Sunday, October 16, 2011

Delta Waterfowl celebrates 100 years of conservation

           On October 15 the ACE Basin chapter of Delta Waterfowl held its fourth annual banquet, while the parent conservation organization is celebrating 100 years of wildlife tradition. The Delta Waterfowl national headquarters is located in Bismark, North Dakota but they are using research to address the problems that concern S.C. waterfowlers.
            John Devney is the senior Vice President of Delta Waterfowl and when I called him recently his secretary said he was away for the morning. Returning my call by the end of the day, Devney shared that he had actually been out trying to harvest some blue-winged teal before the September season went out. I thought this sounds a lot like what folks here in the Lowcountry would like to be doing, and thus a connection was established.
            “We were founded in 1911 in Canada and we have a two-prong effort that is directed at the Eastern Flyway,” said Devney. “One of the biggest problems that affect S.C. hunters, and particularly those that like to hunt big ducks, is the near absence of mallards. Traditionally S.C. over-wintered thousands of mallards in the plantation districts, and we’re trying to solve this dilemma through a study using hen nesting boxes.”

Crystal Barr and Liz Smoak volunteer for Delta Waterfowl

Pintails warm the hearts of waterfowlers

Regional Dir. Chris Williams (in red) with ACE Basin chapter members

We dined on steaks from the Angus Barn thanks to these gents
            “Quebec and Pennsylvania have been documented as some of the nesting areas that produce ducks that migrate down the Eastern flyway,” said Devney. “We partnered with the Flyway Foundation and deployed hen nest boxes in these two areas and found that the mallard hens use them a lot.” These nest boxes look a good bit like a wooden mailbox which is open on both ends.
            Delta Waterfowl’s research shows that if mallard populations can increase using the hen nesting boxes, then that is a much more cost-effective method than purchasing land outright. With mallards using these hen nest boxes with success, Delta Waterfowl funded these same boxes to be set out in the Santee Delta of S.C. “Unfortunately, even though mottled ducks and black ducks are distant cousins of mallards, we found that they did not use the S.C. boxes,” said Devney.
            Delta Waterfowl’s Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program serves to identify land in the Eastern breeding zone of Canada for more study. “Ducks nesting in the prairie pothole region gather in dense communities, but in the east the breeders are much more spread out,” said Devney.
            The name Delta Waterfowl did not exist in 1911, but they are the continuation of a conservation hunting group that formed then. The American Game Protection and Propogation Association began in 1911 when market hunting had taken a huge toll on waterfowl populations. With an endorsement by the shooting sports industry and Theodore Roosevelt this group operated continuously under several different names before the final decision to call the group Delta Waterfowl.
            Addressing the local banquet in Walterboro Devney said that 25-percent of the funds raised stay right here for a mentored duck hunting program called the First Hunt program. ACE Basin chapter chair Chris McDonald has been the point man on the past two years during the youth hunts held at Block Island. “The money we raise covers a two-day event complete with meals and hunting gear,” said McDonald.
            One of the highlights of the banquet was the catered steak dinner that was brought to the Lowcountry from Raleigh, N.C. - the home of the Angus Barn - a stellar restaurant that serves only aged Midwestern beef. Thanks to the guys from Backyard Bistro for the great steaks! 
             To view a past blog about Delta Waterfowl and the mottled duck program in the ACE Basin click here.

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