Low Lake Levels Affect Duck Hunting

Fall has arrived in the Great Lakes. Waterfowl are on the move and its time to get ready for waterfowl and upland game seasons to begin.

Fall also brings another change- the Great Lakes are all beginning their seasonal water level decline of about 1-3 inches on average.  

But, did you know that Lake Huron, for example, is already almost 2 feet below its long term average and 9 inches below last year’s level?  

Add that decline to our extreme drought conditions throughout the upper Great Lakes region during spring and much of summer and it no doubt exacerbates the seasonal decline.

What does this mean for waterfowl hunters?

Well, the Michigan DNR today reported that waterfowl hunters throughout Saginaw Bay will see low water levels that could make for challenging hunting conditions this season.

As a result, many hunting zones may not be flooded and wildlife managers are currently pumping water as conditions allow to provide habitat for waterfowl.

The good news is that despite low water conditions, the Michigan DNR reports that duck and goose numbers are currently very good. Numbers of diving ducks, such as scaup and redheads, are up this year and opportunities for deeper, open-water hunting of these species should be abundant.  They suggest that hunters just need to scout and adapt strategies for shallow water in order to find success this season.

Are these lower lake level conditions expected to continue?

Given the extreme weather events we are starting to see in the Great Lakes: barely no snow this past winter (I took the kids sledding once…once); intense rain and flooding events; the early high spring temperatures that caused our cherry’s and apples to bloom too early then freeze; and the extended drought conditions that nearly wiped out our corn harvest this summer have perhaps given us a snapshot of what to expect in the future.

Is this the face of climate change?

For more information about this, a great place to start is at Beyond Seasons End.  This is a great site exclusively for wildlife and fisheries professionals confronting the threat of climate change.

You ever hear the old adage: No Water, No Ducks, No Hunting.  Well…this could be the case in certain areas of the Great Lakes if we continue to see the extreme weather events that are linked with climate change.

If the DNR is asking hunters to adapt new strategies in order to find success, perhaps we should start focusing on wildlife adaptation strategies to make our fish and wildlife more resilient to climate change.

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