Over the past few seasons, I’ve heard grumblings among some duck hunters who feel like duck hunting “just ain’t what it used to be”. I’ve heard others say they’ve never “seen it this good”. After hearing this often enough, I became interested in how much truth there is to either side. I decided to conduct my own research using hard data to see if hunters are shooting more or fewer ducks today than they used to.
How many ducks do hunters shoot in the Mississippi Flyway?
Hunters in the Mississippi Flyway harvest an average of 5,992,109 ducks per season.
Have the number of ducks harvested increased or decreased?
Duck hunters are shooting fewer ducks than they used to. Over the last decade, the most ducks harvested in a season the the Mississippi Flyway was in 2011 at 8,000,100, and the fewest in 2018 at 3,979,000. This is a decrease of over 50%.
|Year||Total Ducks Harvested||Difference from Average|
The graph and table above clearly show the decreasing trend in number of ducks harvested in the Mississippi Flyway over the years. When conducting my research, I wanted to look into possible reasons for this decline and what it means for us as hunters.
My hypotheses as to why fewer ducks are being harvested each year:
- Maybe there are fewer hunters than there used to be
- Maybe hunters are hunting less often than they used to
I conducted research on these two possibilities and thought it was interesting enough to share my findings in the tables and charts below.
Hypothesis 1: Has the number of duck hunters declined over the past decade?
How many duck hunters are in the Mississippi Flyway?
Over the past decade, the average number of duck hunters in the Mississippi Flyway per season has been 425,391.
Are there more duck hunters than there used to be?
The number of duck hunters in the Mississippi Flyway has decreased in recent years. The past 5 seasons have had fewer hunters than the decade’s average. 2011 had the most hunters with 477,000, and 2015 and 2019 had the fewest with 386,100. This represents a 19% decrease in number of hunters.
Conclusion of Hypothesis 1:
With fewer hunters throughout the years, it makes sense that the overall duck harvest numbers would decrease. My next thought was, maybe fewer ducks are harvested because along fewer hunters, those that hunted spent fewer days in the field than they used to.
Hypothesis 2: Hunters are hunting less frequently than they used to.
How often do duck hunters hunt?
Over the past decade, duck hunters in the Mississippi Flyway have averaged 7 days of hunting per season.
Are duck hunters hunting more often than they used to?
The number of hunts per duck hunter in the Mississippi Flyway has decreased in recent years. The past 4 seasons have all had fewer hunts per hunter than the decade’s average. 2011 had the most hunts per hunter with 7.62 hunts, and 2019 had the fewest with 6.08.
Conclusion of Hypothesis 2:
Not only are there fewer duck hunters than there used to be (shown in graph and table 2), those that do hunt are making fewer trips to the field each season (graph and table 3).
Duck hunters are shooting fewer ducks today than they used to, and it can be attributed to 2 main factors:
- There’s been a decrease in the number of duck hunters throughout the years
- Hunters are spending fewer days hunting than they used to
What does this mean to us as duck hunters:
I next wanted to research what the impact of this decrease is having on us as hunters. The two specific questions I researched were:
- Is the average number of ducks shot per hunter each season decreasing?
- Are hunters harvesting fewer ducks per hunt each season
How many ducks does each hunter shoot per season?
Over the past decade, the average number of ducks harvested per hunter each season in the Mississippi Flyway was 13.95.
Are hunters harvesting more ducks per season than they used to?
There’s been a decrease in the number ducks per hunter in the Mississippi Flyway over the last decade. The past 5 seasons have all reported fewer ducks harvested per hunter per season than the decade’s average. 2011 had the most ducks per hunter (16.77), and 2018 had the fewest (10.26).
The data shows a clear decrease in the number of ducks harvested per hunter in recent years. This makes sense given the trend of hunters spending fewer days in the field than they used to (graph 3).
How many ducks do hunters kill per hunt?
Over the past decade, the average number of ducks harvested per hunt in the Mississippi Flyway has been 1.99.
Are hunters harvesting more ducks per hunt than they used to?
There has been an decrease in the number ducks harvested per hunt in the Mississippi Flyway. 4 out of the past 5 seasons have resulted in fewer ducks per hunt than the decade’s average. 2010 showed the most ducks per hunt at 2.24, and 2018 had the fewest with 1.63.
|Year||Ducks Per Hunt||Difference from Average|
Although there’s been a slight decrease in ducks harvested/hunt, the difference isn’t much. This shows there’s still a low chance of hunters getting “skunked”, and that they still have a good chance to be in on some productive hunts.
The reality is, there are fewer ducks harvested in the Mississippi Flyway than there used to be (graph 1 and table 1). At first glance, this may seem like a bad thing to hunters. One could easily come the the conclusion that this means the opportunity for a successful hunt (if measured by kill count), is dwindling.
However, graphs 2 and 3 point out that much of the decrease can be attributed to fewer hunters and fewer days spent in the field by each hunter. It’s logical this would cause the average number of ducks shot per hunter each season (graph 4) to be lower.
The true test of whether or not duck hunting is “as good as it used to be”, can be measured by how many ducks are harvested per hunt. And although this number has decreased over the past decade (graph 5), the difference is fairly minimal, indicating hunters can have a high confidence level there’re still good hunts to be had.
* All data used for my research was gathered from FWS harvest reports
Find the Ducks!