Michael L. Schummer has been an avid duck hunter since way back when. What began humbly enough as a scientific way for putting more ducks over his decoys spawned into a career, eventually leading to his becoming a Senior Research Associate at SUNY ESF, where he conducts myriad waterfowl-related research. Having developed an algorithm that accurately predicts waterfowl migrational timing, he shares with Ramsey reasons that waterfowl migrate — or not. Lots of fun and interesting stories, something to talk about whether you’re sipping cold coffee, looking at empty skies and wondering where in the heck the duck are, or already back at camp early after a barrel-burner.


Related Links:

Schummer Waterfowl Labs

Hide Article

Getting a Start in the World of Duck Hunting

But we ended up studying long-tailed ducks, which folks know as old squaw as well, golden eyes, and buffleheads over two winters.


Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. And boy I got a good one today, you all want to hear this. How has your duck hunting been in the deep South? How’s your duck hunting been in the United States the past couple of years anyway? How have the warm winters affected you and what you perceive from the duck blind? Joining us today is Michael Schumer, senior research associate for the longest name in college history, State University, New York College of Environmental Sciences in Forestry or as they call it SUNY E.S.F. And Mike has done a lot of research on waterfowl migration. How are you today Mike?

Michael Schumer: Very good Ramsey. Thanks for having me.

Ramsey Russell: Oh man, I’m proud to have you. We’ve talked about doing this podcast for a pretty good while and with my travel and your field research and everything else, I’m glad to finally lined up that we could get on here. Mike, jumping into this, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? And how did you get started in the world of duck hunting?

Michael Schumer: Very good. I appreciate that question because I think it’s vitally important to kind of understand where somebody comes from. Most of the folks you have on this podcast that are waterfowl researchers, probably grew up duck hunting. It’s like all the folks that work for these conservation organizations. They really want to give back. And I found sciences is my place and training the next generation of students. But it all came from growing up in rural western New York and largely coming from hunting, fishing, farming family. And my father was a schoolteacher. And we used to get days off when he would shoot a deer in the morning before school, to clean that deer up and put it in the freezer for the family. And then when really where I got into the waterfowl hunting was the resident Canada goose or that giant Canada goose population really took off and provided really abundant opportunities to hunt geese throughout much of the Atlantic Flyway. And I cut my teeth on that. And then we got into duck hunting a little bit and then went off to forestry school and got here. I did forestry school in the Adirondack Mountains and then I came to SUNY E.S.F to finish my forestry degree. But realized that the famed Montez wetlands complex was about 45 minutes away from me. So there was a lot of skipping class and chasing ducks and learning on my own. And that kind of launched my career. After that I went into wildlife science at Southeast Missouri State, studying birds on the southern Oklahoma-Texas border. And then went to Ontario to finish my PhD and studying sea ducks on the Great Lakes. So it all went from there.

Ramsey Russell: Wow, I want to hear more about this sea duck research on the Great Lakes because it’s interesting to me. I’ve never really talked to anybody about sea ducks or research, especially on the great Lakes. What species were you looking at? What was the scope of your study there?

Michael Schumer: Yeah. So we focused on, well in general, is the background with zebra and quagga mussels showing up on the Great Lakes. Diving ducks and sea ducks over about a 15-year period increased tenfold, so that’s a pretty substantial jump in getting into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, kind of a half million birds largely wintering there. But we ended up studying long-tailed ducks, which folks know as old squaw as well, golden eyes, and buffle heads over two winters. So we spent December to March on Lake Ontario on the north shore and collected birds. Legally shot them for research about 750 birds over two years. Each bird got about, you know when you take an animal’s life and you’re not eating it and you’re just using it for research, you want to get the most out of it. So we took about a little over 200 measurements from each bird, so pretty intense stuff. But what we were trying to figure out is what’s going to limit the number of those birds staying on the Great Lakes considering that ice cover was declining. And zebra mussels have really rearranged the food resources for them. And it seemed as if those numbers could increase in perpetuity as the planet warms and more birds could stay.

Ramsey Russell: Zebra mussels good or bad for the birds that are eating on it seem like it is that food base increased. It’d be great for a lot of these birds.

Michael Schumer: Yeah, so we did a bunch of work that was with Scott Petrie at Long Point and he’s over with Delta Waterfowl now. But he was my PhD advisor. And that group did a bunch of research on the effects of selenium because that’s a trace element that our bodies require, but it goes from being required to toxic really quickly. And zebra mussels accumulate a lot of it. So we thought it might really be harming the birds. The reality is it’s not. The birds seem really okay with the intake of selenium at the level they were in taking it and it did really increase the food resources. But what’s interesting is it’s not just the mussels themselves, it’s all the little spaces, mussel beds that create places for other little invertebrates to live. In fact, buffleheads didn’t even eat zebra mussels when they dove to the bottom they were eating little crustaceans and midge larvae, which is a little like red blood worms and things that were living in the spaces in the mussel bed. So that to me says there’s enough food that’s created down there that buffalo heads don’t even have to eat the mussel, they can pick the stuff up that is higher energy content, right? Because if you eat a zebra mussel, you’re also eating the shell and all the water and yeah, there’s tissue in it, but you’re taking in a whole bunch of empty or noncalories, basically. So, they’re good for birds because they’re so super abundant. But when I think the birds have the chance they take the higher energy density stuff that lives in those mussel beds. So it’s pretty fascinating relationship.


Does Declining Ice Affect Waterfowl Migration Patterns?

