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Wood ducks, teal are looking good for opener

By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

Though no formal survey has yet been taken for numbers and species of ducks in the region, it would appear hunters out this weekend for the opener will mostly be shooting teal, wood ducks and a smattering of mallards, widgeon and pintail.

In other words, it’s going to look a lot like last year when hunters brought in an average 1.3 birds per person.

But in the long term, things look a bit better for this year, assuming ducks migrate down at their usual time. The habitat for the birds is much better than in past years because of drawdowns and lower water levels that let sunlight hit more exposed mud, leading to more vegetation. More plants, such as water celery, means more food for ducks and geese to eat or places for them to hide and loaf during migration.

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Mary Stefanski, Winona District manager for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said Weaver Bottoms, which was drawn down in 2005 and only briefly this summer, is especially good. "The vegetation there is incredible," she said.

Though the service won’t fly over the Upper Mississippi refuge until next week, anecdotal evidence is there are still a lot of teal in the area, as well as good numbers of other puddle ducks. "We’re expecting hunters should have really good luck, especially if they’re looking for teal," she said.

In marshes along the river, wild rice is spotty, though it’s good at McCarthy Lakes Wildlife Management Area, said DNR wildlife manager Gary Nelson. Water levels are down a bit in those areas too.

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