Kill A Varmint, Save A Duck

For the last three years, the Delta Waterfowl Foundation has released a report detailing the findings of their predator management research. Started in 2012, this program sought to discover what effect predators have on duck nesting success.

This year's report was recently released and makes for an interesting read , one which inspires me to do more hunting around wetlands.

Delta's research involved hiring some local trappers to aggressively control critters they suspected were doing an efficient job of sucking up duck eggs as fast as the birds could lay them. The trappers went after critters like coyotes, skunks, foxes and coons while biologists monitored nest success in the wetlands the trappers were targeting. After comparing the nest success rates there with similar non-trapped areas, they came to the conclusion that predator control around nesting areas is one of the best methods of increasing duck production.

Their research saw nest success triple in both North Dakota and in Saskatchewan where these studies were done. They are now so convinced predator control works, this program is being moved from research to implementation. This is good news for predator and varmint hunters because it means we should never have a problem getting permission to hunt in areas being managed as duck habitat. And it certainly gives varmint hunters another reason to go out and do a little critter control. If you're a trapper, a duck organization might even pay you to trap around nesting areas.

Hunting in and around wetlands, even when they are frozen over in the dead of winter, is always a good strategy, simply because these areas tend to hold a lot of the animals we're targeting. It's an effective technique because coyotes and foxes know marshes are a great food source, and although there aren't any ducks present in winter, there are mice, voles and rabbits. Predators focus on these while waiting for the ducks to return. Make a noise like any of them and chances are good you'll connect.

When the water turns solid it's easy to walk around in marshes and set up a calling session. I normally try and work a stand so the wind carries my scent across the ice. That way, a coyote or fox has to step out of the grass and cattails to bust me with their nose. As soon as they expose themselves, I put crosshairs on fur and wait for the right moment. Which, by the way, when it comes to skunks, is only when they are downwind.

So, it's now official, science has proven that if we kill varmints, we save ducks.


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