So these birds don’t go any further south than they have to, for the most part, to get the food resources they need because all they’re doing is going back north. 


Ramsey Russell: You talk about how the zebra mussels as it increased, it changed the food resource up there. But you also mentioned kind of declining ice on those Great Lakes. And I’m sitting here wondering, I don’t know, I mean when you start talking old squaw or bufflehead or some of these species or the Great Lakes a major staging area or a lot of birds overwintering there, you know what I’m saying? Did it make the birds want to hold back from migrating farther south? Or did it make some of their wintering habitats better? That’s what  question I’ve got.

Michael Schumer: Yeah, I’d say it’s both right. And the thing to remember is that with all these ducks, geese and swans, in general way to think about this the more moves they make the worse it is for them. And the further south they go they still have to go back north. So these birds don’t go any further south than they have to, for the most part, to get the food resources they need because all they’re doing is going back north. And we know that the more stops these birds make their survival declines. Because you’re going from a place with a known food resource, known predation and hunting effects to getting up and flying maybe thousands of miles to someplace maybe you’ve been there before but things can change. You definitely have less knowledge. And so the movements are risky. So the birds tend to stay as far north as it can and where they can find food. And the great lakes are increasingly staying open longer. And that’s not just for big open water birds, you know the marshes and bays are definitely holding a lot more birds longer, like mallards and black ducks that a lot of hunters seem to be pursuing to a greater degree than see ducks, at least most hunters.


Do Waterfowl Biologists Use Traditional Duck Hunting Methods for Research?

Well Ramsey, where it all started really when I got into this, and then a lot of my research on watefowl migration is for this reason, is I wanted to just put my science brain into ways to shoot more ducks.


Ramsey Russell: A lot of us hook and bullet biologists got into this field like you said because we enjoyed duck hunting. We wanted to give something back. There’s something about these species that compelled us, at the same time to go out and do that kind of research as a young duck hunter. You’re bringing a lot of your past, a lot of your duck hunting past into the field now because you got to harvest these birds, you got to collect them. So I’m assuming you all were going out and hunting them with traditional duck hunting methods.

Michael Schumer: Very interesting question. So, first of all, all the proper permits with Canadian wireless service and all those things to collect birds. We got local volunteers that knew the area, duck hunters. And got them on the permits and they helped immensely. We had a guy snow blow a five-mile road so we could get to the shoreline one day but what happens on Lake Ontario with a predominantly southwest wind is as the water blows up on shore and ice gets pushed up onshore, you get these huge ice banks. That might be up to 20 ft tall. So when you’re in a boat out in the water you can’t even see the trees on the shoreline when you’re next to it. It’s pretty amazing. But what we would do is find areas where that ice was kind of fused to the limestone ledge along the edge. He’s a white canvas blind. Lower canoe because there was nowhere to launch a boat. So I worked out of a canoe on Lake Ontario for two winters in a survival suit. And so I would tuck myself up under the ice and the guys above, and I would put decoys out, and the guys above would shoot birds. The other way we did it is we jump shot them from shore because with predominantly southwest wind and ice action, a lot of the invertebrates and fish eggs and things, all the snails, the mussels got blown up near shore and piled up. So the birds would get real close to the ice edge. And so it was pretty easy to run up and shoot birds. And we were trying to determine what they were feeding on too. So it was a great sample because we could shoot birds and being sure that they had a diet inside of them as well. But I had two Chesapeake Bay retrievers that we would launch off these banks. And this is, I mean, I was a lot younger and stupider I think at that point. But we would just tighten their collars down really hard and we had a big long wooden pole with a blunt hook on the end of it. And they would come to the edge of the ice and we would literally pull them up with that pole because there was no, those are the types of places there was no way to put a canoe in because if you jumped off the edge you couldn’t stand in, it would be over your head. So there was no good way to lower anything. So the dots were the only, the dots probably added about 200-250 birds to that sample size that we wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. Pretty cool stuff.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. That kind of research that entails having to hunt under permit everything else, but having to hunt, my point being that’s a lot different than hunting resident Canada geese and black ducks in western New York growing up. I mean you grew not only as a biologist, but as a hunter. Isn’t that something how your research took you down a little bit further down that path. What jumps to my mind when you start doing about that, when you were growing up with your dad hunting in western New York, which I haven’t hunted out in that area is. Most folks, listen when you say New York, what they think of New York City is way different. I mean western New York is, guys it’s like Middle America anywhere else I’ve ever been. Did you grow up hunting black ducks? What kind of habitat were you all hunting? What kind of duck hunting experience were you doing growing up?

Michael Schumer: Yeah, so a lot of creeks, rivers, small ponds. I mean it’s not Western New York. Down on the Pennsylvania border is not really, it’s more like hill country, it’s not really the flat swampland like central New York and the finger lakes have. So it’s smaller pockets of birds. But surprisingly the black duck used to be the only duck in New York. The mallards came in as the black duck declined. And so we shot some black ducks but I would still say mallards and wood ducks were probably our two key species that we that we got into most of the time.

Ramsey Russell: That’s all just, it’s very interesting to me. It’s extremely interesting how a duck hunter gets into research like this. And every time I’ve met with biologists like yourself Mike, it always goes back to kind of my roots to how some of us duck hunters started off loving to hunt and fish, but then we just evolved into hunting and whereas we might be going out and hunting in our backyard for black ducks. One day we find ourselves in the southwest wind on Lake Ontario with some big chessies is retrieving in a very in a very different situation that advanced science. I just think it’s a fascinating relationship.

