bob's information is generally very reliable.

True that by the time Mallards get down here, they want no part of spinning wing Mojo Mallards. However, because La. in the Winter home to the largest concentration of ducks and geese in North America, all the other species will try to land on top of a spinning Mojo. Because we get so many ducks down here, the big majority of La. duck hunters are not Mallard hunters and would just as happy to go home with one Pintail and five Teal.

What is lethal on Mallards down here is the Mallard machine. When Mallards see it, they are coming to land!

Also, yes the Mallards are staying out of the rice fields. I think it has to do with the amount of human activity in our local rice fields. Growing crawfish has become a huge indusrty and rice farmers are now double-dipping by raising crawfish in their rice fields. That means constant activity in the rice fields that will scare off the Mallards. However, our Mallard shooting in flooded timber is second to none.

If the lower 48 states really wanted to enjoy better duck shooting for future generations then the Federal Wildlife and Fisheries will have to ban Commercial Duck Hunting. This practice alone has done more to diminish the wild duck population as well as the unhealthy practice of short-stopping ducks. Commercial operations grow crops and leave them unharvested for the ducks. This holds more ducks in thier immediate area for their paying sports to shoot. Ban this practice and watch the duck populations all across N America rebound!
 

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Booty, I agree. Commercial duck hunting has killed our hunting in LA.
They often "double dip" to get the clients to come back soon at $300 a day. I would like to ban mojos and I can tell you up here in NE LA the timber hunting, which has traditionally been unmatched, has been tough in the last few years. We have killed more mallards in the rice fields. This year I really noticed the mallards were in smaller groups mostly and very hard to call and even harder to get to commit to a decoy spread. Geese avoid mojos like the plague so I don't use mojos much if we want to shoot specs. The mallards will come in but land out in the open field or into the rice stubble in the middle of the field. There are about 3 times the number of flooded fields and blinds that there were just ten years ago. The ducks fly around until they find a quiet field with no duck calling and drop right in. They will stay until they get run off by traffic. Pintails and Gadwalls seem to be doing this a lot more too. I have been duck hunting for 20 plus years and I am changing my tactics to shoot more birds now. I will be picking up the decoys in the first week of Jan and only putting out about a dozen when I hunt. I saw tons of ducks this year but they did not work like they have in the past years. We are hunting more mature and experienced birds now in LA. The young ones are dying way before they get down here. Paul
 

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Rick Hall said:
Not piffle! :lol:

Y'all have any Snows and Blues at that big fancy commercial lodge I can shoot? I don't want to be in a blind with six other folks though. :wink:

I know, I know...lot of folks make a good living running and working for commercial duck & goose operations. But, the short stopping of ducks is not good for them or their future. People paying up to $750 per day to hunt over heated ponds with grain crops raised just to feed the ducks and keep them close.

It ain't huntin in my book. No different than shooting pen-raised ducks being bumped out of a tower. Big difference though is that we are screwing around with wild ducks instincts and they do need to migrate.

And yes, I considered hunting Doug's Lodge when the season started so slowly. It was the thought of four or six folks shooting at one goose that stopped me from making the call. Different hunters have different expectations but, I was getting desperate until the cold weather hit. 8)
 

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Booty - Much of the thread is, indeed, piffle:

The two year study to see what mallards do when pressured down here was conducted during the two most atypical seasons they could have chosen: the first when hurricanes shuffled the deck, and the second when rains like we haven't seen in years made much of the state safe haven with flooded feed for them. Why would mallards, or anything else, leave all that to follow the patterns they do in normal years?

Then, too, when was the last time the Southern tier saw so little rice planted? Wasn't just mallards that didn't use it, rice field duck hunting flat sucked the worst it has in memory. Meanwhile, folks down deep in the marsh west of White Lake, where rice field feeders would normally come to rest but find little feed to keep them from moving, had their "best ever" mallard season. For whatever reason, they were blessed with wild millet where little but canush (maiden cane) grew prior to Rita's saltwater purge. Add the relatively low gun pressure of the deep marsh to that abundance of feed, and shouldn't be surprising that the birds stayed put. But is it the norm?

Please know I'm not faulting the study, per se, which I know little about, only suggesting that its timing renders models drawn from it inaccurate for seasons without hurricanes and atypically heavy rains.

And know that I certainly agree that birds that survive gun pressure learn to avoid it. (Duh.)

But we, all of us, are the source of that pressure, not just the evil commercial outfits. Doesn't take a deep thinker to realize that commercial operations wouldn't kill pecans without their customers - who are, in fact, the general public. Or at least that portion of it who can afford and choose to use their services. And in areas like ours, where demand to hunt it far outstrips the supply of private lands, the commercial outfits offer the only viable private land access a great many waterfowlers can enjoy.

As well connected as a fellow in your position ought to be, would you have considered hunting with us if it were easy for you to get on private land and successfully hunt geese without us? It isn't the commercial leases that keep you from doing so. Commercial waterfowl camp holdings are minuscule compared to what private clubs, corporations, wealthy individuals and groups of less well-heeled folks lease - and keep you off.

(Nor do commercial operations set the market for lease prices. They can scarcely compete with those needing to show no profit on their waterfowling dollar.)

And, finally, there's your fear of being one of "four or six folks shooting at one goose". If you don't want to hunt with a party of hunters, don't. Shop around and make your desires clear when you do, and you'll discover there are services, like ours, who'll hunt you one on one - within reason, like avoiding busy weekends or not expecting the guide to put together a big goose spread without more help.

So, my friend, "piffle" is more than just the only word I know that begins with "pif".
 

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Rick Hall said:
Booty - Much of the thread is, indeed, piffle:

The two year study to see what mallards do when pressured down here was conducted during the two most atypical seasons they could have chosen: the first when hurricanes shuffled the deck, and the second when rains like we haven't seen in years made much of the state safe haven with flooded feed for them. Why would mallards, or anything else, leave all that to follow the patterns they do in normal years?
Great point Rick, these last two years have been different. With all the rain we had, it could explain why we had so many Blue Wing Teal all through the season.

Yes, rice production is down as the U S imports more and more of the rice we consume. Rice farming just isn't that profitable anymore and with all the Crawfish farming going on, I've got to beleive all that human activity in the rice fields is keeping the Mallards out as well as all the flooded pasture that was available this past season.

My problem with commercial hunting lodges is with their attempt at the short stopping of ducks. That combined with the mindset of many of the paying sports. I'm sure you've seen it all, I know I have that one season I spent duck hunting every morning and guiding deer hunters in the afternoon in Noxubee Co. Ms. I saw enough that I never wanted to guide and tote a paying deer hunter again.
 

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My situation is such that I don't have to hunt an a--hole twice, but even after better than two decades at it, that list is very short. For me, the people I get to go with are one of the best things about guiding.

'Sides, it's no great trick to go shoot a mess of birds, but doing it with folks of whatever level of expertise come through the door can make it right sporting.
 
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