What's Changed? The good and bad

Something I've pondered, we've all heard our parents and those before us talk of "the glory days" of waterfowl hunting. Skies filled black with birds, yada yada yada. And yet if you look at the published duck numbers it seems the numbers are well higher than they were some 40-50 years ago, and hunter numbers are down. So my question to those who have been hunting more than 10 years (and especially those hunting 25+ years or more). What has changed?

What good changes have you seen over the years, what bad changes have you seen? I'm interested to hear your viewpoints and geographically the changes. For me...
The Good: I've seen and shot more black ducks in Eastern NC the last two seasons. It used to be I only shot them in Virginia
Wood duck numbers seem to be really strong, even with them taking a beating
Seems the Wildlife commission is taking care of public impoundments and land and posting updates on the status of repairs, dams, water, etc.
The Bad: First, I'd say hunters expectations - limits and limits. I hunt with some folks that if it's not a pile, it's a poor day. I choose not to hunt with them much at all...
Bluebills - I miss them. We used to know we'd "at least shoot some bluebills" - now I can't wait to get my 1 bird limit. The Neuse used to be covered in them.
Development - Wake and Johnston County are booming and it's not slowing down. I remember as a kid seeing farm ponds with 40 geese and 15 mallards loafing during the season. There are hardly any ponds, and for the ones that do exist, there aren't birds. I do realize this is happening around the State.
As a follow-up - SAV: The places that historically held birds, have lost their SAV. Back Bay, Harris Lake, Mattamuskeet, you name it. I know some is planned killing (thanks Duke Energy) and others it is TBD through research, pollution most likely.
 

dobber

Twelve Pointer
This is from what i have seen so far this year, and previous years, the snow and freezing lakes haven't been happening as they once did - not going into the "global warming" crap
But just a couple of days ago i saw a field that held over 1000 swans, the numbers of geese still here is high as well.
Ducks and geese will change their migration paths as well, in an area close to me there used to be very few birds, well Jack Miner changed that theory
Nothing stays the same, the only constant is change
 

TH80

Six Pointer
We don’t get the weather we use to get. With the warmer winters it’s just doesn’t push the ducks down like it use to. There is more hunters now and less ducks. Use to could find private land easily to hunt for free and not have to worry about other hunters anywhere near you. I remember back when I was in high school a club I was in had a lot of big swamps and only had one other man that duck hunted. You won’t see that anymore.
 

agsnchunt

Twelve Pointer
Something I've pondered, we've all heard our parents and those before us talk of "the glory days" of waterfowl hunting. Skies filled black with birds, yada yada yada. And yet if you look at the published duck numbers it seems the numbers are well higher than they were some 40-50 years ago, and hunter numbers are down. So my question to those who have been hunting more than 10 years (and especially those hunting 25+ years or more). What has changed?

What good changes have you seen over the years, what bad changes have you seen? I'm interested to hear your viewpoints and geographically the changes. For me...
The Good: I've seen and shot more black ducks in Eastern NC the last two seasons. It used to be I only shot them in Virginia
Wood duck numbers seem to be really strong, even with them taking a beating
Seems the Wildlife commission is taking care of public impoundments and land and posting updates on the status of repairs, dams, water, etc.
The Bad: First, I'd say hunters expectations - limits and limits. I hunt with some folks that if it's not a pile, it's a poor day. I choose not to hunt with them much at all...
Bluebills - I miss them. We used to know we'd "at least shoot some bluebills" - now I can't wait to get my 1 bird limit. The Neuse used to be covered in them.
Development - Wake and Johnston County are booming and it's not slowing down. I remember as a kid seeing farm ponds with 40 geese and 15 mallards loafing during the season. There are hardly any ponds, and for the ones that do exist, there aren't birds. I do realize this is happening around the State.
As a follow-up - SAV: The places that historically held birds, have lost their SAV. Back Bay, Harris Lake, Mattamuskeet, you name it. I know some is planned killing (thanks Duke Energy) and others it is TBD through research, pollution most likely.

all good points. I think there are many many more ponds now, but they're subdivision retention ponds and can't be hunted. I walk by 16-20 mallards every day on the same pond. And now some jack legs have started feeding them corn and purina.

That said, I think there are definitely smaller migration numbers with these mild seasons.
 