Michael Schumer: Well Ramsey, where it all started really when I got into this, and then a lot of my research on waterfowl migration is for this reason, is I wanted to just put my science brain into ways to shoot more ducks. I used to just go hunt every single day I could and I started to think about how stupid that was and how I could probably come up with an equation to figure out when ducks are migrating and when is my best opportunity to go. And then spent time in Mississippi and studying a lot of moist soil management and habitat management and thinking about how do we produce food that really draws birds in. And then we also studied hunting pressure and trying to determine so it’s, what the weather is like? How does that make birds move? What type of food do you have to attract them? And then how do you manage pressure so that they’re not so freaked out that they actually come into your location or your decoy spread. So I’m building these mathematical models to kill more ducks at the end of the day. It doesn’t work for me, but because I just can’t seem to find the time to get out of the office. But largely that’s my interest, is explaining why ducks are where they’re at different times of the year.

Ramsey Russell: That just described every duck hunter in America. We were always thinking and concentrating on how to kill more ducks with stirring what we got into that regard. You bring up a lot of information about how to shoot more ducks. Habitat, migration timing, and migration queues, and hunting pressure. And that’s really what I wanted to talk to you about today, what is going on? I read an article recently in on realtree.com about duck hunting going to hell. And if someone that travels around the world certainly travels extensively throughout the United States, I got to tell you Mike, it leaves me scratching my head. I find myself asking, where the heck are the ducks? We’re at the end of a 20 year boom time in terms of wetland productivity and everything else in North America. And if I go back to the front part of that 20 some odd year, wet cycle, I think of duck hunting when I was in college and grad school to now and I haven’t seen duck hunting get better. I’ve seen it get worse or different, let’s say. But worse than I can remember when winter came to the South and we were out there in Mississippi Delta shooting ducks. I just see a difference. And as I traveled around hunting with regular people, you talked about the Finger Lakes that’s a great question. I hunted up in the Finger Lakes with some guys last year in 20, sitting in somebody’s backyard shooting buffalo head. That was a trip. But we saw big rafts of birds, big flights of birds trading up and down out there in the mid lake. But what struck me is it was cold by Mississippi standards. It wasn’t just like cool, it was cold, but it wasn’t below zero. But for old Mississippi duck hunter, it was cold. It was plenty cold for Mississippi duck hunter. But to hear those guys saying, we’re waiting on our birds to come down. We’re waiting on the winter to hit and push our birds down. I’m thinking godly, if they’re waiting on birds up here in New York, I’m never going to get birds back home in Mississippi. But duck hunters nationwide are waiting on the bird. I go to Montana and it’s freaking frozen and they’re waiting on the bird to come down from up north. And all duck hunters are always waiting. It seems like on more cold weather to push more ducks. What do you think is happening to where we duck hunters, especially in the south, but not just in the south, what’s going on that we’re waiting more and more, it seems, on ducks to show up.


Duck Hunters Nationwide: Waiting on the Birds

So the reality is, the weather patterns have changed. The winters start later. They end earlier. And the birds are just doing what birds are going to do, they follow the food and reduce risk.


Michael Schumer: So you probably asked the complex question that duck hunters asked. And it’s certainly multifaceted, right? Where I always end up with this though is if the lakes aren’t frozen, if the fields aren’t snow covered, those birds aren’t going any further than they have to. We were doing this YouTube channel for a while, I want to get it back up and running again. So weakly duck migration forecast that I would do based on our mathematical models, but people down in North Carolina, Virginia and such are like, hey, when are mallards going to show up? And I’m like, well between Christmas and New Year’s, I was shooting into flocks at 2 to 3 hundred birds when the river flooded out half hour from my house and that river is still high because we keep getting snowmelt. It used to snow and then just freeze. Now it snows and melts, and those rivers flood. And that’s just like any river flood in Tennessee or Mississippi or Georgia, Alabama. And I mean the birds follow that flood water and I’m like boy, and then they talked to me two weeks later, I’m like, look its second week of January and that river still flooding into cornfields, I’m sorry, look, whatever you got is what you got. So that’s the thing, that’s real. I mean it has gotten warmer, the weather. We’ve come up with models about, mathematical models, that say what causes birds to migrate. And then we test if those variables of temperature and snow have changed. And they’ve certainly changed to the tune that about 1.5 million mallard, black duck or pintail sized birds can stay well north of where they used to, 1.5 million. So that’s 1.5 million birds hanging up at mid latitudes in northern latitudes and not making it to southern latitudes. I mean, you start to think about how many pinto’s black ducks and mallards there are that are coming down, it’s not all of them, but is that probably impacting how many birds you’re seeing over your decoys, yeah. I mean it’s kind of a no brainer, really. So the reality is, the weather patterns have changed. The winters start later. They end earlier. And the birds are just doing what birds are going to do, they follow the food and reduce risk.

Ramsey Russell: Do you think it’s all just flooded corn up in Missouri?

