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Author Topic: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?  (Read 1018 times)

Offline hunterednate

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Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« on: April 19, 2020, 02:33:12 PM »
Two new studies indicate that corn ponds alter local duck behavior to make them more active at night and less during the day:

https://www.wildfowlmag.com/editorial/are-mallard-ducks-becoming-nocturnal/374937

From one of the biologists who conducted the study in Ohio:

"Shirkey wonders if ducks are becoming more nocturnal, which may be why hunters believe there are fewer ducks than we are told. Despite glowing reports of a bountiful fall flight for the past decade or more, a growing number of waterfowlers say they are actually seeing fewer ducks.

“We think ducks have just gotten smarter about avoiding hunting pressure. We suspected they were nocturnal, but not to the extent we found. They can get all the food they want at night, at least in my area, so they have no reason to visit areas open to hunting during the daytime,” he says.

“That behavior increased over the course of the season. The longer they were hunted, the more they exploited refuge during the day and flooded corn at night,” says Shirkey. “There was just an 10 percent chance that one of the mallards in our study would still be in a flooded impoundment during legal shooting hours after spending the previous night there.”

That’s exactly what happened in Lancaster’s study, as well. Once hunters started showing up to Muscadine Farms WMA in the morning, the birds left. It didn’t matter if the area was open to hunting that day. Lancaster can’t say if the ducks became conditioned to leave when hunters began walking to their spot or if something else played a role in their pre-dawn departure. Whatever the reason, the pattern was clear: By legal shooting light, almost all of the marked mallards were resting safely where hunters weren’t bothering them. In fact, overall mortality of the ducks in his study was as low as 5 percent. Just eight of the 42 marked ducks were killed by hunters during two seasons."

I'd be very interested to see what a study of this sort would reveal if it was conducted around the Tri-Cities.

I'd also be interested to see if any of you guys who hunt flooded corn have noticed a trend in this direction. I know that Eagle Lakes and Pacific Wings had more slow days than usual, even as nearby refuges were crowded with birds. Were the mallards eating flooded corn all night and leaving for the refuges before dawn?

If this trend is happening in our region, it's bad news for public and private land hunters alike. Curious to see if you guys think there's anything to it.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2020, 02:40:50 PM by hunterednate »

Offline Mfowl

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2020, 03:38:11 PM »
I am pretty sure Eagle Lakes is building more corn ponds right now to add to their vast spread already, its a crying shame!

The excerpt from the article sounds like virtually every N Sound/Skagit waterfowl hunt I have ever had.
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Offline ghosthunter

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2020, 03:55:31 PM »
When I started duck hunting 30 years ago. Mostly the Samish unit. Barley for birds was.very active. And it seemed there were a ton of ducks. But over the years it seem to have dropped off.
I often would get to where I was hunting by two am. And walking out there were thousands of ducks in the unit. Some corn was planted too. And that’s what kept ducks around during the late season.
Weather in the area had a lot to do with how the day would go. If it were cold and windy the ducks would come off the bay all day long.
But if it were mild you could fore get it. They would wait till night.

I do t think too much food is bad.

More than anything I think it is hunting pressure. Constant calling to birds way out of range and blasting at birds way to high. And just plane too many hunters.

Hunters like to blame lots of thing on lack of success, too much water, food, sunshine, other hunters, low numbers, poor hatch.

Heavy pressure is the problem I think. :twocents:
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Offline Dan-o

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2020, 05:32:12 PM »
I don't know much about duck hunting, but I do have some good access to duck hun ting down in the Auburn valley.

This year there was a bunch of standing corn due to a farming issue (not due to wanting ducks).

Often, there were 150-200 mallards in the corn when we arrived.    If we were smart/lucky, we got some good shooting for the first 3-5 minutes of legal shooting.     Sometimes all the ducks would take off literally 2 minutes before legal shooting.

Then, sometimes you just wouldnt see any ducks flying hardly at all.   I think they were full.

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Offline Stein

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2020, 06:36:57 PM »
Shotguns make mallards nocturnal in my experience.

Offline YoungFowler

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2020, 07:10:13 PM »
Interesting article, but if the article is right about ducks feeding at night, then what about their daytime roosts? In areas such as Moses Lake, wouldn't the mid day hunting on the potholes and other waters be better because of all the birds coming off the corn early morning? There was a thread on here a while ago about whether corn complexes were hurting public hunting, and this study seems to suggest the opposite.

Just some ideas to discuss and think about.
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Offline Mfowl

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2020, 08:08:33 AM »
Interesting article, but if the article is right about ducks feeding at night, then what about their daytime roosts? In areas such as Moses Lake, wouldn't the mid day hunting on the potholes and other waters be better because of all the birds coming off the corn early morning? There was a thread on here a while ago about whether corn complexes were hurting public hunting, and this study seems to suggest the opposite.

Just some ideas to discuss and think about.

The problem is that the ducks don't need to go to other loafing water after the corn. Many of these complexes have roosting/loafing ponds adjacent to the corn ponds or the birds just stay in the corn ponds because they have everything they need right there. Even though there is hunting pressure on them, it is regulated to impact the birds as little as possible. Limits come easy and hunters are gone ASAP to let the birds resettle. Birds certainly due use the refuges and public waters but without weather patterns or hunting pressure to get the birds out of the corn ponds they simply have no reason to risk their neck flying around unsafe places. Ducks being nocturnal is not a new development, thats why waterfowlers relish weather fronts. They break bird patterns and urge them to feed/migrate.
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Offline hunterednate

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2020, 02:24:16 PM »
Interesting article, but if the article is right about ducks feeding at night, then what about their daytime roosts? In areas such as Moses Lake, wouldn't the mid day hunting on the potholes and other waters be better because of all the birds coming off the corn early morning? There was a thread on here a while ago about whether corn complexes were hurting public hunting, and this study seems to suggest the opposite.