Neverfail

Button Buck
I’ve been waterfowl hunting for 45 years. My buddy in NJ is still killing woodducks and teal. That should tell you something. I hunted NJ for 40 years then I moved here 5 years ago. Cold weather plays a major part in seeing (migrating) and killing ducks. If it was cold(frozen marshes) early on we would kill lots of mallards and Blacks in December and January. If it was warm we wouldn’t kill much until late January and not that many. Even in NJ the winters aren’t as bad as what they were years ago. I also believe there are many more young hunters then there were before. Some will put in the extra miles Especially if they can shoot a lot. That puts a lot more pressure on the birds. Birds don’t like to be bothered and will leave an area pretty quickly if shot at a lot. you May not agree with this but In my 45 years of hunting I believe there are less birds now then 30 to 40 years ago. I don’t believe the numbers DU are giving us. I like DU but don’t forget they want our money. Now Geese it a totally different story. from my observations they are more a calendar bird then weather related bird. Don’t get me wrong weather still affects the success of hunting them. I don’t believe it affects the migration as much as it does the ducks especially mallards and black ducks. Just my opinion.
 

ducknut

Six Pointer
Weather, lack of food and pressure have changed. I don't think the bird counts are accurate. I can't think of one place in the country that is seeing birds like they used to. For NC specifically it's food and pressure. We used to have calender ducks that came in very large numbers regardless of the weather. I've witnessed some spectacular migration days in years past when it was very warm. Another thing that sticks out to me is pressure isn't just hunting pressure. I never saw many boats running around the sound during duck season in years past. Without the SAV to hold them in the sounds it turns into a rest area. With boats buzzing around they don't get kicked up so many times before leaving.
 
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Neverfail

Button Buck
Good point Ducknut about boat traffic. I forgot about that. It doesn’t matter how the birds get disturbed whether it’s hunting, fishing or boat traffic in general. There are More people on the water then ever before.
 

Soilman

Old Mossy Horns
Contributor
One thought I've had that is a change that may have affected duck hunting is beavers. 30-40 years ago, beavers were practically extirpated here in NC. That would have resulted in fewer ponded areas throughout the state, which may have concentrated duck numbers in the areas that did have ponds. Then the beaver population exploded and beaver ponds can now be found everywhere. Now, because ducks have so many ponds to spread their numbers to, the duck populations APPEAR to individual hunters to be lower, but are actually collectively, higher.
 

Hunting Nut

Twelve Pointer
Warmer weather, loss of habitat, eradication of natural food in huntable waterways, proliferation of natural foods in protected sanctuaries, an abundance of sanctuaries.
They all play their part, IMO.
I agree also with more people on the water...hell, more people everywhere.
 

Hunting Nut

Twelve Pointer
This is from what i have seen so far this year, and previous years, the snow and freezing lakes haven't been happening as they once did - not going into the "global warming" crap
But just a couple of days ago i saw a field that held over 1000 swans, the numbers of geese still here is high as well.
Ducks and geese will change their migration paths as well, in an area close to me there used to be very few birds, well Jack Miner changed that theory
Nothing stays the same, the only constant is change

Yes.
And. The longer geese stay up in Canada, the more damage they do to nesting grounds. The more damage they do, the lower the numbers will be in the future.
Just a thought.
 
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Hunting Nut

Twelve Pointer
The disposition of a lot of people that duck hunt has changed. The “new” duck hunter sucks but at least they look cool doing it.
Yep. AND....
Just because someone could play the Kazoo in the 3rd grade, don't mean that you can blow a duck call worth a damned.

Less is more.
Let it sink in, moron.
 

Clark

Ten Pointer
Access to quality public waterfowling has almost been eliminated. We used to hunt ducks on public land 3 full days a week.
Then access was reduced from 3 to 2 half-days/week. A permit requirement was implemented, and it has become difficult to get a permit to anywhere worth going. There are places I have not hunted in over 5 years because I can't get a permit. When a permit is finally drawn, the date is locked in often resulting in calm and mild weather.

Agree about the SAV. No food/no ducks.
 