Michael Schumer: No. I think that’s complete BS. And it’s an easy answer. And I can see why people go to it. But if you just look at the amount of waste grain, just look at the yield of what a corn field is and then how much on average waste grain is left in the field, and look at how much more acreage we have planted to corn. We could feed the continental population of ducks on corn like four times over from just the waste stuff that’s in fields. And so the reality is like, who cares how much flooded corn you produce, and it’s a speck on the landscape. I mean, if I owned a piece of property like that, would I plant corn and flooded back out of ducks. Yeah, I’m not stupid. It works. But it’s really a speck, acres wise, on the landscape. And birds have to even find that. But here’s the thing is, if it’s cold enough like it used to be that stuff’s frozen-frozen, the birds are going to move. That’s the ultimate driver of this: that it’s been warm. There’s other stuff going on but it’s been warm and birds are spread out. And they don’t have to push south like they used to. And then when they get to these places I really think that the pressure’s gone bonkers. People don’t go open today and then a few weekends and then actually go to work. They take their entire vacation for that 60 day period. They’re their own worst enemy.

Ramsey Russell: Burn through all the sick leave.

Michael Schumer: Nobody polices themselves, right? I mean I’m guilty of this. I got places down the road from me that I know would pile up with a couple of thousand birds and then I could go have an amazing shoot. But as soon as I see a hundred I go because if I don’t, somebody else is going to.

Ramsey Russell: You say it’s getting warmer? How warm is it? This past winter was very interesting. How warm was this past winter?

Michael Schumer: So I’m going to hit a couple of things there Ramsey. Is that our analysis to date from 1980 till present suggests that the weather that causes ducks to migrate has changed by 30 days. 

Ramsey Russell: I mean, how do you guys say that it has changed by 30 days? What does that mean?

Michael Schumer: It means that when mallard abundance used to peak in this part of the world and then move on around mid November, early November, it’s mid December now, that we are mallard’s peak. So it’s a month later. Now if you fast forward with climate change scenarios by the end of this century, it surely looks like mallards and black ducks will be able to winter in the Great Lakes in most years. They will not have to leave.

Ramsey Russell: Somebody said that this past winter was the warmest on record in 127 years.

Michael Schumer: Yeah, I didn’t look at that. I noticed yeah, December, so December. We came into winter really late. December was, so they’ve been keeping track of this for its climate regions and such. But for the Mississippi Atlantic flyway, almost every state was in like the 123, 124, 127 of 127 years. So if you’re 127 that is the warmest December that you’ve ever had temperature wise. So that’s how it was, pretty bad.

Ramsey Russell: I know that New Year’s day in Mississippi was 83° and when we’re warm, I mean the deep south, we aren’t that warm, that’s hot, That’s May weather. I just couldn’t believe and nobody was killing ducks, speaking of 83 degrees, I can tell you that. And that’s extremely interesting. Let’s run through, just let’s step back a block or two to just real rudimentary waterfowl migration. How important is cold weather versus photo period versus food resources? What all really goes into waterfowl migration? And how and then let’s talk about how this warm weather is really affecting it.

Michael Schumer: So we tested that specifically, we asked this photo period, a better predictor of duck migration than temperature and snow cover. And we did temperature by itself, snow cover by itself. All the combinations that you could put together. And what we found is that other than gluing — Now, I’m just talking about dabbling ducks. So mallards, black ducks, pintails, wigeon, green wing tail, Shovelers, Blue wings, the only duck that we found migrated that the better answer was photo period was a blue wing teal, which is I think what everybody would agree with in general. Not that they don’t use weather queues at all but that when we put them up against each other, photo period was a better predictor, but all other species were reacting more so to weather. So photo period is definitely a queue. And but photo period and weather kind of go hand in hand, right? So it’s not like you can say photo period doesn’t have an influence, but when you test them together, the added effect of weather definitely has that stronger influence on bird migration. Well dabbling duck migration, we want to get into diving ducks and geese were in the process of working on that.

Ramsey Russell: Well that’s dabbling ducks. That’s a good reference dabbling ducks. And we all know, that blue wing teal, her photo appeared migrations and to an extent, I’ve always considered maybe just because I see some showing up in the deep south in September along with the blue wings, two degrees, the shovelers, the pin tails, a few green wings, a few gadwalls. They some of those birds seem to move not strictly just on the.

Michael Schumer: No. Yeah, it’s some of that is how they eat and when we talk about weather. The severity of the weather has to be that much greater for something like a big mallard or black duck to make that movement. Your birds that are mostly eating aquatic vegetation as soon as there is a little freeze, it’s not like they can go field feed or anything. So those Gadwall and Wigeon bump pretty quickly to those big reservoirs and big water bodies where they can feed on those things. And pin tails do something really different as soon as they get bumped, they kind of don’t, they’re still affected by weather, but they actually go to the coast, right? And when I was in Starkville, everybody’s like, oh, the pin tails finally showed up from the north. I’m like, no, they just showed up from the south because they fly over you, they go to the coast because it’s stable and they can use it or has been for several years. And then when all those fall, heavy rains come, the penthouse kind of shoots out in an asterix pattern everywhere to take advantage of that stuff. So they’ve got a real interesting pattern of, they’re very much tied to coastal regions early on and then they’ll disappear back into more freshwater type areas as the season goes.

Ramsey Russell: One thing that happened very interesting in migration wise for the past 4 or 5, 6 years, whatever we’ve been going to western Mexico a lot and some of the warmer winters, fewer ducks, it felt like in the deep south. And then I show up to western Mexico in February and it’s just blue wings, green wing Zimmerman’s pin tails, Wigeons, lots of ducks. Oh my god, I’m like man, these nuts. This past winter was so warm but around New Year’s first week of January, there still was a dearth of waterfowl in Western Mexico this year. I mean clients and outfitters reporting fewer blue wings, fewer till fewer, way fewer pintails and big ducks than normal. And then as winter kind of started rolling down that late winter as that ice curtain started to come down to North America. They showed up too little too late. But enough and a bunch and hunting was good. And I was down in Guatemala last week. And the same thing they said the birds just weren’t there like normal and had showed up very late, whereas they normally kind of go off on some of their first hunts in November. They didn’t start hunting until January this year and it’s almost entirely blue wing. So I know it’s more than just photo period. There is like you say they are reacting some to the climatic factors.

