Nevada Waterfowl Season
The number of ducks taking to the air over the Pacific Flyway will be down slightly from last year, but is still expected to be 27 percent higher than the 1955-1999 average.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annual index, an estimated 90 million ducks will take to the air during this year's fall flight. The state's general duck season opens October 7 in most parts of the state.

Although overall duck populations remain high, mallard numbers are expected to drop from last year's record high of 13.6 million to 11.3 million this year. Two other species, pintail and scaup, also appear to be on the decline. However, the green-winged teal breeding population set a new record high in 2000.

Norm Saake, NDOW's waterfowl biologist, says there are many variables to consider in addition to the waterfowl index, in figuring how duck hunting conditions will fare this fall. For one thing, hunters will experience much dryer conditions than they have had in the past five years. Boating could be tough in some locations, due to limited water.

"Several areas that had water in recent years may be dry, at least for the first part of the season," Saake said. "Hunters should plan to scout out their favorite spots just before the opening so they don't find themselves walking into a dry marsh."

Although less water usually means fewer ducks, Saake says some areas that do have good water may attract high concentrations of waterfowl. "It all depends on the timing of the migration, weather conditions in states to the east and north of Nevada, and percentage of waterfowl moving down the Pacific Flyway," Saake said.

Northeastern Nevada:

Carson Lake (Greenhead Hunting Club): Area was 75 percent dry at time of this report. By mid-October there should be about 8,000 acres of huntable area, which is about 25 percent less than the past five years. Due to low water levels and increasing motorboat usage in recent years, no motorboats will be allowed on the area until the Sprig Ponds, Big Water, Rice and York units have water, probably in late October or early November, unless conditions do not improve. If conditions do improve, motorboats will be allowed only on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays, and will not be allowed in the York Unit at all. Forage conditons are fair to good this year. Due to the limited water available, hunter crowding may be a problem on certain days.

Franklin Lake WMA: Water levels have declined and there will be no boating access this year. There should be some excellent hunting for those who are willing to scout the area and do some walking. This is a low-hunter, high-waterfowl use area and is worth investigating. It is an area prone to early season freeze up, so it is best to go early.

Humboldt Sink: Lower Lake is essentially dry, Upper Humboldt Lake levels are low, and most of the area will only be accessible by foot or airboat. Toulon Unit has about 60 percent water cover and is expected to fill by the end of the season. There are good forage conditions on both the Toulon Unit and Upper Humbold Lake this year and both areas should be able to hold good numbers of birds.

Mason Valley WMA: Water levels are good and this area has some of the better habitat conditions in western Nevada. Most units will have water by the middle of the season and food production has been good. Most of the area is not conducive to boat hunting, but the North Pond can provide good shooting for those who prefer to use boats. This area can provide some good action for those hunting on foot.

Ruby Lake NWR: Will have adequate water levels and will provide some good shooting and boat access. Food production was good this year and the area should hold fair numbers of birds early in the season. This area is prone to early season freeze up, so it is best to go early.

Stillwater NWR: Due to reduced water receipts, only Goose Lake, South Nutgrass, Swan Lake Check, and small portions of Pintail Bay, West Marsh, and Lead Lake are projected to have water. Even in these units, water levels will be low and boat access will be difficult at best. All other units in the hunting area will be dry. Waterfowl food production was fair to poor this year. Saake said one option for those who plan to hunt at Stillwater would be to come out to the area, before hunting, to scout conditons.

Washoe Lake/Scripps WMA: Water levels are fair, but food production was poor this year. Fire impacts and subsequent whitetop plant invasion have required vegetative treatment. Waterfowl hunting is not projected to be either that good or consistent.

Southern Nevada:

Key Pittman WMA: Low production this year, especially for geese due to a three-day windstorm in late March. A few early migrants, teal and mallards, were sighted in late August. Pintails are available throughout the season, with redheads, canvasbacks and wigeons arriving later in the year. The upper end of Nesbitt Lake is popular, as is Frenchy Lake, for those who know how to hunt it.

Kirch WMA: Light brood production this year may affect the opener. Habitat conditions are fair to good. Excellent forage and good numbers of waterfowl at Tule Reservoir, Adams-McGill Reservoir, and Dacey Slough are expected, but a drying trend is under way. If precipitation occurs in November, habitat conditions may improve.

Overton WMA: Hunters will find excellent forage conditions on lower and upper bulrush plots. No cover on the lake will make hunting difficult. Some pond hunting will also be available.

Fallow fields will green up by late October-early November. Early migrants have included a few mallards, pintails, and one flight of geese.

NOTE: Before hunting, all waterfowl hunters are required to purchase federal and state waterfowl hunting stamps. Migratory bird hunters 12 years or older who plan to hunt any kind of migratory bird — ducks, geese, swans, coot, dove, snipe, or gallinules — need to obtain a "HIP" (Harvest Information Program) number ANNUALLY prior to hunting migratory birds. The validation number is free and can be obtained by calling 1-800-938-5263.

Waterfowl hunting is open to nonresidents, and hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

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