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For many waterfowlers, particularly those plying the late season wetlands of northern Nevada, the bag limit for pintail seems to be out of context with the visible abundance of these graceful ducks. The apparent contradiction between what is observed in the skies and what is written within the regulations pamphlet has the potential to persuade people to act in ways that are not in the best interests of our sport. Some hunters may consider shooting pintails in excess of the limit – a clear violation of the law. Others may become frustrated with the restriction and decide to exit the marsh to pursue other interests – attrition that thins our ranks, ultimately diminishing support for waterfowl and wetland conservation.

These two concerns are not scientifically quantified (how much over limit is occurring, how many hunters are leaving because they can’t shoot pintails), but managers know the issues are real just the same. These same state and federal scientists have a better, though not complete, understanding of the status of the northern pintail. The breeding population (BPOP) of this species was considered to be far more abundant at one time than it is today (see graph) and at one time exceeded the ubiquitous mallard as the most abundant duck in North America.

However, it should be understood that early estimates could have been influenced by biases that have been addressed as survey and modeling protocols have evolved. The figure demonstrates that pintail numbers took a downward trend in the 1960s and recovered the following decade. Many readers may remember when they could take bonus pintails above the aggregate bag limit. But pintails and other ducks declined in the 1980s due to habitat changes across the continent and this stimulated managers to support the establishment of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). This plan set goals for specific duck stocks and prompted governments to manage the birds and their habitat with the intent to restore waterfowl abundance.

There are two common approaches to managing duck numbers: improvement of key habitats to stimulate greater productivity, and limiting the duck harvest to reduce mortality. The latter approach is far easier for agencies to implement. Since 1984, pintail limits have been separately defined within waterfowl regulations and since 1988, with the exception of the 1995-1997 seasons, the pintail limit has been one daily. More drastic restrictions needed to be invoked when the BPOPs declined even more in this decade, prompting partial season formats in 2003 & 2004. These constraints were and continue to be instituted in an attempt to assure a 6% increase in returning breeding birds from the previous year. In other words, modelers predict the fall flight based upon the estimated adult population which is principally derived from the interpretation of the traditional breeding pair survey findings. The fall flight forecast is further influenced by predicted production driven by an analysis of habitat conditions and the average latitude selected by breeding pintails in a given year (this is heavily dependent upon the status of mid-continent potholes and surrounding upland nesting habitat). These two elements are totaled and some natural pre-hunt mortality is factored in. Then with the fall flight (really the pre-season) estimate, harvest objectives are calculated that, if fully met, would still result in a continental post-season pintail population that is 6% greater than the previous year’s estimate.

The Northern Pintail Harvest Strategy (www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/ reports) was created in 1997 to implement the harvest management approaches necessary to conserve sprig in North America. The Strategy’s intent is to sustain pintail hunting consistent with the status of the population by basing the decision process on distinct biological criteria. The Pacific Flyway Council created the impetus for this movement and the strategy has undergone a number of adaptations over the years as greater scientific understanding emerged. Yet there are a number of shortcomings in this process. Namely, we don’t have complete understanding of the biology of the species. We cannot be certain that some model permutations are realistic for a dynamic population. And we are fairly certain that just attempting to conserve pintails through harvest management is not going to be effective in bringing the species back to its former abundance. One of the simplest ways to look at this latter remark is to look at the graph and see that after 22 years of greatly restrained harvest, the population exceeded the three million mark only a handful of times. It averages 2.8 million – half the NAWMP goal.

Most managers agree that the population no longer has the same amount of habitat available for breeding as it did in the 1970s and earlier. The carrying capacity isn’t there. Given this, efforts are under way to improve our understanding of mortality, distribution and other biological and ecological factors affecting pintails. The California Waterfowl Association is funding a long-term banding initiative in the Golden State to capture, mark and release pintails before and after the hunting season in an attempt to measure differences in natural versus man-caused (hunting) mortality rates. This should help managers better understand the compensatory model within the analytical framework.