Michael Schumer: Yeah. And the one thing that we shouldn’t forget when I build out these models, I mean I talk about these large ducks staying further north mallards, black ducks pintails. Big birds like that. But some of the complaining I hear is largely about mallards. And the one thing I think the younger generation is kind of getting over it a little bit. But there’s a lot of shovelers that show up, there’s a lot of Gadwall that show up and my goodness, there’s a lot of those animals on this planet. I mean they’re doing well in general, I mean prairies dry last year. That hit everybody pretty hard across the species. But we had a saying when I was in Mississippi is love the shoveler and embrace the gadwall because the mallards are getting here the last week of January. So you got to and boy, you make kebabs out of them, you put them in gumbo, it’s still good eating, there are still sporty birds, they’re beautiful animals. So some of these birds are still making it there in good numbers and in the lack of mallards, I think it’s just going to be a thing. That’s going to continue to happen probably.


Predictive Models of Variations in Waterfowl Migration

And we really came up with this model which makes a heck of a lot of sense to everybody. It’s mostly what drives duck migration is how cold is it, how long has it been below freezing. 


Ramsey Russell: Where did you begin to develop this algorithm and what all goes into what variables go into? What is this predictive model you keep talking about?

Michael Schumer: Yeah. So that’s a great question. It was when I was in Mississippi State University working with Dr Rick Kaminski, I was doing my post doc there and my wife was getting her master’s working on wetland reserve program lands throughout the Mississippi alluvial valley and Rick was good enough to let me just kind of follow my passion and he said, well what really interests you, I said this whole discussion about where are the ducks really interest me and he said, go with it. So we worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation who probably had the best ground based and aerial dataset for counting birds. And we paired those bird numbers with nearby weather stations and we asked my goodness, we tested everything photo period, sunspots, moon phases, all kinds of stuff. And we really came up with this model which makes a heck of a lot of sense to everybody. It’s mostly what drives duck migration is how cold is it, how long has it been below freezing.  Stuff that makes wetlands freeze, how much snow is on the ground and how many days in a row has there been measurable snow that would interfere with field feeding and that one. So it ends up being one number. And it explains about half the variation in duck migration that we see. So we’re pretty happy. But of course now think about that, it explains half of it. There’s still a lot of other things going on out there, food disturbance, wind direction, etcetera. But that’s what we came up with and it. I still use it and it does a pretty good darn good job of picking days of when to go.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. I’ve always understood that waterfowl play hunting in Northeast Arkansas. You wait on the Missouri, Bootheel of Missouri to start to freeze and you’ll get these little pluses of ice or freeze outs and then the birds will drift back as it thaws. I don’t know, how they know, what they know. It’s like they’re sitting on a thermo cline. It’s like that have you seen that where waterfowl just like to hang out on a 50 degree thermocline.

Michael Schumer: Well so here’s where this relationship breaks down. Once you get below the Bootheel of Missouri, ducks just mill around, they just follow water, food resources and avoid people. That’s it doesn’t really this stuff doesn’t do much at that latitude. To a large degree they just mill around and you get cold snaps and birds might need to feed a little bit more. But generally, if you follow the fat load of a Mallard in Arkansas once it gets to its terminal wintering area it loses weight. What’s the best thing a mallard can do is pair up and go hide somewhere behind falling down cherry bark oak in a green tree reservoir and don’t move for the whole entire winter. And just use your fat resources once they’re fat, right? Why go expose yourself to whatever bald eagles hunting anything the elements. The best thing to do is get fat and sit still. And so what you got to understand is it takes some real weather below that line in the boot hill to really get birds to feed a lot. I mean they still have to feed to maintain themselves daily and make sure that fat decline isn’t too much. But on those really wicked, cold days down that way when there’s no pressure, not too much pressure. So they feel comfortable to come out from where they’re at and there’s a good food resource that they can smash pretty quick and then go back and sit still again. That’s when you can kill birds. But if you don’t have cold enough temperatures to make a move, you’ve got poor food or you got too much pressure. Those things are disastrous for duck hunters.

Ramsey Russell: Doctor Colon was on here recently talking about hunting pressure and saw the same thing that a lot of his adult birds but he’s monitoring are doing pretty much what you said. They’re getting off into a safe area, crawled up behind the cherry bark oak in the GTR and sitting venturing a mile and a half away, knowing exactly how to know, exactly how to read the script knowing, exactly where to go to. Pretty much avoid all that hunting pressure there is on the landscape today. And I didn’t, but I had not heard that they actually lost weight once they get down here that they’re living on their fat reserve.

Michael Schumer: Well, so here’s the thing like think about how you all cook your birds. I mean I pluck it almost everything after the pin feathers are gone. I pluck every bird and they go on full pluck fat, yellow fat on those mallards, white fat on the black ducks because they feed a little bit differently and they go on a big Weber charcoal grill. Now I try doing that in Mississippi a few times and birds are pretty skinny. Especially come January. So the point is you don’t have to make another jump. You’re not going to carry fat through the winter. When you don’t need to carry it, there’s a cost to carrying that weight around. And if you can hit food resources in the spring when the weather gets milder you can get fat pretty quick again to make you’re jumping over. So they stay pretty skinny. Yeah throughout the winter even so if you took a pen bird from wild and you gave them unlimited food, they still lose weight. So it’s something that’s really an eight, that’s ingrained in them to not carry that weight around during winter.


