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“HELP KEEP THE FLAME ALIVE”

WISCONSIN WATERFOWL HUNTERS CONFERENCE

2018 Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Conference

Thank you for supporting the Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Conference, we are looking forward to seeing you March 10 2018. The Conference will again be held at the Hotel Mead and Conference Center In Wisconsin Rapids so plan to come out.

The Steering Committee has a couple of announcements.

We are reminding the Wisconsin waterfowl hunting community to keep our Scholarship
Program in your annual gift giving plans. We have been putting the funding that you have so graciously donated to the program to good use. Check out the program information at http://www.wiswaterfowlersconf.org/scholarship/. The Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Conference’s scholarship program was created by hunters to sustain the waterfowl hunting opportunities through educational support of professional Wildlife Manager development.

We are beginning to develop the agenda and if you have suggested topics for the 2018 agenda, please contact Robert Landerman or Jon R. Bergquist (see contact information below) with your suggestions.  Show up and voice your feelings on special seasons, teal hunts, youth hunts, multiple splits and the incredible Wisconsin waterfowl hunting experience you enjoyed in
2017.

Steering Member Contacts:

Al Kube (WI-Canada) 608-626-3531
Jon R. Bergquist (NW WI) @ jonrbergquist@hotmail.com 715-268-5584;
George Braunreiter – W WI – gbraunre@yahoo.com  507-251-0550
or Robert M. Landerman (C WI) landermanrm@gmail.com Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters Conference Chairman 2017-18

 


2017 Chairmans letter

It’s now been three years since the awarding of the Special Teal season added over and upon the simplified Wisconsin waterfowl hunting regulations. It has performed like a lot of things in the modern world of exhaustively researched feelings from a far off central office . Compromised goals resulting in dubious local lasting satisfaction. Modern management problem solving has compounded resolutions with it’s shrinking digital view of the physical world of reality based upon a survey. These seasons must of have looked better in the printing process then over my decoy spread. I understand the need to keep every type of hunting group appeased and still stay within what the national policy makers will allow.

So we once again confirm Wisconsin is not Texas . We do not live in the Central flyway. Ducks and geese stay in Canada where the feed is plentiful until their water is solid. Something every old Wisconsin duck hunter knew since regulated hunting started. The seasoned state wetland waterfowler has always bagged his local ducks on the weekend openers and hoped for a weather change to coincide with his subsequent hunting trips for the duration of the season . Luck and timing could result in the dozen birds for the season and hope for next year.

I have learned a great deal from Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Conference and none of the above will I ever have a say in changing nor will I add lasting input at the point of the decision making. My duck hunting and wetland involvement in Wisconsin is all local. It’s an issue of quality wetlands for the game and time of year for the access to the resource. Your region needs wetlands or shallow water to produce waterfowl for opening day. Wisconsin by federally waterfowl management policy designated as a waterfowl production region. The same property then needs management to hold waterfowl for a controlled 60 day harvest. These are two different habitat demands. If the harvest is not of a quality to satisfy the hunting community; the hunters and funds for management of the the resource will vanish .

So the majority of us went through another below average season. You can blame the weather or maybe the guys next to you were better prepared and beat you to the x spot. You might of have even just guessed wrong on the spread set to the weather on your days out. The issue is the average hunter only bags 10 birds a year and on average harvests two birds a day (Conservation Corner By David Hart “Wildfowl “ nov 2016 ). From what I have seen and heard expectations for the average hunting public have not been meet this season .

I will now get back to the point of the opening paragraph . The jawing of the hunters at the boat landing sure feels that the group who comes up with the regulations do not hunt Wisconsin waterfowl. Hardcore waterfowl hunters do not like the adjacent blinds hunters but understands that he needs the other guy for the success of the day and to support the past time. The comment of why have a 60 day season if you only see memorable birds for 10 days. I said see birds for 10 days. I do not mean they had 10 good shooting days out of 60. Why would the average outdoors person purchase a license. Let alone invest in a hunting boat and rig for the current Wisconsin migratory fall flights. Plentiful, harvestable waterfowl leads to a crowded marsh full of hunters, a wetland devoid of waterfowl is soon just another shallow lake of second homes.

The old timers reminisce of the great openers with four bird bag limit days. Seeing ducks and maybe harvesting a couple of mallards and a wood duck on opening weekend. They nostalgically recall shooting blue wing teal during the first week of October. Not no more! Local waterfowl have received several special education sessions and made their flight plan get away well before the opener. The enhanced opportunities of teal seasons, early goose season, and a youth hunt have changed the traditional opener to a forgettable below average experience.

In business you can tell when a product has run it’s course in the market. Marketers will repackage it and talk it up ( 50 million ducks ) then in desperation throw in some extra items ( teal hunts , early goose, take a kid out to see some ducks before they leave). If it’s really bad raise the price (increase the duck stamp ). It’s got to be great if it’s over priced. None of this works for long. The state’s hunting license will show it with a drop in sales again. The sport is expensive and time is money so average and starting hunters will put their resources into different endeavors breaking down and eroding the waterfowling tradition.

