“Duck hunters are pen shy,” Albert M. Day, director of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reported in his 1947 Waterfowl Scorecard Report.
He seemed frustrated at the many hunters who seemed to ignore pleas for feedback form the season's kills or lost birds during this period when conservationists were trying to increase duck and goose numbers.
Day wrote: “It seems incredible that such a vociferous lot should pass up this golden opportunity to register hits, misses and gripes. But from duck stamp sales amounting to more than one and three-quarter millions, only 1,962 scorecards were received.”
I can understand his frustration as only one-tenth of 1 percent of the 1947 duck stamp buyers could be induced to fill out and mail a simple report.
“Sporting and conservation magazines, including the Conservation Volunteer publication, did a splendid job, frequently at the sacrifice of paid advertising,” Day said. “To them the Fish and Wildlife Service is sincerely thankful – not only for repeated printing of the scorecard but for the fine editorial comment urging all waterfowlers to make the report for their own good. But the response was disappointing beyond belief – one out of a thousand. Here was their chance to stand up and be counted; to register protests, make suggestions, and help regulate their sport.”
Fortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service had inaugurated a check system to furnish supplementary information by personal contact through random telephone calls. In this way nearly 9,000 stamp purchasers in 32 states were interviewed by service personnel or cooperators.
The 1,962 hunters who sent in scorecards, reported bagging 30,214 birds, and the loss of 4,412 cripples or unretrieved ducks and geese. They had a daily average of 1.8 and a seasonal average of 15.4 birds. About two-thirds (1,323) hunted on public areas, 561 shot on private grounds while only 78 patronized the so-called commercial clubs.
The scorecards received, although showing an average daily bag of 1.8 birds, were apparently sent in chiefly by the more persistent hunters who were in the field enough times to bring in an average seasonal bag of 15.4.
The significance of this is brought out by analysis of the 8,845 personal interviews with duck stamp purchasers. Of these, 1,193 or 13.5 percent did not hunt at all, leaving 7,652 who did.
Conservationists fought a great battle during the decades after market hunting was banned. Duck numbers were good in 1947 and would only improve with the aid of groups like Ducks Unlimited and conservation departments like the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department.
Many of you will receive a waterfowl report card from the many states in which you will hunt ducks and geese. Please don't ignore this important source of information.
Duck numbers are good because of these surveys and efforts for news breeding grounds. Please continue to support Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and your state conservation groups to ensure our grandchildren will hunt ducks many years after we are gone.
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com