Will the Decline in Duck Numbers Continue?

So we’re struggling with that, but at the same time, we’re still struggling with habitat availability, habitat quality throughout the whole flyway. There are a lot of different reasons we may be experiencing fewer ducks, not the least hunting pressure.


Ramsey Russell: So short of us is getting a cold, real cold winter at the trend that we perceive in the Deep South and elsewhere of fewer ducks is going to continue.

Michael Schumer: Unfortunately, I think it is. And to me though, like when you look at there’s a lot of comment about, out of Louisiana about how bad things are, but when you actually look at their dark harvest, I mean I’m going to throw a number out there. It’s probably erroneous, but we’ll get the point across. It’s probably still like 5, 8 maybe 10 times more than what people in the state of New York shoot. And we shoot New York is as far as the Atlantic coast goes. I mean almost every bird that comes out of Quebec and Ontario comes through New York. We got huge goose migrations. We shoot a lot of mallards, but it pales in comparison to what people in Louisiana shoot. So they’re still shooting ducks. It’s just different.

Ramsey Russell: It’s different. And I think it’s like you said, it’s more than just one. It’s more than just the weather. There’s so much going on and change the subject. I was down in Guatemala recently and posted up some blue wings, some pictures of us holding straps, and man, somebody waited in on our social media. Ironically, interestingly about 5 or 6 guys from Puerto Rico waited in and just lambasted the indiscriminate killing. We were well within the bag limit. So I was down there very late. A lot of birds had already pushed out. I was just exploring and we were well within the bag limits of Guatemala and you understand that fewer than 200 duck hunters or hunter’s period in the whole country of Guatemala and very little hunting pressure. And they just talked about the over harvest, over exploitation. And I tried to reason with them. Obviously, they’ve never been to Guatemala and even down there and it’s just one of those things I did not expect to see this or experience this. But as we were down in Guatemala, we got on this ferry and we were going up this river, we had to cross the river and water taxis, a booming business in that part of the world. And at one point the guys had to get off the ferry and push it across the sandbar, kind of push it a little bar underwater and navigate it through there was a track co out digging. And I’m like, wow, why is the water so low and they said, well show you here in a minute and we were going to hunt some mangrove and we got back there and the water was low, like you could tell where the water had greatly receded. And they showed me some areas where a lot of those wetlands were being drained for sugarcane and for salt ponds, salt pits, I didn’t know where sea salt came from. I learned how they rope off these areas and let them begin to vapor transpiration and then mined the salt and so even these are birds. Now these aren’t some far flung species, these are North American species that are overwintering down in Guatemala. And once you get out in the boonies out there, it’s not about the weather, it’s not about the hunting pressure, and it’s not about how many ducks you kill. It’s like unbelievable habitat loss. So we’re struggling and in the Deep South and throughout America, not only with 100 warmest winter in 127 years. And it seems to be warming generally throughout temperatures are going up. So we’re struggling with that, but at the same time, we’re still struggling with habitat availability, habitat quality throughout the whole flyway. There are a lot of different reasons we may be experiencing fewer ducks, not the least hunting pressure.

Michael Schumer: Certainly you bring up a good point. I mean a bird biologist at large, not just a waterfowl person. We know that a lot of the birds that we have that spend time in our eastern forests and in the prairies and such go to South America and a lot of the effects on the population are actually in those locations. But back in America proper here, one of the things that’s going on in Louisiana is that they have also lost a ton of quality coastal marsh where these birds used to go. And so if you can stay further north, you can meet your energy requirements. You cannot get shot at as much by making as many moves. And you got less places in Louisiana than you used to spend winter. It’s kind of a, you don’t need a mathematical equation to explain that one. So there’s a lot of that kind of stuff going on for sure. If you don’t mind, I’ll go little, I’m little bit of a side tangent here about the blue wings though. And I think folks will really appreciate this one. I mean this is a whole another conversation Ramsey, but the North American duck symposium held once every three years. It was still Covid. We’re going to get back at it again. We’re going to be an organ here pretty soon. But the last one was in Winnipeg. I was there with a bunch of students. And some real sharp cats did some work on the question of how much hunting pressure can these birds take and how much is hunting driving these populations? We as hunters think that every bird we shoot is one that won’t make it. Blue Wing teal are very much an exception to that. And the comment was, and I wouldn’t suggest we go out and shoot 20 blue wings or anything like that obviously. But the comment was when you really look at blue wings, you could just shoot them. You basically can’t drive the population. Yeah. And so it would be a social carrying capacity thing, right?

Ramsey Russell: Wow.


Ducks Run Guns

The reason you shoot more ducks when there’s more ducks is because there’s more ducks to shoot. So the numbers of ducks drive guns.


Michael Schumer: But so like how many do you need to shoot today to be satisfied? Rather than any effect of the gun whatsoever and I think a lot of people get caught up in thinking guns run ducks. The reality is that ducks run guns.

Ramsey Russell: Explain that.

Michael Schumer: So, the reason that me think of a good way to say this, I mean when you’re shooting birds, you’re not driving the population, right?