Neverfail

Button Buck
I thought NJ had limited public hunting. I actually had more access to public land with less hunters and killed a lot more birds there then I do here. It was all on public land too. A lot less waterfowl hunters in NJ then here. I would still be there but can’t afford to live there. I do love the weather here especially in the winter. Lol
 

Duckmauler dhc

Ten Pointer
One of the major things I’ve noticed is the overwhelming reduction in sea duck numbers. I mean all duck numbers in our state have gone to garbage but what kept me going duck hunting the last few years I did it religiously were the sea ducks. Every year they got to be fewer and fewer until it wasn’t worth it any more. Our duck hunting is a joke even compared to 5 years ago. Loss of grass in currituck, pamlico, all’s the coastal waters, mattamuskeet, Harris, etc is the main reason……add a ton of pressure from boat riders and more hunters and that does it. I thoroughly miss the sunrise over a coast marsh awaiting bluebills to come screaming over. It breaks my heart. I don’t even see birds on the 1 billion refuge ponds/lakes we have any more. The nonexistence of true freeze ups has affected the migration I think as well…..Great Lakes that don’t freeze up til January that are filled with zebra mussels and other sav has stopped a ton of birds short. But even if we still had the winters that we used to have there is NOTHING in coastal Carolina to attract birds or make them stay any more. Take a good look at the bottom next time you are riding around the pamlico, albemarle or any of the other sounds these days…..you will see sand and hardly anything else.
 
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bigdrumnc

Six Pointer
One of the major things I’ve noticed is the overwhelming reduction in sea duck numbers. I mean all duck numbers in our state have gone to garbage but what kept me going duck hunting the last few years I did it religiously were the sea ducks. Every year they got to be fewer and fewer until it wasn’t worth it any more. Our duck hunting is a joke even compared to 5 years ago. Loss of grass in currituck, pamlico, all’s the coastal waters, mattamuskeet, Harris, etc is the main reason……add a ton of pressure from boat riders and more hunters and that does it. I thoroughly miss the sunrise over a coast marsh awaiting bluebills to come screaming over. It breaks my heart. I don’t even see birds on the 1 billion refuge ponds/lakes we have any more. The nonexistence of true freeze ups has affected the migration I think as well…..Great Lakes that don’t freeze up til January that are filled with zebra mussels and other sav has stopped a ton of birds short. But even if we still had the winters that we used to have there is NOTHING in coastal Carolina to attract birds or make them stay any more. Take a good look at the bottom next time you are riding around the pamlico, albemarle or any of the other sounds these days…..you will see sand and hardly anything else.
Well stated! Add in ——where I live at least….the every day pressure of the buffle head guides! Every day they take hunters. The bufflehead and sea duck numbers appear to be way down this year. Year after year the pressure is taking its toll. There is no place but the refuges for the ducks to catch a break. The ducks are pounded on the impoundments , pounded by the scissor rig hunters in the open, and then pounded again when they make to the east side by the box blinds. The future is here!
 

Bailey Boat

Twelve Pointer
IMHO..... been duck hunting in various states for 60+ years and NC has to be in the top 3 for the worst. I knew that when I moved here 35 years ago and it has declined since then. We are not in a flyway so the best bet for anything related to a duck is along the coast. I personally don't like hunting divers because I don't like eating them, too fishy for MY taste.
I only kill as many ducks as I plan to eat in the next 2 days so I'm not a tailgate poser. I take a lot of people "duck hunting" here in NC (Brown Dog Guide Services) and it's always a task to find something for them to shoot at but they keep coming back so I'll keep taking the money.
I grew up in Arkansas in the 60's and hunted with my Grandfathers brother (Uncle JC) It was about an hour from his house to DuVall's Bluff on the White River and he loved hunting the Oxbows, either jump shooting or using decoys. He only took me to the Rice Fields twice and he hated going there but the river was a no go for some reason.
I think ducks don't make it to NC because of the mild winters up north. They will only move as far south as the must to find soft water and no further. When I want to find ducks I revert back to the river in AR, but if I want a REAL adventure I go to Montana, that's right, the western flyway. Less people, better habitat and you can Pheasant hunt when you break for lunch and still be sitting by the fire at 5:00 with a glass of libations. My boat trailers have almost as many miles as my trucks.......But that's just me.
 

JJWise

Ten Pointer
One thought I've had that is a change that may have affected duck hunting is beavers. 30-40 years ago, beavers were practically extirpated here in NC. That would have resulted in fewer ponded areas throughout the state, which may have concentrated duck numbers in the areas that did have ponds. Then the beaver population exploded and beaver ponds can now be found everywhere. Now, because ducks have so many ponds to spread their numbers to, the duck populations APPEAR to individual hunters to be lower, but are actually collectively, higher.
I believe DU or Wildfowl had an article on this a couple years ago. Not necessarily beaver ponds, but about the explosion of private impoundments in the southeast allowing birds to really spread out, so even if we do have a good migration/more birds, most hunters aren’t seeing as many as they used to.
 

