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It is the dead of winter and except for a few scattered diving ducks on open stretches of river, waterfowl of all stripes are currently living down south where it is a tad bit warmer. In a month or two, waves of ducks, geese and swans will begin their migration and return north – to their place of beginning.

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In the mean time, the future direction of duck hunting in our state might just lie in the hands of a select group of hunters and biologists meeting right here in north central Wisconsin. According to a press release I received last week, the state announced “the Mead Wildlife Area will be hosting a post 2010 waterfowl season meeting to discuss the results of the property’s experimental 2010 hunting season. Discussion will revolve around the results of regulation changes implemented this past season - produced and recommended by central Wisconsin waterfowl hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Participants who attended meetings in April of 2007 and February of 2008 discussed ways to improve the overall waterfowl hunting experience on the Mead Wildlife Area.”

I had the opportunity to attend the initial meeting and witnessed the group’s strong support for regulation changes that would “prohibit early waterfowl hunting seasons - with the exception of the youth hunt, thus reducing disturbance to refuging migrant waterfowl on the property and establish waterfowl resting periods to provide some relief from hunting pressure.”

The new regulations went into effect the fall of 2010 and will remain in effect, on a trial basis, for three years. Those regulations will sunset after the 2012 waterfowl season unless supported and reauthorized through the spring Conservation Congress hearing process.

The following are the new waterfowl regulations designed for Mead by central Wisconsin waterfowlers: 1.) All waterfowl hunting (duck and goose) is closed until opening day of the northern waterfowl zone. The exception: ducks and geese may be hunted by youth hunters only during the statewide Youth Waterfowl Hunt. 2.) Waterfowl hunting will close at 1:00 pm each day beginning the Monday following opening weekend of the northern waterfowl zone and lasting for 16 full days thereafter. 3.) Refuge enlargements are posted with modified refuges at the Townline Reservoir/Berkhahn Flowage Refuge and Pool 10/ Rice Lake Refuge.

According to organizers, “the meeting will be held on February 15, 2011 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. A snow alternative date of February 17th will be used for the meeting if limiting weather conditions are forecast. If poor weather conditions are forecasted, you may call 715-457-6771 (ext 3) on February 14th to hear a recorded message which will indicate if the meeting has been rescheduled for the 17th. It is the state’s hope that waterfowl hunters or interested individuals will take this opportunity to discuss, analyze, and share impressions of the 2010 waterfowl season with others attending. Other season issues and items will be open for discussion as well.”

Wisconsin’s wetlands and marshes are frozen solid in February. Ducks and geese are the last thing on the minds of most folks these days - except for a few hunters and wildlife professionals dedicated to the future welfare of our state’s waterfowl resource.

For further details and refuge maps, please visit the Mead Wildlife Area’s Visitor Center, visit www.meadwildlife.org, or call (715) 457-6771.

Ken M. Blomberg is a freelance writer and longtime resident of the Town of Eau Pleine, northeast of Junction City. A 1976 graduate of UWSP in Resource Management, he is currently Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Water Association. He can be reached at kbgsp@tds.net.

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