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Michael Schumer: The reason you shoot more ducks when there’s more ducks is because there’s more ducks to shoot. So the numbers of ducks drive guns. The numbers of ducks drive harvest, but the opposite of that is not always true. There are certainly cases where it is, but I think the mentality of most hunters is that we need to shoot less of these things to conserve them. The reality is we probably need to pump money into habitat

Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah.

Michael Schumer: So that we’ve got more of these things because ducks run guns. So ducks die from everything most and again speaking in generalizations, it’s not true of long lived, Canada geese and some of the sea ducks, they’re more sensitive to harvest and then certain local populations can be over harvested, but at the continental level. These birds in general, the ones that live hot and fast, they die early either by our hands or by something else. They reproduce. They put a lot of energy into reproducing. And so there it’s the reason we can quote unquote exploit these harvest double surpluses is because blue wing teal are putting a lot of energy into pumping out a ton of eggs and they don’t typically live very long.

Ramsey Russell: And they’re moving across the landscape. I mean they’re here today, gone tomorrow. I mean from Canada down to the wintering grounds, they’re here today, gone tomorrow almost everywhere.

Michael Schumer: Right, exactly. If you, most people, I think if you get into a handful of going hunting, you’re happy. So we don’t have, I’ve hunted blue wings in Missouri and in Mississippi during the early season, we don’t have a season here in New York because we supposedly have a breeding population which is nowadays just about nonexistent. But I’ve been through those blue wing hunts and it’s is all happens too fast to really shoot too many of them.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, that’s great. That’s a crazy thought that you really could kind of shootout to beat them and not hurt their population because the way they’re moving.

Michael Schumer: I’m not recommending it be clear there, I’m not recommending it. It’s just a numbers game. And what drives their population but us shooting them is not one of them.

Ramsey Russell: And the most frustrating thing about warming trends that affect waterfowl migration is there’s nothing we can do about it. We can mitigate hunting pressure, we can mitigate bag harvest, we can mitigate habitat quality. There’s a lot that we hunters can do but against Mother Nature there were powerless. All we can do is complain.

Michael Schumer: I think that’s one of the things that make people skeptical that it is climate change. I mean, I’m I’ve looked at all the science. As a scientist, the body of evidence suggests that we as humans have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere. And this is what surprises me, is we’re still talking about it. It’s become a political thing, which is unfortunate. Climatologists that study this type of stuff basically stopped debating that we’re driving the climate to be warmer faster than it normally would be. They stopped debating that pretty much in 1995.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Michael Schumer: And here today we still have folks that are like, no, we’re not changing the climate. The climate is not changing, that’s all Bs. And I think some of that comes from, you feel helpless, right? You feel like you can’t do anything about it. So it’s easy to point the finger at people growing corn to the north. Because you feel like you can change that it’s a tough one. But I still think the silver lining out of this. I keep going back to like some of our duck harvests are still looking pretty good. I think we’ve got a bit of disparity among people that hunt public land and others at times. But the reality is that we’re still shooting a lot of ducks as a country and some extent our expectations are really high. I think advertising does that to us to a large degree. Well, there’s not just like, hey, let’s go have breakfast and shoot three birds and come home and be okay with it. It’s like unless we’re smashing 6 ducks a day, it’s, there’s a problem. So we got to move off that mentality.


The Need for More Duck Hunters & Conservationists 

We all want the same thing. Conservation needs it. We need hunter participation and we need hunters of state to stay vibrant and to keep coming in a part of the North American conservation model. 


Ramsey Russell: Marketing and social media have put unreasonable expectations into our head. Yes. I had some when my boys were little, they watched a lot of outdoor television that was hot back in the day and they watch whatever, bow hunting and deer hunting, stuff like that and then go get a deer stand. They were always like, where the heck of the deer? I’m like, well son. You don’t kill a big buck every 22.5 minutes. Like it’s shown on TV it perverts reality a little bit. At first our expectations if you let it, if you don’t know better that it concerns me. It does concern me and I’ll tell you this kind of the migration record or something like that. But here’s why it concerns me is I’ve got a lot of friends down in Australia and they are really struggling politically, sociologically type with not by a lot. There’s no biological basis whatsoever in the country of Australia driving. Season’s bag limits nothing. It’s all political and it’s being driven a lot by anti hunting politics, and in the last couple of years, it’s really gotten hot and heavy and such to the point that the hunters that were formerly supporting, ducks unlimited like organizations fielding game Australia are starting to back out like, well we’re losing our seasons and so you know what I’m seeing happening is instead of putting $3,000 into a lobby that will help you fight, they’re just backing out. Not even paying the $30 membership anymore because they’re just there. You see, they’re blaming everybody now that makes sense. They’re blaming not only the political system, but they’re blaming some of the conservation organizations down there for having failed. They’re looking at anything they can. And they’re absolutely losing season.

