Wildlife - Waterfowl Project Report

April 2005

The 2005 Waterfowl Project Report (Adobe PDF - file size 1.6MB) is provided in the Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF) format. Adobe® Reader® is required to open these files and is available as a free download from the Adobe® Web site.
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Acknowledgements

2003 & 2004 Duck StampFirst to be recognized and thanked are the waterfowl enthusiasts of South Carolina (SC) who support, enjoy and pursue the waterfowl resource with passion and energy. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff is pleased to work naturally for you both on the science and administrative aspects of waterfowl management as well as on habitat management of DNR Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

Also recognized is all DNR staff laboring, often under difficult and inhospitable conditions, on WMAs where waterfowl management is either the featured or a significant management activity of the area where they are assigned.

DNR employees managing these areas during habitat management cycles of 2003 and 2004 and/or working public hunts during 2003-04 and 2004-05 waterfowl hunting seasons from Region 1 include Tom Swayngham, Billy Fleming, Richard Morton, Ron Fleming, Ronnie Graveley, Jimmy Kluge and Donnie Stone; Chuck Barnes of Greer Commission of Public Works partners with DNR at Lake Cunningham WMA. Region 3 DNR employees acknowledged include Buddy Baker, Mike Caudell, Bob Harkins, Jimmy Pence, Elliot Shuler and Gary Stevens. Region 4 employees include Sam Chappelear, Dave Baumann, Bill Mahan, Jeff Baumann, Ryan Bowles, Will Carlisle and Tom Harkins. Lower Coastal Waterfowl Project staff includes Daniel Beach, Ross Catterton, Greg Hudson, Terry Cox, Pete Laurie, Jeremy Lemacks, Seabrook Platt, Matt Smoak and George Todd. Staff working on Upper Coastal Waterfowl Project includes Jim Westerhold, Bill Mace, Keary Mull, Brian Kaminskas, Jim Lee, Jamie Mills and Elizabeth Turner. At Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center recognized are Bob Joyner, Ernest Alston, Mike Barfield, James Chattine, Steve Coker, Joseph Collington, Billy Floyd, Bryan Reese, James Turbeville and Ervin Woodberry.

Appreciation is extended to Cathy Bazzel, Patty Castine and Gail Fuller who perform many administrative and data entry tasks for the Waterfowl Projects including coordination of the public hunting program. We also thank Derrell Shipes, Chief of Wildlife Management for Special Projects/Research and Survey for his long-time support of the waterfowl projects, including his data entry in 2003 facilitating construction of tables and figures in this effort, and for reviewing this report.

Introduction

Waterfowl are an highly regarded, sought after and economically important resource in SC. Hunting waterfowl and management of wetland habitats across the state on both private and public domains create controversy and misunderstanding because ducks and geese wintering in SC are migratory. Further, interaction of many variables influences waterfowl abundance and enjoyment. Large populations of waterfowl historically migrated through and into SC during winter months to exploit abundant, high quality habitat along rivers, lakes and coastal marshes from October through March each year. Migratory waterfowl mix with local populations of resident Canada Geese, wood ducks and mottled ducks during this period. Waterfowl are a dynamic resource adapting to annual weather cycles, new or enhanced habitats, and disturbance across the continent, within the flyways, and in SC. Because waterfowl are a mobile, continental resource their stewardship and management involves DNR staff involvement in regulatory and administrative interaction with state, provincial and Federal agencies, as well as annual monitoring of population and harvest status within SC and the Atlantic Flyway (AF). This report addresses various facets of waterfowl regulations, survey, production, habitat management and public waterfowl hunting opportunities in SC over a 2-year administrative period, 2003-04 and 2004-05.

Regulations

The SC waterfowl hunting seasons of 2003-04 and 2004-05 were set by the DNR Board in accordance with the Federal migratory bird-hunting framework pursuant to approval by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on the basis of recommendations by the Atlantic Flyway Council (AFC). Final recommendations from the AFC to FWS have been based in recent years on an Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) model annually evaluating mallard production and habitat. AHM modeling in both years allowed liberal harvest opportunities (60 days) in the AF.

The DNR Board approved a 50-day waterfowl hunting season in SC in each year for several reasons, including but not limited to: (1) fewer days were recommended and selected based on concern for the migratory waterfowl resource wintering in SC pursuant to decreasing trends in wintering numbers of several species, (2) there is understanding and agreement among waterfowl biologists, both in SC as well as in other states, that migratory waterfowl wintering in SC are not adequately related to AHM decision criteria used to produce liberal harvest opportunities, and (3) there was support for conservatism among hunters and constituent group representatives as expressed to the DNR Waterfowl Advisory Committee (WAC) and DNR Board.

SC waterfowl hunting regulations during both 2003-04 and 2004-05 included 50 days of hunting with a basic limit of 6 ducks; internal daily limits were placed on several species including wood ducks (2), redheads (2), fulvous tree duck (1), scaup (3), and mallards (4). Additionally only 1 mallard hen or 1 black duck or 1 mottled duck could be taken per day. During 2004-05 an additional species was added to the daily bag with a limit on black-bellied tree ducks of 1 per day. One Northern pintail was allowed during the first 30 days of the season in 2003-04 and during the last 30 days of the season in 2004-05. One canvasback was allowed during the last 30 days of both seasons. A total of 5 blue or snow geese were allowed per day during 2003-04; during 2004-05 the blue or snow goose limit was increased to 15 per day. During both years a total of 5 Canada geese were allowed per day with restrictions on areas for Canada goose hunting to protect the migratory component of this species.

The waterfowl-hunting season during both years was extended through the last Sunday in January, and a 2-day special season scheduled approximately a week after the primary season was allowed for youth 15 years old and younger.

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