The South Carolina Waterfowl Association & Public Duck Hunters

A common question asked by South Carolina duck hunters: “What is SCWA doing to benefit public duck hunters?” The answer is simple, a great deal. We are committed to working with all SCWA members, groups, and individuals to enhance and ensure the future of public duck hunting.

Proposed Atlantic Flyway Mallard Limit Reduction

The Atlantic Flyway Council has recommended a reduction in the mallard limit in the Atlantic Flyway from 4 to 2 mallards starting with the 2019-2020 waterfowl season.

South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA) biologists have reviewed this issue with waterfowl biologists at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Delta Waterfowl Foundation. At the August 15 SCWA Board of Directors meeting, SCWA voted to support Delta Waterfowl’s position outlined in their recent press release with a further emphasis on delaying any mallard limit reduction until several critical questions can be addressed.

According to the proposed mallard limit reduction paper released by the Atlantic Flyway Council, since 1998 the annual population survey of eastern mallards has shown an average decline of 1% per year. However, according to the Atlantic Flyway Council, “banding data indicate that eastern mallard survival rates are not measurably different now than they were in the 1990’s, when the population was stable. Production estimates obtained from the USFWS Parts Collection Survey have not decreased from that time either. This indicates there is a problem with either one or both critical data streams.” Based on these facts, SCWA believes it would be prudent to delay making a reduction in the mallard limit until researchers can figure out why the critical population data streams are contradicting each other. SCWA believes this should be resolved before we reduce hunting opportunity for Atlantic Flyway waterfowl hunters.

After further analysis of the critical population data streams, if it is determined eastern mallard populations have decreased, it is important for the Atlantic Flyway Council and the USFWS to have enough confidence in their eastern mallard population model to have an idea of how long a harvest reduction will be necessary in order for eastern mallard populations to recover under average breeding habitat conditions. Prior to any reduction in the mallard limit, it is imperative to demonstrate to waterfowl hunters that a reduction will have a tangible and meaningful impact in increasing mallard populations for the future.

The Atlantic Flyway Council will meet this September to vote on an official position on the mallard limit. SCDNR has agreed to share our concerns with the entire Atlantic Flyway Council at this meeting. Delta Waterfowl will also make a presentation at the meeting. After this meeting, the recommendation of the Atlantic Flyway Council will be referred to the USFWS Migratory Bird Regulations Committee in October. This committee will set the mallard limit. We look forward to keeping our members up to date on this issue.

Waterfowl Habitat Programs

The future of our waterfowl resources depends on quality habitat. SCWA has worked diligently to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wetland Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and Conservation Reserve Program. These federal conservation farm programs are restoring and enhancing thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat each year. Recent high commodity prices and tight federal budgets have threatened these programs. SCWA will continue to work with other conservation organizations to promote these programs.

SCWA initiated the formation of the Santee Cooper Lakes Waterfowl and Fisheries Coalition. The Coalition developed a plan to restore fish and waterfowl resources on the Santee Cooper Lakes. The Coalition promoted the development of the new 350 acre Hickory Top Waterfowl Management Area. This project has been a big success and is being well managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

SCWA actively supports funding for state and federal waterfowl management areas that provide critical wintering waterfowl habitat along with waterfowl hunting opportunities on state managed areas. .

SCWA maintains over 200 acres of wintering waterfowl habitat at its Wildlife Education Center. SCWA biologists are continuously working with private and public landowners to enhance breeding, brood rearing and wintering waterfowl habitat across South Carolina. SCWA also supports funding for SCDNR waterfowl management areas. We provide expert technical advice to anyone who desires to create waterfowl habitat. Better habitat means more waterfowl and better hunting for public and private land waterfowl hunters. For more information visit the waterfowl habitat section of the web site.

Pintail Partners

In 2014, SCWA partnered with the South Carolina Conservation Bank, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited and SCDNR to form the Pintail Partners group. This is the first partnership of its kind. Four of wildlife conservation groups are working together to increase youth waterfowl hunting opportunities and to help pass on our waterfowl heritage to the next generation. The first Pintail Partners youth hunt was held on January 31, 2015 at the SCWA Wildlife Education Center and on surrounding private duck clubs. The youth hunters were public hunters who were not selected in the state youth waterfowl hunt draw program. In addition several of the hunters were members of the SCDNR take one make one program. The kids had a great hunt and many of them harvested their first duck. We look forward to expanding the youth hunt in the coming year.

Camp Woodie

The future of waterfowl hunting on public and private lands also depends on developing the next generation of waterfowl hunters and conservationists. SCWA is meeting this challenge through its creation of Camp Woodie. Camp Woodie is recognized as the nation’s leading youth waterfowl conservation education summer camp program. This summer over 900 youth will attend a one week summer waterfowl and wildlife conservation camp session at our 410 acre Rimini facility. SCWA is dedicated to passing on the legacy of our waterfowl heritage through the growth of the Camp Woodie Program. For more information visit the Camp Woodie section of the web site.

Wood Duck Production Project

Wood ducks represent up to 50% of the annual harvest of waterfowl each year in South Carolina. In addition over 64% of the wood ducks hatched in South Carolina that are harvested are taken by South Carolina duck hunters within the state. These figures point to the importance of managing and increasing wood duck numbers in order to improve waterfowl hunting in South Carolina.

Since 1987, over 940,000 wood ducks have hatched from 22,000 SCWA installed nesting boxes across South Carolina. SCWA annually maintains over 2,000 nest boxes with additional nest boxes being maintained by landowners and volunteers. SCWA wood duck biologists and technicians work with landowners, corporations and public agencies to install nest boxes and assist with the development of wetland habitat for wood ducks and other waterfowl. Each year SCWA staff and volunteers install 300 to 500 nest box units across South Carolina.

SCWA and Santee Cooper worked together to replace 1,250 wood duck nest boxes on the Santee Cooper lakes. These nest boxes annually produce over 5,000 wood ducks.

Mallard Release Program

South Carolina’s wintering mallard populations have declined to less than 10% of historic levels that existed as late as 1980. In order to restore wintering populations of mallards and to preserve our mallard hunting heritage, SCWA developed the Mallard Research Program in 1994. Since 1994 over 800,000 mallards have been released across the state. In the coming year we are projecting a release of over 40,000 mallards. Banding data shows that 47% of the mallards that are harvested are shot off of release sites. These ducks provide hunting opportunities to public duck hunters across South Carolina.

Since 1994, SCWA field staff has worked with mallard project cooperators to create thousands of acres of new plant and flood waterfowl impoundments along with thousands of acres of natural food waterfowl habitat. The Mallard Release Program is increasing the amount of available wintering waterfowl habitat in the state in addition to increasing wintering mallard populations. This will result in more wintering waterfowl for South Carolina. For further information visit the Mallard section of the web site.

SCWA Duck Hunting Programs

This year SCWA will flood 200 acres of grain at its Wildlife Education Center near Rimini, SC, next to Lake Marion. In addition, we will release 3,000 mallards at the site. Banding data shows that 47% of SCWA released mallards that are harvested are shot off of release sites providing direct benefit to public duck hunters. SCWA provides quality waterfowl hunting opportunities to 320 youth who attend SCWA’s Camp Woodie advanced camps. SCWA also invites 100 of its volunteer chapter committee members to hunt ducks at the facility as a thank you for their volunteer support. All habitat planting and the entire duck hunting program is funded from the sale of a limited number of duck hunts to individuals and corporations.

If you have any questions about any of our programs, please feel free to contact us!

Phone: 803-452-6001   Email: contact@scwa.org