Nevada intends to begin post-season pintail banding in 2009 to add to this effort. As the USFWS undergoes a comprehensive, continental banding needs assessment, the Pacific Flyway Council will be actively lobbying that pintail banding is a high priority. These combined efforts may also yield better understanding of what scientists call derivation of harvest. If such an analysis proves that pintails shot in the Pacific Flyway are derived principally from breeding grounds in this flyway, rather than from the mid-continent where habitat is diminishing and more susceptible to climatic extremes, then it might be possible to see more relaxed harvest regulations. This approach was used to develop a Western Mallard Model to influence more consistent regulatory packages for the flyway.

Also, if band recoveries coupled with an experimental directed harvest of bull-sprig can prove that this regulatory approach can lessen or even promote hen survival, then this protocol could see full implementation in the future. Gender-specific bag limits have been established for mallards since 1985. Finally, there has been some recent discussion about the possibility of amending the NAWMP goals in order to relax the constraint that presently guides pintail harvest management.

So there is some hope for duck hunters in the future and NDOW and NWA will be right there as active, involved partners.

PINTAILS IN NEVADA
During the past two years, California Waterfowl Association and California Department of Fish and Game have been banding pintails both immediately following and before hunting season. The subsequent analyses from their efforts will be able to tease apart when mortality is most important.

These results may provide key information about what effects harvest has on the Pacific Flyway segment of the pintail population. Nevada Waterfowl Association and Nevada Department of Wildlife will begin a banding project in Lahontan Valley in late January 2009 in an effort to capture and band more pintails to assist in the effort with our California counterparts. This project will be a volunteer effort lead by Chris Nicolai. Please contact him if interested in assisting with the project
By Craig Mortimore, NDOW

Each spring waterfowl biologists across North America fly over breeding grounds to estimate breeding populations of waterfowl and habitat conditions. Duck seasons are determined primarily on the basis of the population status of breeding mallards and the attendant habitat conditions for breeding ducks. Historically, waterfowl regulations were set on a continental basis, with allowance made for the relative numbers of hunters and waterfowl abundance in each of the four Flyways. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Services Regulations Committee meets in late summer to establish federal frameworks for hunting regulations for migratory birds the next fall. These frameworks establish the maximum number of days in the hunting season and maximum allowable bag limits.

States then establish their regulations so they fall within the federal frameworks. That is, states may be more conservative (for example shorter season) than the federal frameworks but they cannot be more liberal. In the 1990s, the USFWS began to move toward model based decision making processes. Adaptive harvest management was first developed for continental mallard populations.

This approach compared predictions from four different population models with observed changes in mallard breeding populations, Each year, models that better fit the data receive higher weights, meaning they have more influence on the next year’s regulations.

Regulations are set so that they achieve three goals. First, they maximize long term mallard harvest, under the assumption that the current models and their assigned weights currently reflect mallard population dynamics. Second they attempt to maintain mallard populations nearer the continental goal by reducing harvest when populations are below the goal.

The Pacific Flyway has always enjoyed the longest season and most liberal waterfowl bag limits because hunter numbers are lower and waterfowl more abundant in this Flyway when compared to the others. However, basing waterfowl regulations on continental duck counts didn’t make sense to a lot of folks; why should the numbers of mallards in the Atlantic Flyway influence the hunting season in the Pacific Flyway was a question that was often asked. To account for regional differences in waterfowl abundance and wetland habitat conditions the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began to work with the Flyways in the early 1990’s to refine the way in which harvest regulations were determined and base regulations in each Flyway more on the status and expected breeding success for those areas that supply the vast majority of their harvested ducks.

These efforts culminated in the Pacific Flyway Council recommending to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that a western mallard adaptive harvest management model be implemented for the 2008-2009 hunting season. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted the Western Mallard strategy proposed by the Pacific Flyway Council in June, 2008 and used this strategy to determine the 2008-2009 season frameworks for the general duck season in the Pacific Flyway.

This Western Mallard Model gives waterfowl biologist and managers within the Pacific Flyway a better system for making sound management recommendations based specifically on those stocks of ducks that they actually harvest. Here in the Pacific Flyway the majority of harvested mallards come from breeding grounds in Alaska (approximately 800,000 in recent years), western Canada (about 400,000), and the western coastal states (about 400,000). Duck hunters in Nevada and throughout the Pacific Flyway are less vulnerable to the boom and bust cycles of the traditional prairie breeding grounds due to the western mallard’s different breeding area and ability to maintain steadier breeding populations.

