The waterfowl hunting forecast for 2012-2013 will be dependent on weather and available resources as always. Here in the midwest, we are enduring one of the worst droughts in decades. Many places have seen less than a few inches of rain since June. Soybean futures contracts are trading around $13 per bushel while corn is trading around $9 per bushel. Not only will this drought have a severe impact on everyday expenses like gas and food, it also brings a heavy cost to waterfowl hunters in the affected areas.
Illinois Waterfowl Hunting Forecast
Most notably, some of the areas that are often frequented by waterfowl hunters and migrating waterfowl alike, are state managed habitats like Rend Lake and Carlyle lake, two of the most popular public hunting areas in southern Illinois. Not only are these popular waterfowl wintering grounds facing a "cash-strapped" state government (we'll leave that up for debate), but they are also facing extremely low water levels that leave many pondering if the DNR will be able to pump water into the managed waterfowl habitats. Other areas in Illinois, such as those along the Mississippi and Illinois River valleys are running short in water supply as well, which are certain to have a major impact on migrating waterfowl that come through Illinois. There are rumors in these areas that without adequate rainfall entering the Fall months, then the state has instructed the management areas to not pump them full in order to conserve water that may be needed for public usage. This would be devestating to Illinois and make the waterfowl hunitng forecast bleak. These places were finally able to get everything planted for the fist time in a number of years due to a cooperative Spring, but now they might not be able to give the ducks access to all the food.
It is likely that when the migration starts, the birds will be on a fast track to the south. My reasoning is this. Migrating waterfowl require two things to survive the winter conditions, water and food. Without these two key things, birds will constantly be on the move in search of one or the other, or both. As it stands, there is a definite shortage of food that migrating waterfowl eat… corn and beans. With diminishing water sources, migrating waterfowl will have fewer places to seek refuge and roost. Lower water levels will also lead to harder access to moist soil plants that waterfowl tend to eat like smart weed and duck weed. Another bit of info: studies have shown, based on band reporting, that Louisiana and other southern states do the best during dry and warm winters in the midwest.
Make Plans Now
Times like these make it more important than ever to successfully manage habitat on private land for waterfowl when given the opportunity. Having the ability to plant and flood private land will pay dividends throughout the season and for years to come. I recently visited Levi Daniel of C&L Outdoors in southwest Missouri. This area has definitely been impacted by the drought as bad as anywhere else. The only thing different is, he has done an excellent job of maintaining his properties and insuring access to water. He has, among several spring fed lakes, a 15 acre marsh that sits in the middle of a 160 acre tract that is loaded with duck habitat. This 15 acre marsh will be flooded in weeks to come because he has taken the necessary steps to have water available in times of need. If you are in an area facing a severe drought, you may want to start thinking of a Plan B, and Levi can definitely fulfill that need. I know for a fact we will be taking a few trips over there this year. To find out more about C&L Outdoors and what they have to offer, you can call Levi at 479-445-7997 or visit www.huntprivatelandmissouri.com.
We've also been doing some habitat work with Green Acres Goose Club in southern Illinois. Mike Smothers and his team have an
excellent setup with lots of food and access to water to provide a smorgasboard of food for the ducks. We recently planted a new 1 acre hole of Golden Millet that is already up and growing well. This should provide even more opporunity for some great waterfowl hunting action like we had last year with Green Acres. If you're looking for a place to hunt in Southern Illinois give Mike a call at 618-922-3449. With a record population survey of 48.6 million ducks from the Ducks Unlimited waterfowl hunting forecast, it would be a shame to not have ample time and places to hunt.