Modest proposal: Stocking ducks
States would raise their own mallards
By Larry Rea, Special to The Commercial Appeal
June 26, 2005
He's one of the outdoor world's most successful businessmen whose products are marketed throughout the U.S. and whose appearance and tell-it-like-it-is demeanor make him one of the most recognizable personalities in waterfowl hunting, whether he's killing ducks or sharing his love of the Lord.
But some think Phil Robertson, better known as "The Duck Commander," has gone too far in his latest idea.
Robertson's pushing for states to raise their own mallard ducks.
It's an idea he came up with after a trip earlier this year to New Zealand.
"There were a lot of ducks in New Zealand," said Robertson, who recently spoke at First Baptist Church in Collierville. "My proposal for the United States duck hunters would be this: I think the people of each state, like Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and all the others in the lower 48 states ought to raise their own mallard ducks."
Such a plan, Robertson said, would allow each state to have the potential to raise anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million mallard ducks. That way, he said, "On opening day of duck season each year we wouldn't be waiting on those migrating ducks to get here because we'd have our own population of wild mallards that were raised in Tennessee, Mississippi, maybe Arkansas and Louisiana. I think it's the route to go."
Robertson and George Franklin, a wildlife conservationist who like Robertson lives in Monroe, La., recently took their idea before the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, asking the commission that they be allowed -- at their own expense -- to raise 2,000 "wild" mallard ducks from ducklings, then release them into the wild.
The commission gave LWFC secretary Dwight Landreneau authority to approve the plan.
According to published reports in Louisiana, Landreneau will get input from his staff, Robertson and Franklin and see if the idea has long-range potential. It'll be up to Robertson and Franklin to agree with the LWFC's terms. In other words, it's in the state wildlife agency's court.
Robert Helm, Louisiana's waterfowl program coordinator, said it would cost $260,000 for the state to manage the project, a figure that has been disputed by some members of the state's wildlife commission.
As for Robertson, he's concerned about ducks and duck hunters.
"I think that after a century from almost the entire 20th century with all the money that has changed hands, with all the refuges that have been set aside, from Ducks Unlimited and everyone else, it looks like to me we've given them a century to see if they can get this thing stabilized and get plenty of ducks coming our way," Robertson said. "I'm sorry to say that I don't think they'd have to go anywhere. I really don't. "
Robertson said he'd like to raise mallard ducks on a three-year pilot program.
"If that's successful, I don't know why all the states wouldn't adopt that," he said. "We raised 5 billion; they (U.S. government agencies) claimed domesticated chickens and 60 million chickens are consumed per day in the United States. If we can do that with a domesticated bird, no one can convince (me) that we can't raise 5, 6 and 7 million mallard ducks and let them loose in these states ... and go on about our duck killing."
These mallards, Robertson said, won't be liked pen-raised quail that so many hunting preserves are using.
"These (mallards) will be wild," he said. "In other words, they'll have no human (interaction). Part of the trick in raising them is that they have no human contact. You'll have a barrier up that once they can fly you just raise it up. ... These ducks they have raised in the Carolinas have ended up in three or four provinces in Canada and 30-something states. They scatter the four winds. I just think it's worth looking at on a bigger scale than we have done now."
Most Mid-South sportsmen contacted by The Commercial Appeal didn't want any part of Robertson's idea.
However, guide Steve McCadams admits that if slow seasons and poor harvest conditions continue more and more hunters will reach out to any idea that they believe will make their hunting efforts more successful ... even if it means raising wild mallard duck from ducklings and then releasing them into the wild.
"Wildlife managers, biologists and those of us opposed to it at this time better brace for compromise," McCadams said.
Most Mid-South sportsmen contacted by The Commercial Appeal didn't want any part of stocking ducks:
Tommy Akin of Greenfield, Tenn., a former chairman of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission and life-long waterfowl hunter:
"I personally don't think it will work and from what I've seen on Reelfoot (Lake) it didn't help. The waterfowl biologist says it is a waste of money. I tend to believe them."
Bill Cox of Collierville, the TWRC's current chairman:
"The TWRA is not interested in funding a program to raise ducks to release into the wild. It has been done on the East Coast for several years with some success. I don't have a problem with releasing home grown ducks to add to the wild population. I do have a problem with training pen-raised ducks to commit suicide. (That's) not ethical or sporting."
Wade Bourne of Clarksville, Tenn., TV and radio show host and noted outdoor writer:
"I think home-raised mallards are a bad idea. I know they're meant to augment the natural population, but I see several potential problems."
Among the problems mentioned by outdoor writer/biologist/guide Steve McCadams of Paris, Tenn., said the endeavor could possibly have an adverse impact on migrating movement on natural or wild ducks, similar to resident Canada geese. And there are other problems, he said:
"I question some things now underway as to waterfowl management -- the abundance of non-hunted state refuges, declining degree of law enforcement, long seasons and liberal bag limits, etc. -- but I think bagging a released duck would be kind of like 'kissing your sister.'"
Bill Cooksey of Memphis-based Avery Outdoors said he has hunted many clubs in other regions of the U.S. that have similar programs:
"I have not left one of those clubs with half the satisfaction I have felt after being skunked in a truly wild (duck hunting) scenario. I will leave the biological reasons for not instituting such a program to the experts, but as a duck hunter I want absolutely nothing to do with anything of this nature."
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