Just some ideas to discuss and think about.

Actually, according to the studies in that article, the mid-day roosts and loafing areas of the ducks were exclusively areas that were not open to hunting (either because they are refuges or just non-huntable, as the ducks that rafted out in the deep water areas of the Great Lakes). So NOBODY shoots the ducks, was the point of the article. They use the corn ponds at night, and unhuntable areas at day....bad for all duck hunters, whether you have access to the flooded corn or not. It seems to be an example of a species adapting to a new hunting method and figuring out how to get around it.

Here's the portion of the article that discusses that:

"As it turns out, not all refuges draw ducks. The mallards in Lancaster’s study rarely used the Muscadine refuge. He thinks it may be too small and too close to the hunted areas to give the birds a sense of security. Instead, most travelled about 10 miles to Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, where they spent the day. (The refuge was closed to hunting during the study.) Others found unhunted wetlands around Muscadine, rarely traveling more than five or ten miles.

Winous Point Marsh Conservancy research biologist Brendan Shirkey conducted a similar study in northwest Ohio. The ducks in his study moved even less, an average of just 500 to 1,000 yards. That didn’t change throughout hunting season. The study area had a large amount of flooded corn impoundments constructed almost entirely for hunting purposes. Ducks flocked to that corn, but mostly at night.

“They basically sat out on a bay on Lake Erie that was closed to hunting during the day. The water was five or six feet deep and there was no aquatic vegetation, so they were just loafing,” he says. “At night, they would go straight to those flooded corn impoundments and stay all night. Almost all of them were gone by legal shooting light.”

The ducks in Lancaster’s study did the same thing. They spent their days in areas where they weren’t being hunted or in areas closed to hunting. Although 35 percent of daytime locations were on public land, only 8 percent of those locations were open to hunting. At night, they increased their use of hunted portions of Muscadine Farms and surrounding habitat that may or may not have been open to hunting."

Offline hunterednate

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2020, 02:35:37 PM »
Shotguns make mallards nocturnal in my experience.

Exactly. Which is why ducks LOVE having a food/water combination they can access easily at night without hunters or predators. No need to fly from feed to water during the night...it's all together! And no coyotes to run up on them in the field. Flooded corn (combined with hunter pressure during the daytime) is the perfect recipe to create nocturnal ducks.

It's dark for 15 hours out of 24 in December anyway...why wouldn't ducks take those 15 hours to feed/loaf/drink in flooded corn and then rest out of sight on unhuntable waters during the brief daylight hours?

Good deal for the ducks, bad deal for duck hunters - whether they're hunting public land or flooded corn.

Offline h2ofowlr

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2020, 08:19:20 PM »
I am pretty sure Eagle Lakes is building more corn ponds right now to add to their vast spread already, its a crying shame!

The excerpt from the article sounds like virtually every N Sound/Skagit waterfowl hunt I have ever had.

Eagle Lakes is building more ponds.  I think they are doing very good as they are the refuge.  When they are shooting 32-54 limits a day, they are doing good on them.
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Offline Bucks2Ducks

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2020, 07:24:56 AM »
Dang Nate still trying to turn the state against corn ponds.... I don't think it will ever happen.
Interesting idea, I know Jeff Foiles use to be big into the corn clubs, and he has the same theory that it turns the ducks nocturnal and hurts hunting. With the spring flooding they had on the Mississippi flyway most of those guys couldn't plant those clubs, and I didn't hear about it being a better waterfowl season for anybody. Might be worth looking into.
This last season in Skagit there was thousands of acres of corn that couldn't be harvested, and most of it naturally flooded. The only difference I saw was that it might have spread the birds out more. But I still saw higher concentrations of birds in the unharvested spud fields.
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Offline jackelope

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2020, 11:04:38 AM »
Do we already have a really long thread on this topic somewhere?
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Offline hunterednate

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2020, 02:36:22 PM »
Dang Nate still trying to turn the state against corn ponds.... I don't think it will ever happen.
Interesting idea, I know Jeff Foiles use to be big into the corn clubs, and he has the same theory that it turns the ducks nocturnal and hurts hunting. With the spring flooding they had on the Mississippi flyway most of those guys couldn't plant those clubs, and I didn't hear about it being a better waterfowl season for anybody. Might be worth looking into.
This last season in Skagit there was thousands of acres of corn that couldn't be harvested, and most of it naturally flooded. The only difference I saw was that it might have spread the birds out more. But I still saw higher concentrations of birds in the unharvested spud fields.

I'm not sure it will ever happen either! ha ha But what else is there to talk about right now??

That's really interesting with what you saw at Skagit last year. I had heard about the spring flooding in the Midwest, too, and the inability to plant corn. I would be very curious if any studies were conducted to see how that change affected duck distribution. I hunted three days in north Arkansas in mid-December last year, and there were a ton of ducks (I hunted flooded timber and flooded rice one morning....it's ok, you can call me a hypocrite).

Main thing I'd love to see on this topic is more hard science and studies conducted on the actual effects flooded corn has on local duck distribution. You can only get so far when public land hunters complain based on anecdotal evidence and flooded corn hunters defend themselves with anecdotal evidence.

Offline hunterednate

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Re: Do Corn Ponds Make Mallards Nocturnal?
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2020, 02:37:59 PM »
Do we already have a really long thread on this topic somewhere?

Yeah, there's a thread on corn ponds from 2018. Should I have posted this on that one instead? Feel free to move it if that would work better. Thanks Jackelope.

 


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