The waterfowl forecast not rosy for duck hunters

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By Don Quilici

According to a recent press release by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, dry conditions spawned by a decade of drought has left some of Nevada's major waterfowl hunting areas dry and others with very low water levels heading into the 2004-05 waterfowl hunting season.

Norm Saake, a retired Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist who conducts waterfowl surveys for the agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the low water conditions combined with a decline in breeding ducks in North America paint a not so rosy picture for Nevada's duck hunters. He predicts the hunting season will only be "fair" in the state.

Heading into September five of the state's wildlife management areas were completely dry.

These include Franklin Lake in Elko County, Humboldt in Churchill and Pershing counties, Fernley in Lyon County, Scripps in Washoe County and Alkali Lake in Lyon County.

Carson Lake in Churchill County had a very low water level by late summer. However, it is expected to be about 75 percent full by the arrival of duck hunting season on Saturday, Oct. 9.

Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Churchill County has some of the better water conditions of any of the wildlife complexes in the state.

Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area in Nye County is expected to have fair water conditions for the season opener.

The state will have similarly liberal season dates and bag limits to last year. In most areas of the state the duck season will open on Oct. 9 with the goose opener set for one-week later.

Hunters should check for specific season dates, bag limits and other regulations on line at before taking to the field because dates and limits can vary.

Free brochures that list this information are available at most sporting goods stores and it is posted online at

One of the areas that Saake suggests waterfowl hunters may wish to check out is Walker Lake north of Hawthorne.

Since the lake has received very little inflow during the past year, the water is clear and makes for good conditions for growing widgeon grass. This submerged grass attracts ducks and Saake said hunters may find the lake to be holding good numbers of birds, particularly redheads and gadwalls. On the downside, the lake is large, making it difficult to hunt.

Some of the other areas that Saake suggests for hunters to explore during the waterfowl season are Carson Lake and the upper end of Rye Patch Reservoir in Pershing County.

While the outlook is not the brightest this year for duck and goose hunters, Saake said conditions could get even more ominous next year. "If we don't get a good winter, things will be in really sad shape.


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