8 Percent Increase In Duck Numbers!

Based on surveys conducted in May and early June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates a total of 49.2 million breeding ducks, which is an 8 percent increase from last year's estimate of 45.6 million birds.

This estimate is 43 percent higher than the 1955-2013 long-term average. This continues a 3-year trend of exceptional water conditions and population numbers for many species.

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the prairies and the boreal forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2014 breeding population survey were improved or similar to last year. Total pond counts for the U.S. and Canada combined showed 7.2 million ponds, which is similar to the 2013 estimate and 40 percent above the long-term average.

Click here for species-specific estimates and to see how the numbers have changed since 2013.

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting season dates and bag limits. The four flyway councils and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regulations Committee will meet in late July to recommend the season structure and bag limits for 2014-2015. Individual states will make their specific selections within a federal framework of season length, bag limit and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates.

With duck numbers looking good, we editors suggest you schedule some vacation time this fall to pursue waterfowl. Remember that whitetail “October Lull” that always leaves your cursing the deer gods? This October target birds instead of bucks; throughout much of whitetail country, you can still get your deer fix in September, November and December.