Managers believe that adoption of a specific western mallard model will result in more stability for duck seasons over the long term because Western Mallard populations tend to be more stable than those associated with the prairie regions of the continent, where wetland go through periodic boom and bust cycles.

Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and the University of Nevada Reno have all been involved in trying to understand population dynamics of mallards that breed within the Pacific Flyway so appropriate parameters could be developed for a Flyway specific western mallard adaptive harvest management model. The first thing biologist did was spatially delineate and separate the stock of western mallards from mallards in the remainder of the continent using banding, harvest and breeding population data (Fig. 1). They concluded that mallards breeding in Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, and the coastal Pacific Flyway states formed the western mallard stock. Presently only estimates of breeding mallards located in Alaska, Oregon, and California are used to directly influence regulations in the Pacific Flyway. Population information from other areas in the range of Western mallards is not used at this time because long-term population data was not available or the surveys that are conducted currently utilize different protocols that made their addition a case of “apples and oranges” so that biologists could not interpret the total population trends. Presently efforts are underway to add additional areas (i.e. Washington,

British Columbia, Utah, and Nevada) to those States presently surveyed. A serious issue for the future is maintaining adequate funding to sustain existing survey programs and add additional areas that are not presently surveyed.

After delineation of western mallards was completed, biologists began the complicated process of building a mathematical model that would predict the allowable harvest from a number of attributes of the Western Mallard Population that could be measured each year. These attributes include measures of survival rate (what percent live through a given year), mortality (harvest and naturally occurring deaths), reproduction (the relative number of young produced per each adult female), population size and other aspects thought to influence future population status. Once a model was constructed that mimicked the historic data fairly closely biologists used the model to test a variety of harvest rates (the percentage of the population harvested) that ranged from high to low to determine what optimal harvest rates would be. The current result of this approach suggests to biologists that the harvest rate of mallards under the existing liberal season and current population trends in the Pacific Flyway is less than what could be allowed and still ensure that the long-term conservation of the Western Mallard Population.

Currently, biologists believe that as long as the western mallard stock is above 500-600 thousand mallards, then the optimal choice for long-term conservation is the current liberal season used in the Pacific Flyway. This outlook could change, however, as Pacific flyway harvest of mid-continent mallards is incorporated into models. Pacific Flyway hunters currently harvest some mallards assigned to the mid-continent stock and Pacific Flyway regulations could be altered to meet management objectives for these mallards.

The process of developing this model and implementing it for the Pacific Flyway and its hunters has taken a considerable amount of time and effort by many different people and agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Waterfowl Association and the rest of the Pacific Flyway agencies. Some of those involved are your local Nevada Department of Wildlife and Nevada Waterfowl Association staff as well as faculty from UNR. These folks have nothing but the best intentions for you and these natural resources we all love and enjoy.

Dan Collins is currently a Wildlife Biologist and Assistant Pacific Flyway Representative with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Migratory Game Bird Management based out of Portland Oregon. He is also in the process of completing his Ph.D. in wildlife management from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Dan studied the effects management practices had on aquatic invertebrates, seed bank potential, seed yield, decomposition rates, change of vegetation over time, food item selection, feather molt, and body condition of 3 dabbling duck species (i.e., blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, and Northern shoveler).

By Dan Collins, USFWS

HOW ARE WATERFOWL REGULATIONS DETERMINED

This has become sort of a tongue-incheek catch phrase exaggeration among waterfowlers during the last couple of decades. What the remark refers to is the plethora of waterfowl hunting regulations, some seemingly inexplicable, others bordering on the bizarre, that has transpired since the 1980s. Some hunters find the amount and annual inconsistency of regulations maddening, and they are rightly concerned since regulatory complexity can place hunters in jeopardy of noncompliance. Well, there is method behind the madness.

Waterfowl hunting is perhaps the most regulated of all sport hunting in the United States. Regulated sport hunting, and modern wildlife management for that matter, found its genesis within our government’s attempt to staunch declining duck numbers due to uncontrolled market hunting – a practice that was prevalent during the development of our country.

Today’s sport hunting regulations are derived after a number of processes which can be fit into three basic categories: 1.) data collection, 2.) analysis of this data and 3.) consultation.

