Excellent conditions for waterfowl have kicked off what could be one of the best ducks seasons in South Carolina in many years, according to waterfowl biologist Dean Harrigal of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Harrigal said that optimum conditions for waterfowl have all lined up this season, and that hunters had hunts during the Thanksgiving season and the first week of the primary season that were well above average.

“You have to have three things to have ducks – water, food, and weather,” said Harrigal. “This year we’ve got plenty of all three.

Harrigal said that the number of ducks taken on South Carolina’s managed duck hunts has been well above average, with prime areas like Santee Coastal Reserve and Santee Delta WMAs posting an average of 5½ ducks per hunter, and an amazing number of ducks at Hickory Top WMA, a Category II area.

 “I don’t know what is going on over at Hickory Top near Lake Marion,” said Harrigal. “That place has already produced over 500 ducks for hunters in just the first two weeks of the season. There must be some kind of good tasting acorns falling over there, because the wood ducks are flying in there by droves.”

Harrigal said the higher than average amounts of rainfall across the state during the summer helped SCDNR get a jump on preparing duck impoundments, and that along the coast, the additional water has kept salinity levels low, allowing for better growth among naturally occurring native aquatic plants that attract ducks.

As for ducks in the bag, Harrigal said it was the duck of the future – the gadwall – that has been taking up the most space on coastal hunters’ lanyards, while the state’s bread and butter duck, the wood duck, was the most-numerous inland.

“We usually get a big migration of green-wing teal when the weather gets bad up north,” said Harrigal. “From what I’ve seen on the weather reports, I’m surprised they aren’t here already, but I feel confident we’ll see greenwings and a good many of the usual visitors to our state – widgeon, shovelers, pintails and ring necks – continue to move down the flyway. We’ve done all we can to set the table.  I believe we’re in for a really good year, no matter what part of the state you’re in.”