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February 22, 2008

Duck hunters finish the season on DNR Waterfowl Management Areas

Duck hunters finished the season on S.C. Department of Natural Resources public hunting lands, with a total harvest of 3,257 birds, an average of 2.22 birds per hunter, up slightly from the 1.99 birds per hunter reported last year. A total of 1467 hunters participated in these popular hunts at the 15 Wildlife Management Areas that recorded individual hunt data.

American green-winged teal accounted for 17 percent of the harvest, followed by wood ducks, Northern shovelers, American wigeon, ring-necked ducks, gadwall, and blue-winged teal.

"Overall, the season for our waterfowl areas was pretty good, considering the wild weather we had during the season. We started off very dry in many areas, followed by an unseasonable warm spell in early December then a real cold spell in early January," said Dean Harrigal, wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  "Fortunately the  colder weather in January improved hunting conditions, especially along the coast."

On Category I Wildlife Management Areas (drawing only), 798 hunters on 6 areas harvested 2,389 birds for an average of 2.99 per hunter. Green winged teal, American widgeon, gadwall, northern shovelers, and blue-winged teal were top birds in the bag.

Santee Coastal Reserve in Charleston and Georgetown Counties led in total harvest for all Wildlife Management Areas with 1,070 birds harvested by 294 hunters for an average of 3.64 birds per hunter, followed by Bear Island WMA in Colleton County with 3.11 birds per hunter and Broad River Wildlife Management Area in Fairfield County with 2.8.

"Green-winged teal are a mainstay of our Category I Wildlife Management Areas, especially along the coast," said Harrigal. "When teal are around we generally have good hunter success."
Top individual hunt units were Murphy Island (4.47 birds per hunters) and The Cape (3.62 birds per hunter) of the Santee Coastal Reserve followed by the Springfield/ The Cut unit of Bear Island with an average of 3.2 birds per hunter. 

Hunt data was collected on 5 of the 25 Category II Wildlife Management Areas (open to the public on specific days). Hunters reported a harvest of 458 birds on these areas. The average for 548 hunters was 0.84 birds per gun. Wood ducks accounted for almost 43 percent of the bag followed by ring-necked ducks. The long-term drought of 2008 had a detrimental impact on habitat in nearly all Category II WMA’s.

Hickory Top Green Tree Reservoir in Clarendon County, which had the highest harvest in Category II areas last year, was severely impacted by the drought this year and only a small pool was flooded by rainfall. Consequently the harvest there was much lower than that of last year. Other Category II Wildlife Management Areas impacted by the drought were Enoree in Newberry County, Crackerneck in Aiken County and the Hatchery in Berkley County.

"Although The Hickory Top Greentree Reservoir was not flooded fully this year, the drought had a positive impact on the long term management of the area," said Buddy Baker, DNR Region III wildlife coordinator. "It is important for people to realize that green-tree reservoirs must not be flooded at least every 3-4 years to maintain the vitality of the hardwood stands in them."

Regular season adult-youth hunts were held on 3 special adult -youth only areas. The reported harvest was 411 birds by 121 hunters for an average of 3.4 birds per hunter. Ring-necked ducks, green-winged teal and wood ducks were the top birds in the bag. Bonneau Ferry WMA in Berkeley County and Donnelley WMA in Colleton County were top adult-youth waterfowl hunting areas during the recently completed season.

The Department sponsored special hunts for youth during State and Federal Youth Hunting Days on December 8 and February 2. A total of 108 youth harvested 287 birds on the 8 Category I and 2 Category II areas that reported data.  Top areas were Donnelley, Bonneau Ferry, Santee Delta, Santee Coastal, and Bear Island Wildlife Management Areas. Top species in the bag was green-winged teal.

"We were especially pleased that our youth-oriented hunts provided quality waterfowl hunting opportunities for young men and women during the season," Harrigal said.

Detailed reports on the recent waterfowl season.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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