Data Collection
Biologists for the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), US Geological Survey, Canadian Wildlife Service and state and provincial wildlife management agencies combine to collect harvest data and any other known mortality data; breeding pair, distribution and other population data; and habitat condition data in a collaborative effort to determine the status of continental waterfowl populations. Hunters play a direct role in gathering some of this data. It is important that any recovered bands are reported to the Bird Banding Lab so that managers can track where waterfowl spatially distribute themselves within the continent. Migration patterns are determined with this information. It is important that hunters report their hunting effort and harvest data through the FWS’s Harvest Information Program (HIP) and through Nevada Department of Wildlife’s (NDOW) post-season hunter questionnaire. It is important that those hunters randomly selected to participate in the FWS’s Waterfowl Parts Collection Survey send in their duck wings and goose tails each year so that managers can understand the species composition of the harvest.

Biologists conduct a number of waterfowl population surveys each year. These investigations are designed around specific, consistent survey protocols. Thus, the findings are comparable within a long-established database. In this way, biologists are able to detect the trend of waterfowl in general, and certain species in particular. Surveys to appraise the quality and abundance of habitat used for nesting and brood-rearing are conducted in order to factor in the potential for waterfowl to increase their numbers through annual production and recruitment.

Data Analysis
Biologists analyze these combined biological data to estimate the breeding population (BPOP) along with the summer’s predicted productivity to compute a fall flight population estimate for mallards and many other species. Managers attempt to maintain harvest rates that will allow next spring’s returning breeding population to approximate or exceed species-specific goals established within the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), or if those goals are not immediately obtainable, to allow for an incremental increase toward those goals.

The predicted harvest rates are applied to compute harvest loss within annual survival models. Managers had attempted to tightly scale annual harvest levels based upon the premise that harvest was the prominent factor affecting change in population levels. From the mid-1980s to 1995, season length and bag limits fluctuated almost annually as season length and bag limits were modified to reflect population changes. In Nevada, season length had been 93 days long from 1970 to 1994, then seasons varied from a low of 30 days in 1992 to 79 days in 1985-1987. Likewise, general daily bag limits varied and species-specific bag limits became fashionable. See the appendix in NDOW’s 2007 small game status report.

In 1995, managers recognized that these complexities and fluctuations were not well-accepted by the hunting public and they were concerned that complexity might be driving hunters away from waterfowl hunting, particularly casual hunters which are a significant proportion of any type of hunting cadre. They also comprehended that other factors affected waterfowl populations as much or more than harvest mortality and that these factors were characterized by considerable uncertainty. For example, it could not be predicted with any level of certainty that precipitation would fall in the winter and spring in the Dakotas and thus fill the potholes that were highly important to breeding pintails.

Furthermore, there was really no certainty about predicted harvest – the one factor that managers thought they had the greatest control over – because climate fluctuations have a major influence upon duck migration and distribution and consequential harvest rates. Thus managers implemented a new system called Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) which strives to achieve regulatory stability with the understanding that seasons and bag limits would have an enduring, consistent affect upon harvest mortality.

AHM has been implemented in different ways within the Flyways as managers developed long-term understanding of flyway-specific waterfowl population distribution and migration patterns along with geographically-specific harvest pressure. For example: the Mississippi Flyway contains the majority of the nation’s waterfowl hunters (47% compared to 15% for the Pacific Flyway). The MF hunters claim 50% of the national harvest (17% in the PF) under hunting seasons that usually do not exceed 60 days. The shorter season is appropriate in that flyway, whereas it is appropriate for states in the Pacific Flyway to have seasons up to 107 days in length. This is the most days allowed to hunt waterfowl according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Furthermore, AHM has trickled down to the species level. This is why hunters see small bag limits for pintail and scaup, which are relatively abundant with 2007 BPOPs at 3.3 million and 3.4 million birds, respectively, but their populations have declined and are well below their respective NAWMP goals of 5.6 and 6.3 million. Conversely, shoveler, gadwall and green-winged teal are all performing above their respective goals even though they are significantly less abundant than sprig and bluebills. As long as these three species continue to exceed their NAWMP goals, they will not be subject to species-specific AHM and thus will not have reduced daily bag limits. Sometimes partial seasons or closed seasons on some species are invoked in order to assure a minimum amount of harvest mortality.

