It’s been a mixed bag, so to speak.
Reports on the 2012-13 hunting season vary from “successful” to “SNS” — Stiff Neck Syndrome — which Dick Johnston said he and colleagues suffered when staring up in the sky in search of waterfowl this year.
“Worst season I’ve had in 25 years,” said Johnston, a Creston financial advisor. “I think weather was a big factor. It was nice so long, then we got into the full moon phases. The birds could see so well, they were feeding at night. Now you have a problem.”
While most ducks have left the area, there is certainly no shortage of geese assembled at Green Valley, Twelve Mile and Three Mile lakes. In fact, there are thousands.
But, goose season ends Friday. There may be some benefit locally to the geese not migrating farther south where hunting seasons are open.
“I guess if they stay, and don’t get shot, there’s more for us to kill next year,” said Joe Mayhew, Three Mile Lake park ranger.
Lack of rainfall has slowed the return of water to Summit Lake after its dam renovation, which has limited movement of the geese, Johnston said.
“We typically get some geese coming back to Summit or Hurley Creek, going in all different directions,” Johnston said. “I think it hurt that we don’t have water yet in Summit Lake.”
Duck season continues thorugh Dec. 13. Tom Lesan, Southwestern Community College vice president of economic development, is an avid water fowl and quail hunter. He said duck success was “OK” earlier in the season.
“This year I thought ducks and geese were pretty good,” Lesan said. “But if the drought continues, and they don’t get moisture up in the Dakotas and Canada next spring, you’ll see a big difference next year. I went up there to duck hunt and we found puddles that we’ve hunted for years, just bone dry. And, that’s where our ducks come from.”
Locally, geese are still finding open water and food sources, and without a major storm soon, they may not migrate south like most years. Goose hunting season continues into February in Missouri, where the birds may be pushed by foul weather.
While it’s no secret the “good old days” of pheasant hunters flocking to southwest Iowa are long gone, with low bird population attributed to a variety of environmental reasons, quail hunting remains a popular sport. The season continues through January. Pheasant season ended this week.
“I actually think quail numbers were a little up,” Lesan said. “We had two winters that were pretty mild, and that had to help. With the drought, that didn’t cause nests to be flooded out in the spring. That leads to more hatches making it.”
Many former pheasant hunters have turned to something more predictable for success in southern Iowa — deer hunting. Whether they’re bow hunters, armed with muzzleloaders or possessing one of the shotgun season tags, they’ve been out in full force.
The Iowa Dpartment of Natural Resources reported that nearly 60,000 deer were harvested by hunters during the first shotgun season. The second season ended in mid-December, and the third season begins Friday (see related story).
“Our deer seasons have been pretty successful, but our deer herd is dropping,” said Corey Carleton, DNR conservation officer for Union and Ringgold counties. “Are we at the perfect number? You get different opinions. The EHD outbreak hit us in some parts, especially Ringgold County. Madison and Warren were hit the hardest.”
Union County issued 2,100 extra tags for the January doe rifle season. When factoring the early and late muzzleloaders, shotgun and landowner tags, there’s been a plentiful harvest the past three years, Carlton said.
“The DOT and sheriff’s departments have said numbers are down on road kills,” Carlton said. “Numbers being down isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, we try to get a happy medium.”