Plottdog

Six Pointer
I believe DU or Wildfowl had an article on this a couple years ago. Not necessarily beaver ponds, but about the explosion of private impoundments in the southeast allowing birds to really spread out, so even if we do have a good migration/more birds, most hunters aren’t seeing as many as they used to.
Exactly. 30 years ago I hunted Hyde Co. and there was maybe 10 impoundments around the lake. Now they are everywhere you look. So the birds we do get are so scattered. Another thing is there are lot more hunters now and you see birds in places now you didn't see them back then. The rivers here on the coast used to hold a lot of ducks but with more and more people with boats a lot of those ducks get harassed. There is one thing about a duck. If he gets shot at a lot or harassed he is leaving and not stopping in that same spot next year. Everyone that buys a piece of land along the coast wants to build a duck impoundment. Duck Commander made a lot of duck hunters.
 

JONOV

Twelve Pointer
Weather, lack of food and pressure have changed. I don't think the bird counts are accurate. I can't think of one place in the country that is seeing birds like they used to. For NC specifically it's food and pressure. We used to have calender ducks that came in very large numbers regardless of the weather. I've witnessed some spectacular migration days in years past when it was very warm. Another thing that sticks out to me is pressure isn't just hunting pressure. I never saw many boats running around the sound during duck season in years past. Without the SAV to hold them in the sounds it turns into a rest area. With boats buzzing around they don't get kicked up so many times before leaving.
Fact is that “hot destinations” change over time. Southern Illinois was once a hot spot. Oklahoma used to be a place we never thought about as a duck hunting destination. I could name a dozen more…
 

ducknut

Six Pointer
Agreed, but are any places seeing ducks like that would reflect the duck counts? I don't spend a ton of time researching it, but all I see is people seeing no ducks. Even in the "new hot spots". It's a bit concerning considering they haven't flown for duck counts in 2 years and have agreed to a liberal upcoming season. I understand a hunters observations aren't scientific but they shouldn't be discounted
 

Hydemarsh

Six Pointer
I thought NJ had limited public hunting. I actually had more access to public land with less hunters and killed a lot more birds there then I do here. It was all on public land too. A lot less waterfowl hunters in NJ then here. I would still be there but can’t afford to live there. I do love the weather here especially in the winter. Lol
Neverfail, I would try to find a way to make it work in NJ. That is the place for you. Could you talk some of the people coming to Johnston from NJ to stay there?
IMHO..... been duck hunting in various states for 60+ years and NC has to be in the top 3 for the worst. I knew that when I moved here 35 years ago and it has declined since then. We are not in a flyway so the best bet for anything related to a duck is along the coast. I personally don't like hunting divers because I don't like eating them, too fishy for MY taste.
I only kill as many ducks as I plan to eat in the next 2 days so I'm not a tailgate poser. I take a lot of people "duck hunting" here in NC (Brown Dog Guide Services) and it's always a task to find something for them to shoot at but they keep coming back so I'll keep taking the money.
I grew up in Arkansas in the 60's and hunted with my Grandfathers brother (Uncle JC) It was about an hour from his house to DuVall's Bluff on the White River and he loved hunting the Oxbows, either jump shooting or using decoys. He only took me to the Rice Fields twice and he hated going there but the river was a no go for some reason.
I think ducks don't make it to NC because of the mild winters up north. They will only move as far south as the must to find soft water and no further. When I want to find ducks I revert back to the river in AR, but if I want a REAL adventure I go to Montana, that's right, the western flyway. Less people, better habitat and you can Pheasant hunt when you break for lunch and still be sitting by the fire at 5:00 with a glass of libations. My boat trailers have almost as many miles as my trucks.......But that's just me.
Come on MR Boat! NC kills more ducks than any other state in the Atlantic Flyway. There are locations in NC with insane number of ducks. Some people know how to legally attract them. Pintails, wigeon, gadwall, teal are coming regardless and they know where the food and low pressure is. I do agrre with you on the Pacific Flyway. It is so much better.
 
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