Consultation

Once the data is in and the models have been accomplished, state and federal agencies convene to discuss waterfowl status and determine the frameworks for the forthcoming waterfowl seasons. Frameworks are justified by the regulatory alternatives contained within the AHM process and are guided by an interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Frameworks describe the maximum number of days for a season and the earliest opening date and latest closing date allowed. Maximum daily bag limits are included in the frameworks. States provide comment and other input through the Flyway Council process, wherein representatives are given their opportunity to lend a perspective that might be salient to a state, region or entire flyway. Flyway Council meetings are open to the public to allow all other pertinent comment and input. The FWS holds a meeting of its Regulations Committee to prepare a final recommendation to the Secretary of Interior who makes the final rule for waterfowl hunting in the United States. Then state commissions (or similar regulatory organs) establish hunting seasons for their states within the guidelines established in the frameworks.

What does this mean for waterfowl hunters in Nevada?

NDOW is actively involved in the Pacific Flyway Council and is one of the most consistent participants in waterfowl surveys in the west. Bag limit recommendations will always be the highest allowed under the framework. Like many wildlife management agencies, NDOW is concerned that regulatory complexity is affecting hunter participation – it is estimated that nearly 19,000 persons hunted ducks in 1982, while that number dropped to a low of 4,300 in 1993 and has averaged just under 4,100 for the past five years.

Recent discussions have been focusing upon the relationship between habitat capacity and population abundance and its linkage with AHM. As stated earlier, pintail abundance has been well below the NAWMP objective of 5.6 million birds. This species at one time was the most numerous duck counted in the traditional survey area, but following a precipitous decline in the early 1980’s the BPOP has leveled off at a relatively stable average of 2.8 million (half the objective) since 1994, the average being affected by a record low BPOP of 1.8 million in 2002. In fact since NAWMP was established the pintail BPOP has only managed to reach 3.55 million – very close to the summer’s pintail estimate of 3.34 million.

Some managers believe that contemporary BPOP trend is a function of the habitat capacity and argue that light harvest prescriptions cannot stimulate the population to increase. There is also the rationale that pintails may have shifted their breeding range further north, possibly outside of the traditional survey area, which means surveyors aren’t actually seeing a significant portion of the BPOP. When mid-continent potholes diminish, pintails “flyover” their traditional breeding grounds to seek other locales to produce their broods. Regardless of these concepts the fact remains that Nevada hunters can spend an entire day in the blind any day after Thanksgiving and look up to see abundant pintails of which they can harvest only one. This remains a point of frustration for hunters.

By Craig Mortimore, NDOW

What started out to be a good water year for western Nevada late last year, ultimately turned sour, leaving Nevada in the grips of another year of drought. Western Nevada wetlands will again suffer from the lack of precipitation.

As we went to press with this issue of the FLYER, there just wasn’t much good news to report concerning marshland conditions and a favorable waterfowl hunting season forecast. An updated pre-season habitat report compiled after this article was completed is due to be posted on Nevada Department of Wildlife’s website, ndow.org.

According to Craig Mortimore, NDOW’s migratory bird staff specialist, midcontinent (Prairie Canada and U.S. combined) pond counts, used as an index to predict duck productivity, conducted in May, show drought had a significante effect on production this year. The 4.4 million ponds counted is a 37 percent drop from last year and 10 percent below the long term average (LTA). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did report that last year’s count was above average. It was also noted that a delayed spring in some higher latitudes within traditional survey areas may also have impacted production. Despite anticipated declines in mallard production in the mid-continent region, the projected fall-flight index is 9.2 million birds (both adults and ducklings) that survive to migrate. This is due to the larger than usual return flight fostered by last year’s production. Those interested in reading more of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Population Status Report, visit (www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/ reports) – Waterfowl Population Status, 2008 Poor habitat conditions resulted in overall poor waterfowl production in western and eastern Nevada, according to Mortimore. The continental picture is better with some species found to be in pretty decent shape and we should be seeing them migrating through. Chief among these, he said, will be greenwing teal. “Hunters should think about making it a teal shoot this year, whenever possible. Redhead numbers are also high and hunters should be seeing a lot of those since Nevada is a big redhead state.”

