Iowa’s five day early duck season begins Sept. 22 amid some of the most challenging conditions hunters have faced in more than two decades.
The drought has left most wetlands dry or nearly dry, concentrating hunters and ducks on the few wetlands that still have water.
“Just about any marsh that has water in it has ducks on it,” said Guy Zenner, waterfowl biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Duck production in the prairie pothole region of Canada was good this year, so we should have a good fall flight of ducks. In fact, we’ve already seen good numbers of blue-winged teal pass through.”
Zenner said hunters may need to consider hunting rivers if they want to avoid the crowds. The low stream flows are almost creating small wetland-like pools that may be attractive to ducks, particularly wood ducks.
“There are very few places out there where you can hunt out of a boat,” he said. “The reservoirs are low with no water in the vegetation. Hunting Saylorville, Coralville, Red Rock or Rathbun may not be the best, but at least you will be able to get your boat on the water.”
The early season closes on Sept. 26.
The drought does have a silver lining for the future.
Many wetlands had lost most of their beneficial habitat after many years of high water. The drought is allowing these dry marsh beds to re-vegetate with new plants that will create excellent habitat when the water returns.
“That won’t help this year, unless we get a lot of rain in the next few weeks, but it will be good in years to come,” Zenner said.
The late duck season begins on Oct. 13 in the north zone, Oct. 20 in the south zone and Oct. 27 in the Missouri River zone.
EARLY GOOSE HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES LOOK GOOD
Goose hunters should have more opportunities to field hunt when the season opens this year than they do most years because the crop harvest has started earlier than usual.
“Most goose hunting is done on land in harvested crop fields, so the drought should have less of an impact on these hunters,” Zenner said.
The Canada goose season opens in the north zone on Sept. 29, followed by south zone on Oct. 6 and the Missouri River zone on Oct. 13.
IOWA WETLAND REPORT AVAILABLE ONLINE
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources provides a report on Iowa’s wetland conditions prior to each duck season opening. To see the report, go online: