Waterfowl hunting numbers are down in Kansas and Missouri

A mallard duck.
A mallard duck. File photo

The ducks are here in big number, the marshes are ice-free and plenty of hunters are showing up.

Sounds like a recipe for great late-season waterfowl hunting, doesn’t it? Well, that’s not the case.

In both Missouri and Kansas, the hunting has been mediocre at best.

Look at the Four Rivers Conservation Area in Missouri’s Middle Zone. The wetlands are holding 91,000 ducks, mostly mallards. That’s good for bird-watchers … but not for hunters. On Sunday, 22 hunters shot only 17 ducks in the area where hunters have to draw for positions.

The same is true at the Schell-Osage Conservation Area, also in Missouri’s Middle Zone. The marshes there also have attracted big numbers of ducks, almost 90,000. But hunting has been similarly trying. On Saturday and Sunday, 155 hunters took 151 ducks.

The situation has been much the same in Kansas, though duck numbers aren’t as high. At managed wetlands such as Marais des Cygnes, Neosho, Milford and Perry, the hunting has been fair at best.

The reason for the tough hunting? In Missouri, many believe that a good portion of the ducks at some managed areas have been around too long and have learned the ropes. They are spending much of their time on refuge pools and are avoiding areas that get heavy hunting pressure. In Kansas, hunters blame the fact that ducks are dispersed over large areas due to good habitat conditions, especially in the eastern part of the state.

Hunters are running out of time. In Missouri, the duck season in the Middle Zone ends Tuesday. In Kansas, the main portion of the season in the Low Plains Late Zone ends Jan. 4; a late portion will run Jan. 17-25.

Take a hike

Officials with the Kansas state-park system are urging people to welcome the new year on the hiking trail.

Wildlife, Parks and Tourism officials will lead a series of outings Jan. 1 though its First Day Hikes program. Several in the Kansas City area will be included.

▪ CLINTON STATE PARK: Hikers will meet at noon at the state-park office and will walk the North Shore Trails. Hikers must be at least 8 years old and pets must be on a leash.

▪ HILLLSDALE STATE PARK: Participants will meet at 10 a.m. at the park office before heading out to the Hidden Springs Nature Trail.

▪ PERRY STATE PARK: Hikers will meet at 9 a.m. at the hiking and biking trails on Kimberly Drive, off West Lake Road. They will hike on Skyline Trail.

▪ POMONA STATE PARK: Hikers will meet at 1 p.m. at the Southwind Shelter House for short hikes and guided bird-watching tours on Cottonwood Trail.

Missouri muzzleloaders running out of time

Missouri deer hunters who enjoy using muzzleloader rifles have only a few more days to participate in the 2014 hunt.

The alternative-methods season, of which muzzleloading is a part, ends Tuesday. It started Dec. 20.

As of Thursday, hunters had taken 4,921 deer. They took 11,967 deer last year.

Kansas deer hunting

Some Kansas hunters will bring in the the new year in the deer woods and fields.

The extended whitetail antlerless-only season will open Jan. 1. Season length will vary according to the deer management unit. Unit restrictions listed on permits will still be in effect.

The whitetail antlerless-only permits can be purchased over the counter during the extended season. Hunters can purchase up to five of those permits in some areas. However, unit and public-land restrictions may apply.

To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to bfrazee@kcstar.com.