The following are conditions as of September 12. Hunters are urged to visit areas they plan to hunt prior to the October 11 opening in much of the state. As in the past, if it had not been for purchased water rights for Carson Lake and Stillwater NWR, there would be precious little area to hunt this year in western Nevada. Carson Lake (Greenhead Hunting Club): NDOW will be taking the last of their allocated (80 percent of normal due to the cutback to all water users in the valley) prime water in October, approximately 2,000 acre feet, which will go to the Rice Unit, providing habitat and hunting area for the opener. The Sprig Unit was reported to be full in September. According to Gib Mackedon, President of the Greenhead Club, hunters will see approximately 60 percent less flooded acreage this over last year on opening day, or about 1,800 and 2,000 acres of hunting area, all encompassed on one area, the Sprig Pond. He said the prime water coming in October will start into the other units, or at least one other unit, about October 1st, but duck use of the area was unknown at press time. Mackedon stressed that hunters will not see conditions at Greenhead that they have seen in the past 10 to 15 years. If 400 people show up opening day, which is normal for this area, overcrowding will be a real issue with that many hunters on the only unit with water. However, he added that by the middle of November, conditions are expected to improve after arrival of the prime water from Lahontan. Hunting regulations will remain the same this year, except, no gas motors on boats will be allowed, only electric motors. He recommends that hunters visit the area and scout prior to the opening. He reminds hunters that the area closes to entry one week prior to opening day as has been the case for 75 years.

Humboldt WMA: Mortimore reports that the Humboldt River did not benefit from heavy runoff this year which lead to a declining water level in Rye Patch Reservoir. A decision to manipulate water out of the Toulon Unit to allow for road repairs has led to the near total drying of that unit. A long, hot, and dry summer has reduced water levels in the upper lake to about five percent of normal. With the impending end of the irrigation season, flows should increase somewhat but any new water will lack forage production needed to hold migrating ducks.

Mason Valley WMA: Early in September, things were fairly dry at this popular hunting area run by NDOW near Yerington. However, by the time the season opens, they should be 75 to 80 full, assisted greatly by pumping of Sierra Pacific Power Co. water from the cooling ponds at the nearby power generation plant. This water will go to the North Pond units. He believes things at the area should be looking pretty good by the season opener. On Sept. 15, they began taking 300 acre feet of storage water from the Walker River for other units on the area. Vegetative cover varies from pond to pond, so hunters are encouraged to visit the area and also visit NDOW’s website for specific conditions. Duck numbers were reported to be at a fairly good level in September.

Stillwater NWR: Prime water releases made possible through water rights purchases in the past were delayed this year and as of September, many units were dry. At press time, Tule Lake was in the best shape compared to other units, with good sago and tule cover reported. The usable hunting area this year is estimated to be approximately 2,100 acres, less than half of last year’s estimate. Goose lake was to be flooded beginning in early October. Good duck numbers were reported at Millen Landing (40 percent water cover) and Willow Lake (55 percent coverage). Both of these areas are in the West Marsh unit. Stillwater encourages hunters to check boating regulations before launching their boats.

Washoe Lake: Water levels at this area, known as Scripps WMA, are approximately the same as this time last year, however, the mitigation wetlands at the south end of the lake were dry most of the summer and it was unknown at press time if it would be filled by the opening of the season. Hunting success on the Scripps area should be about the same as last year.

Ruby Lake NWR: Ruby Lake biologist, Jeff Mackay, reports that 45 percent of the marsh was flooded by the middle of September, and the hunt area was fully flooded. The water depth is lower than last year which should make it good for hunting dabblers, compared to last year when the water was higher and favored divers. Should have divers available during the hunting season.

According to Mackay, “We had a significant drop in our breeding population this year and a little less than half of the normal numbers of breeding ducks nested here this year. This is likely due to weather but who knows for sure. They just decided to move on, which is unusual. Consequently, we have a reduced level of production so there are going to be fewer local birds on the refuge at the beginning of the hunting season.” He said that depending on the fall migration, Ruby may or may not have a lot of birds available for the hunting season this year. However, he does rate hunting conditions fair overall for the opener but they may improve if we have a significant increase during migration. Franklin Lake is dry.

