Joe Balog was born and raised on the Great Lakes, where he's earned a living as a charter boat captain, pro bass fisherman and outdoor communicator. As waterfowl editor for Realtree.com, Balog was bitten by the duck bug while hunting the world famous St. Clair Flats. Between duck hunting, fishing, and dog training, Balog spends some 300 days a year on the water.
Duck Season Dates and Global Warming
Why is it that the ducks seem to show up the day the season ends?
Here in Michigan, the anticipation, sweaty palms, and shortness of breath are over. It’s official – the Division of Wildlife set the dates for duck and goose season. Some hunters are elated, but most are discouraged. But perhaps it’s not the state wildlife officials that are to blame.
Each year, more and more hunters seem to complain that duck season is just “too early." I can’t tell you how many times I have heard hunters complain that, by the time the ducks migrate to their part of the country, the season is ending. It seems to happen each year in southern Michigan. The season ends the first week of December, and you can mark your calendar that the best days of the year will be the last couple. This year, the season will be ending even earlier. My best days afield may come with a camera.
There are several theories as to why, it seems, ducks are migrating later in the season, especially around the Plains and Great Lakes. Obviously, weather is the driving force behind the migration. And the weather is getting warmer. That’s a fact.
Call it what you want, disagree if you care to, but the overall warming trend we are in right now, often referred to as Global Warming, can be scientifically documented. I’m not saying that we’re destroying the planet (but it's possible), or that it’s caused by SUV’s (I hope not…), or farting cows, or whatever. All I’m saying is it’s a trend that can be documented. When speaking with avid ice fisherman, it’s a known, recognized fact. The ice fishing season is shorter each year across the nation, as a whole. It may be a long shot, but I think it’s affecting our waterfowl migrations.
Scientists and politicians decide our hunting season bag limits and dates. And their decisions must be balanced between hunter results and participation. If waterfowl season is at a time when few hunters want to hunt, license sales plummet. If duck season opens prior to any major migration of waterfowl into the area, what good is it? These people have a tough job, no doubt. I’m glad I don’t have to make these decisions. But, if I did, for my area at least, our season would be several weeks later in the year. How about yours?
I’d like to know if any veteran waterfowlers, guys that have been out there for decades, feel like migrations have changed. And I’d like to know if you think the warming of our atmosphere is the reason.