Wildlife - Waterfowl Project Report

April 2005

Wildlife Management Areas

Habitat Management, Waterfowl Utilization and Public Waterfowl Hunting on Category I Areas

Category I Waterfowl Areas include all WMAs specifically, or in part, managed for waterfowl where hunters are selected by annual random drawing. These include Beaverdam Creek and Clemson Waterfowl WMAs in DNR Region 1; Broad River WMA in Region 3; and Bear Island, Donnelley, Samworth, Sandy Beach, Santee Coastal Reserve, and Santee-Delta WMAs in Region 4. Tables III and IV provide summaries of public waterfowl hunting opportunity and success on Category I Waterfowl Areas during the respective 2003-04 and 2004-05 waterfowl hunting seasons. Figure 6 demonstrates annual waterfowl harvest/hunter/day on all areas during the period 1969-70 through 2004-05.

A total of 64 and 66 regular drawing waterfowl hunts and a total of 11 and 9 youth/adult waterfowl hunts were conducted on Category I Areas during the respective 2003-04 and 2004-05 waterfowl hunting seasons. A total of 9 youth only waterfowl hunts were conducted on these areas during each of the respective hunting seasons. During the 2-year period a total of 168 waterfowl hunt events were conducted on Category I Areas.

Habitat management at the 35-acre Beaverdam Creek WMA consisted of planting approximately 6 acres to corn both years; the remainder of this area was managed for moist-soil plants. Above average rainfall in 2003 resulted in a fair crop of corn, and favorable growing conditions in 2004 resulted in good corn production. Waterfowl utilization on this area was characterized as below average in 2003-04, but hunting participants were successful averaging 2.48 ducks/hunter with ring-necked ducks comprising 66.7% of the bag. Waterfowl utilization at Beaverdam Creek WMA was poor in 2004-05 as was the entire upstate region, and waterfowlers averaged 1.12 ducks/hunter with 57.9% of the harvest consisting of wood ducks. Clemson Waterfowl WMA is an 11-acre area reserved for adult/youth paired hunting. None of the area could be planted in 2003 due to flooding; 7 acres were planted to corn and 2 acres were planted to chufa in 2004. Crops were considered to have been excellent in 2004; despite effort and habitat there was limited duck utilization on this area.

Broad River WMA habitat management consisted of planting corn and managing for moist-soil emergent plants. Flooding in 2003 precluded crop production. An excellent crop of corn in 2004 was ruined by tropical weather the rainfall from which also breached dikes on the area. Participants averaged 2.93 and 2.29 ducks/hunter respectively during waterfowl hunts conducted on Broad River WMA during 2003-04 and 2004-05. Mallards (28.8%), wood ducks (20.5%) and ring-necked ducks (20.5%) comprised leading species in the bag during 2003-04. Ring-necked ducks (21.8%), green-winged teal (18.2%) and wood ducks (18.2%) were the top species harvested in 2004-05.

Samworth WMA is an area consisting of 802 acres of managed tidal freshwater wetlands in 13 management units. Samworth WMA was not included in the regular draw hunt program during a 3-year period prior to 2004-05 pursuant to requests from public hunters and adjacent landowners in order to limit disturbance, to maximize opportunity for hunters using public waters around the area, and to foster and maintain waterfowl fidelity to the area. Waterfowl habitat on the area has been affected by natural perturbations (flooding and tropical weather) and vandalism; however, most habitat was in prime condition during both 2003 and 2004. Wintering waterfowl utilization of the area during 2003-04 and 2004-05 was excellent. Draw hunts were conducted on Samworth during 2004-05 with participants harvesting an average of 3.04 ducks/hunter. Green-winged teal and wood ducks respectively comprised 57.5% and 32.8% of the bag.

Each year a large number of waterfowl hunters utilize public waters immediately adjacent to Samworth WMA managed wetlands. DNR staff surveyed public hunting opportunity from 1983-84 through 2003-04; an estimated minimum average of 1,289 waterfowl hunters per year hunted adjacent to this area during the 21-year period (Table V, Figure 5). During 2003-04 an estimated minimum of 1,664 waterfowlers hunted in public waters immediately adjacent to Samworth WMA.

Sandy Beach WMA, located adjacent to and intricately linked to Lake Moultrie, was managed for a variety of planted crops during both years. Proximity to Lake Moultrie renders the area difficult to manage for moist-soil plants due to water level fluctuations. Growing conditions were good during 2003 resulting in approximately 40 acres of successful agricultural plantings, including brown-top and Japanese millets and chufas. Waterfowl response to habitat management was in accordance with expectations during 2003-04, and participants averaged 2.75 ducks/hunter with wood ducks (30.0%), mallards (24.3%) and green-winged teal (22.1%) comprising most of the bag. Excess precipitation and armyworms arrested habitat management efforts in 2004, but good waterfowl utilization of the area permitted an average of 2.98 ducks/hunter during 2004-05. Mallards (34.4%), wood ducks (27.0%) and green-winged teal (19.7%) were top species in the bag.

Santee Coastal Reserve (SCR) is the largest of all DNR areas where waterfowl management is emphasized. Extensive brackish managed wetlands occur on Cedar and Murphy islands, which are barrier islands, and The Cape, a mainland management unit. Approximately 14,000 acres on this area are managed for high-quality submerged and emergent plants favored by waterfowl. Waterfowl habitat on The Cape was in excellent condition during growing seasons of both 2003 and 2004 while habitat conditions on Murphy Island was considered average during both years. On Cedar Island habitat conditions were below average in 2003 and excellent in 2004. The extensive wetlands on SCR annually provide foraging and refuge habitat for large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, and hunting success typically is high. During 2003-04 waterfowl hunting participants averaged 4.75 ducks/hunter with 22.7% of the harvest comprised of blue-winged teal. Green-winged teal (18.3%), gadwall (12.3%) and wigeon (12.0%) were the additional most important species harvested. Blue-winged teal (19.5%), gadwall (18.6%), green-winged teal (16.1%) and Northern shovelers (14.4%) were leading species harvested in 2004-05 when participants averaged 3.87 ducks/hunter on this area.