Mackay will be conducting an aerial survey either Sept. 19 or Sept. 26 and will have a better idea of duck numbers at that point in time. People are welcome to call and he will give them an update on the population in the fall. “I am always happy to answer duck hunter’s questions”, he said. Hunters may call 775.779-2237 to speak with Jeff Mackay.

Fernley Sink WMA: Dry

Alkali Lake WMA: Dry

Kirch WMA: Dana Johnson reports that the area is variable in water conditions from full in Cold Springs and Haymeadow reservoirs to dry in Dacey Slough while the remaining areas are filling.

Steptoe Valley WMA: Comins Lake is at 70% capacity while the NAWCA wetlands are less than 10%.

Key Pittman WMA: Water in Frenchy is low but filling. Nesbitt Lake is 70% full and are in great condition with excellent food availability. Fields are harvested and are expected to provide good opportunities.

Overton WMA: Keith Brose reports that Honeybee and Center Ponds are full and that Bulrush checks, Pintail Pond, and Wilson Pond are all dry.

Pahranagat NWR: Merry Maxwell reports that both Middle Marsh and Lower Lake are above 75% capacity while North Marsh and Upper Lake are both dry.

Ash Meadows NWR: Carl Lundblad reports that the area is in good shape with only the Lower Crystal Marsh being dry. Crystal Reservoir is at 70% capacity and Horseshoe Marsh and Peterson Reservoir are full.

The duck season in northern Nevada will extend October 11 through January 24, 2009, with a general limit of seven daily, 14 in possession. The special pintail limit will be one daily, two in possession; hen mallards, two daily, four in possession; redhead, two daily, four in possession. The season on greater and lesser scaup will not open until Nov. 1, ending on Jan. 24, with a two daily, four in possession limit. The hunting of canvasback will be closed statewide this season.

For more information, hunters are urged to obtain and study NDOW’s 2008-09 Migratory Bird Seasons, Limits and Regulations booklet before heading out on their first hunt this year.

By David K. Rice

HERE WE ARE! For many of us, this is the time of year we live for. The days are a bit shorter and the evenings are noticeably cooler. It’s a time when you can find us cleaning the decoys, checking the waders for leaks, giving the dog a few touch up lessons and making runs to Sportsman’s Warehouse. There’s no doubt about it, the ducks will soon be migrating and we can’t help but wonder what adventures and memories this season’s migration will bring. For me, I wonder if I’ll have a better opening day than I did with hunting partner Rob Rusk a few years back, or a better widgeon shoot than I had with Chris or if my dog will have any better hunt than she did when I hunted with Kris Verness. This time of year, the possibilities for a fantastic season seem endless.

However, the excitement that comes with the anticipation of a new season is tempered by a few sobering facts. First, we’re coming off another dry winter. That, in and of itself, is not anything new. I’ve had a few fantastic shoots when there wasn’t much water. This year, however, not only did we have a low water year, but two of the canals that carry what little water we did receive to the marshes failed. As such, much of the precious water we were able to get out of the clouds in the form of snowfall and store in area reservoirs didn’t make it to the marshes. This is one of the many reasons the Nevada Waterfowl Association purchases water rights for use in the Lahontan Valley, so the marshes are less reliant drainage or simple runoff.

What does all this mean for the upcoming season? Well, not many of us know for sure. Likely as not, there will be plenty of birds coming down the flyway, but fewer places for those birds to land. This means two things. First, the birds may not stay around very long and second, with less water, chances are hunters may find themselves bunched up in the same areas. As such the need to scout has never been more important. We all know of a couple of spots that we normally don’t hunt. This year, these spots may be worth a look. It might take a little extra effort, but getting away from the pressure may just be the difference between an average hunt and a hunt that we’ll remember each September.

by Tom Wilson, President

Click to launch

Click to launch

Nevada Waterfowl Association’s Fallon Chapter
Presents
The 8th Annual Duck Hunter’s Dinner & Wetlands Fund-Raiser

Saturday, November 8, 2008- Fallon Convention Center

Hosted Cocktails 5:30 P.M.- Buffet Dinner @ 7 P.M.

Dinner Tickets $ 60

[Only 210 Tickets available]

Tickets on Sale Sept. 24 & purchased at:
First Independent Bank In Fallon
& Frontier Liquor