A few of us hardcore fools will continue ( If I just wait out the others , It will all be mine.) The problems will still remain and grow bigger for those in the central office. Where is the revenue going to come from? Waterfowl hunters pay grandly and donate handsomely for their privilege. Who will pick up the bill when the hunter hangs it up? The list of Wisconsin surface water users is lengthy and has the commonality of altering the resource from natural to enhanced and degraded.: giving the waterfowl community a reduced opportunity. The decision and priority process of sustained resource conservation by regulated permitted user fees conflicts with the over site organizations short term revenue demands . Its’ many unfunded goals and values need to maximize revenue for annual self-funding. Waterfowl revenue demands quality wetlands for hunters to pursue and produce sustainable harvestable waterfowl. The traditional field staff of experienced Wisconsin waterfowl biologists who maintained diverse unique geographical habitats in this system will become permitting agents maneuvering multiple users into the same resource for a fee.

The Multiple use philosophy has created the current system of fragmented special seasons of sub group pandering. It’s a simple method of distraction of dived and conquer to maintain for the growth and prosperity of those in charge at the expense of those whom they are to serve. We can put up with top heavy program thats gutted of field science, please just get rid of the sops of special seasons to a few at the expense of a quality opener to the majority. It clearly looks to myself and growing number of old time hunters at the landing that the new environmentalist management philosophy is not paying for the average Wisconsin waterfowl hunter. The issue is they would of known this if they had hunted waterfowl in Wisconsin .

Remember “follow the Money “ We must demand to know where, what, how, and for who the hunting and firearm revenue expenditures are made. During a previous Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunter’s Conference a federal waterfowl stamp presentation presenter proposed the expansion of the program into the none game bird world. A modern transformation establishing a Birding revenue source from a successful hunting habitat conservation program by and for hunters. What, why ? I enjoy sharing the wild places and wetlands with the general public but only the dog ,decoys, and myself can fit in the old handed down skiff. The wonderful special interest ideas that are crowding out my use must create their own measurable self-sustaining economic support methods for their natural resource demands. Waterfowl hunters need to inform themselves and speak out.

See you in Wisconsin Rapids March 11 , 2017 .

Bob Landerman WWHC chairman
these are my views and only my views
and are not that of any current or previous
Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Conference
members or supporters .


Cold fronts once again clip across the Wisconsin outdoors bringing the gathering season into full swing. The majority of the readers will probably concur with my observation that the waterfowl season is rating average. During the 2014 conference presentation by Dr.Todd Arnold on Harvest Derivation and Population Status of Mallards: A great Lakes Perspective  he pointed out that about 69% of the mallards harvested in Wisconsin are produced here. The experienced Wisconsin Waterfowl hunter has long known that his early success is determined by this state’s wetlands fertility.

When we organize our early season hunting adventures, we will need to do some scouting to locate harvestable early season waterfowl. You could start by taking a early September trip to the federal refugee marsh at Horicon. Watching the post plumage molt Mallard concentration is arousing but obviously these birds are not harvestable. The field hunts for these birds will not be in full swing until the late October row crop harvest is underway. We could get in the line for the Urban Suburban goose flights from their fire arm free zone roosts. These birds start out urban street smart and only learn better survival techniques with each daily feeding trip.

This bag of gunning options leaves us who are not fortunate to have the western out of state option going back to the local bottom lands. There are once again tremendous numbers of Wood Ducks hidden within them. The state’s Wood Duck numbers from prudent management and harvest controls have grown throughout my 50 + years of living. They are a state success story that thrived with the habitat evolution of the environmental changes of water and forest bottom land use. Although there is some concern on the horizon if you have read WDNR Breeding Population of Waterfowl (see fig 5). The good days may be yesteryears for Wisconsin Wood Duck Hunts.

These scientific things are not to be dwelled upon for the modern waterfowling community. We need every hunt to be a “dream hunt” of a life time. We live in a marketing sporting media world that has dramatized and popularized flooded agriculture and millet field teal shoots of the southern and western states. Modern marketing has transformed the armchair sportsperson into a state of dreamy envy. It‘s simply fantastic to watch the videos of all those early migrating Blue- wing teal being harvested on camera and why can’t everyone participate.

This cornucopia of quality millet-rice field hunts along with the Central Flyways aerial survey estimate of bursting teal population induced the state to take the federal bait. We are blessed with another opportunity, another season, the new early teal season. There are numerous problems with living your neighbor’s life and the further away they are from you the bigger and more numerous they can be. We are geographically 400 miles to the east. We live and hunt in the northern staging area of the Mississippi Flyway and a good part of the traditional Atlantic Flyway staging area for diving ducks. What does that mean? Well, the traditional wetlands of Wisconsin have been the resting and feeding grounds of migrating birds using these two flight corridors.  Those spectacular southern early hunts of the Central Flyway are early migrants. They left the breeding grounds due to quick breeding success or failure. They are in a different flight corridor that does not historically stage in Wisconsin wetlands in the fall.