Santee-Delta WMA is a vital area for the remaining migratory mallards wintering in SC. The area consists of 1,135 acres of freshwater managed wetlands between the North and South Santee rivers. Habitat management conditions during 2003 were less than ideal as the area remained inundated until late in the growing season due to flooding of the Santee River, however, habitat management efforts produced a late crop of preferred emergent plants resulting in high waterfowl utilization during the ensuing wintering period with excellent public hunting opportunities. Participants averaged 3.33 ducks/hunter with green-winged teal (32.8%) and mallards (25.2%) comprising the majority of the bag. Habitat management was facilitated during 2004 by ample freshwater and predictable tides resulting in excellent habitat conditions. During the winter period of 2004-05 impressive waterfowl concentrations utilized the area, and hunters benefited by averaging 2.27 ducks per/hunter even though there was a 16.9% increase in hunter numbers from 2003-04. During 2004-05 green-winged teal (34.1%) and mallards (17.0%) were the most important species in the bag.

Waterfowl hunting at Bear Island WMA has a long and rich tradition. This area includes 5,385 acres of brackish and fresh managed wetlands in the Bear Island East, Bear Island West and Springfield/The Cut units. Habitat management during 2003 was much improved over conditions during the preceding 2 years when extreme drought affected the area with prolonged high salinity. A return to more average rainfall in 2004 further improved habitat at Bear Island WMA, and late season tropical rainfall provided opportunities for both freshwater and brackish wetlands to be in excellent condition. DNR staff planted approximately 15 acres to corn in 2004 with success. Waterfowl utilization in 2003-04 was considered below average despite improved habitat. Waterfowl hunt participants averaged 1.64 and 2.16 ducks/hunter on Bear Island and Springfield/The Cut units respectively, with blue-winged teal (24.3%) being the most important bird in the bag on Bear Island and green-winged teal (20.4%) leading the bag on Springfield/The Cut. Waterfowl responded to habitat improvements in 2004-05 and hunting success improved on both Bear Island (1.85 ducks/hunter) and Springfield/The Cut (3.53 ducks/hunter) units. As in the previous year blue-winged teal (24.1%) and green-winged teal (23.3%) were the most important ducks in the bag respectively on Bear Island and Springfield/The Cut units.

Youth/adult waterfowl hunts are featured at Donnelley WMA, a diverse area supporting high quality freshwater and brackish managed wetlands. Habitat management for moist-soil plants was considered average in 2003 and excellent in 2004. In both years approximately 45 acres were planted to corn for winter flooding. Waterfowl utilization was consistently good during both wintering periods. Participating adults and youth averaged 2.91 ducks/hunter during 2004-05 as wood ducks and green-winged teal comprised 34.4% and 25.3% respectively of the total harvest. Adult/youth harvest statistics are provided in Table VI along with summaries of results on Category I and II areas.

Habitat Management, Waterfowl Utilization and Waterfowl Hunting on Category II Areas

A total of 22 sites across SC comprise DNR Category II Waterfowl Management Areas. Typically waterfowl habitat management on these sites is less intensive, however, areas such as Russell Creek, Enoree and Hickory Top WMAs are intensively managed. Category II Areas are available for public waterfowl hunting on specific days and times during the open hunting season for waterfowl. Public use and waterfowl harvest data are collected on a limited number of Category II Areas including Crackerneck WMA on the US Department of Energy Savannah River Site, Hatchery WMA on Lake Moultrie and Lake Cunningham WMA, a municipal reservoir owned by the City of Greer. Waterfowl harvest results from Category II Areas are provided in Table VII.

Waterfowl hunting opportunity on Category II Areas is measured by the number of available days. A total of 303 and 319 waterfowl hunting opportunity days were available on Category II Areas during the respective 2003-04 and 2004-05 waterfowl hunting seasons.

Habitat Management and Waterfowl Utilization on Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center

DNR staff conducts intensive habitat management on the diverse fresh, brackish and saline managed wetlands on Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center (TYWC), another coastal area. Approximately 3,000 acres of wetlands in 20 management units on this site annually are managed for waterfowl and other wetland dependent species in accordance with stipulations of the benefactor, Tom Yawkey. Habitat on TYWC in 2003 was average as there was higher precipitation than desired for brackish habitat management. During the growing cycle of 2004 habitat conditions were unchanged from the previous year. Waterfowl utilization during 2003-04 was average for recent period, but waterfowl numbers were higher during 2004-05. Pursuant to Tom Yawkey’s wishes TYWC is an inviolate sanctuary, and no waterfowl hunting is permitted.

Youth Waterfowl Hunts

Several DNR Category I Areas were available for youth participants during 1 day of the annually approved youth waterfowl hunting days. Tables VIII and IX provide harvest and youth waterfowl hunting opportunity data on areas available during these dates. A total of 61 youth harvested 141 ducks (2.31 ducks/hunter) on 7 areas in 2004. A total of 123 ducks were harvested by 58 youth (2.12 ducks/hunter) on 8 areas in 2005. During both years green-winged teal (24.8% and 19.5% respectively) were the leading birds in the collective bag.

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