Yes, but your dad and uncle said there was a lot of blue-wing teal in the late 70‘s. I agree there sure was but we had a big problem starting in the early 80’s and it was called the atrazine corn production boom. The stuff was great for improved corn yields, but it just played hell on next year’s hay planting and would readily runoff into the adjacent water system accumulating in the wet soils. It performed very well and had lasting effects due to the slow nature of anaerobic chemical decay on the wetland grasses and smart weeds. It reduced the quality and quantity of the fall food source for early staging waterfowl. One very important wetland grass received severe damage and was nearly eradicated from the southern two thirds of the state, that was wild rice.

This one plants removal changed early season wetland waterfowl hunting. The presence of Wisconsin’s original indigenous grain crop makes the average marsh into a great migratory marsh. The few employed professionally trained waterfowl manager can reference you to the U.S.D.A. 1939  publication  by A.C. Martin and F.M . Uhler, Food of Game Ducks in the United States and Canada (the table on page 12) will clarify it’s food source importance. Thick large wild rice fields of the upper Mississippi Flyway historically provided late nesting waterfowl with food, shelter and security to rest prior to continuing their migratory journey. It was one of the principal reasons for prolonged waterfowl staging in the state. Once they have time to establish their feeding pattern on a wild rice stand and they can avoid moderate human hunting pressure they will utilize it until it is stripped of accessible rice. A good number of these rice field wetland habitats may then transition into post feed loafing resting areas as waterfowl discover additional late season food sources. The vision that late season blow down rice patches provide, along with ample protection from birds of prey and protection from attempts to x spot waterfowl hunts turn these fields into waterfowl magnets.

The good news is the wild rice is back after development of herbicide application regulation controls along with the ducks of the good old days within those fields. The problem is current waterfowl hunters and wetland managers have limited experience with large scale wild rice field waterfowling. The best examples of this can be seen in the early teal season and youth hunts both of which are well intended political social issues with no clear view of the overall big picture. Let me clarify my view of the big picture. Waterfowl hunters pay for, (Pittman Robinson taxes and License and Habitat stamps) , safe guard ( individual and group advocacy), and maintain wetlands ( local friends of volunteers) for everyone else to use and produce ducks that we hunt. It is questionable if the two current programs cost data analysis are increasing revenue and hunter numbers to justify the management and program budget costs to the sport. Recall the Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Conference recruitment data presentations. Duck hunter satisfaction is based on seeing harvestable waterfowl opening day. The state’s duck stamp paying primary wetland advocate ,hunters , need one good hunt and it is best served up on opening day.

Back to wild rice and early hunting season management, these special early bonus seasons or as they have been portrayed another opportunity for the average hunter to enhance the waterfowl experience are popular. The youth hunt when it started sort of worked on the paper calendar before the states rice field recovery with it being a local wood duck hunt. Everyone knows in Madison that the working class hunter has time to take another weekend off for a youth event. The issue is that this hunt and now a teal season blankets the rice field ripening for the lower two thirds of the state .The very quality hunt the season attempts to provide of numerous migratory ducks never really gets underway. The early migrating ducks arrive during the hunt and never establish a good feed resting cycle before hunting pressure pushes them out of the area.  We have instated a two week plus shooting scouting block at the start of the staging of the traditional waterfowl migration. This may provide extra hunting days in Wisconsin for the duck gunner but the seasoned waterfowler of the past understood shooting migrating ducks on the day of arrival will just burn them off the marsh the following morning. It is a wonderful early Wisconsin waterfowl send off gift for the hunter to the south but he already never had it so good or at least that’s what the national sports writer say.
Wisconsin’s waterfowl community will have to make some prioritizing decision of what it desires. Numerous average days a field to play with boats and toys or quality waterfowl hunting experiences. My view is that we need to think about putting the youth and any early season together in a one week block and clip the early bag limits and or shooting hours per day. Collectively we may possibly relearn something about the states traditional staging and waterfowl movements and improve the hunting experience. You and I can recall one of the main intents of these seasons was hunter recruitment so why burn out the marsh before the season starts?   Is this how you to increase waterfowl hunter numbers with empty opening day skies?
See you at the 2017 Conference March 11 2017 at the Hotel Mead and Conference Center, Wisconsin Rapids.

Robert Landerman
landerman@gmail.com

This letter is part of multipart commentary on Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunting, as I am currently experiencing it. I stand alone on the final product which does not reflect the views of any members of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters’ Committee Conference or any other organization.