Michael Schumer: Well. I don’t think that gets off the topic of migration because, and I don’t want to go down this rabbit hole too much. But everybody, when the seasons get bad, get beat up, I mean Delta D.U takes this stuff on the chin and he eats a ton of their time. Like what are you doing about this? And that puts them in a tough spot because it’s really, it’s not on them and folks will argue against that. They’ll say all do you want to do is flood corn up north for wealthy people and we know that’s not true and it’s not how they function. But then the duck hunters organization Delta Waterfowl getting attacked over lack of migration is just silly. Like why would they not want ducks to go to Louisiana? Where like, I mean there’s more duck hunters in the state of Louisiana than there are in the whole country of Canada. Like why would you want that to go badly? That makes no sense. So we, as a group of waterfowl hunters are really diverse. But we still, we got to stick together because the real enemy are the anti folks are the people that don’t care about the environment and wetlands and things like that. There’s way more of them than there are. And so we all need to stick together for sure.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. We’re all the same life raft. We all want the same thing which is disguised to be dark with ducks. We all want the same thing. Conservation needs it. We need hunter participation and we need hunters of state to stay vibrant and to keep coming in a part of the North American conservation model. We hunters are footing the bill and that’s why it’s important for me to have people like yourself on to explain that there are a lot of reasons why the duck scenes may not be to your satisfaction in recent years. You talk about global warming. And they quit talking about mankind’s input back in 1995. And I got, I was sitting in Alaska and I was getting up early and drinking coffee in Alaska and the lady that was cooking breakfast and made really good coffee, but she made better coffee in the first pot than she did in subsequent pots because it was something about something special she was doing too. And I got up to drink coffee. And I don’t know where she tried to get me into a global warming debate. I don’t like the word global warming because it is political. But if you want to hear those two words in every conversation with anybody across the landscape, go to Alaska. I mean whether you’re talking commercial fishing or biology or anybody in Alaska, everybody is talking about the warming trends and how it’s affecting their livelihood and the landscape. So something real is going on. But what I answered her, I told her is I just, I want to drink my coffee was too early to argue with anything. And she said, oh, you don’t believe it. I go, ma’am, I’m not saying, I don’t believe it, I’m just saying I’m powerless to do anything really because I believe that, I believe the earth has a global carbon cycle before those big glaciers up in Alaska that are now melting existed. Arizona was at the bottom of an ocean. The Sonoran desert was at the bottom of an ocean. And I listened to a podcast not too long ago where they were talking about the lost city of Atlantis probably being in the middle of the Sahara desert because 20,000 years ago it was a lush tropical rainforest. That just 20,000 years it’s nothing. And to the earth, you know what I’m saying? I mean to a planet that existed for billions of years that has this natural carbon cycle. 20,000 years is I don’t know how far how many generations that is. I’m just worried about having ducks over my decoys next duck season. But at the same time there’s really not a lot I can do about it. And if we start looking at fossil fuel burning, which is the whole political input let’s talk about the amount of atmospheric carbon generated from disking soils. You know what I’m saying? And we can’t we can’t not farm. We’ve got to feed people. We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed on planet Earth right now. And there’s a lot of atmospheric carbon being generated just from the process of agricultural disking. In fact, I’ve heard more than it’s being produced by fossil fuels being burned.

Michael Schumer: Well you touched I mean the elephant in the room is there’s a lot of people and nobody wants to have that discussion.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Michael Schumer: And the C02 conversation is a difficult one because it does hit the energy sector and if your 401k. Doesn’t have energy sector in it, I’d be very surprised. So it’s something that’s affecting everyone. I don’t think we can put our head in the sand after. I mean the literal, the massive stacks of quality work that have been done on carbon and such the rate at which we’re putting it into the environment now. So yeah we have these huge cycles that the earth goes through. But you know the last 20 years of your duck season getting worse and worse because the weather has changed in addition to other things. Largely if you follow science largely linked to increases in C02 at rates that are well beyond what would naturally occur. That we’re putting into the atmosphere and I don’t want to go down this road too much. But I don’t think that we can deny that rate and that’ what these animals just can’t seem to implants can’t seem to adapt to them. Some of them right there just happening too rapidly. And that’s the thing I always tell people I’m like well look I hate to say it, but the to get back to duck migration is changing and I think that ended up in that outdoor life article or one of them you can’t sit up against the same oak tree and the same swamp for your whole entire life and think that the same thing’s going to happen year after year. You got to, if things are changing, you got to adapt to that.


The Northern Hemisphere Waterfowl Phenomenon

They’re local birds and they may shift 500 miles or 700 miles to exploit water and food, but they’re not migrating back and forth like our birds are. 


Ramsey Russell: You got to roll with it, the ducks adjust and we hunters got to adjust with them. That’s a really good point. Last topic, I just want to throw out there to you and I know this way off your research and everything else, but waterfowl migrations as we know it as we think about it is we’ve been talking about, it is a Northern Hemisphere phenomenon. I go to Australia. I go to New Zealand, I go to Africa, I go to South America, South Africa the birds aren’t continentally migrating like we think of migrating. They’re more nomadic. They’re local birds and they may shift 500 miles or 700 miles to exploit water and food, but they’re not migrating back and forth like our birds are. And interestingly enough, I had a conversation with a gentleman down in Southeast Texas who can remember seeing his first black wing whistling ducks in the mid 80’s and now, which is not too terribly long ago, but now those birds are breeding clear up in Delaware and the Northern Tier. I know that historically in the last 10, 15 years we began seeing those birds after Katrina and Rita. We began seeing them utilize the Mississippi Delta. But they were taken off. I mean they were round blue wing by the time you started seeing blue wing till passed through is when you quit seeing any black bellied whistling ducks in Mississippi Delta until last season before. My son was hunting some public land out there scouting and found a slew for us to hunt and half the bag was black bellied whistling ducks. They’re changing that my point being. And some of the conversations I had down in coastal Texas this past September, some of the landowners were saying they’re beginning to see blue wings stay, stick, and breed, live down in parts of Texas now. And down in Guatemala, the same thing. They said, a lot of our, most of our birds are coming and going. But if you come out here and these wetlands during the growing season that there are populations now that did not leave. And that just makes me think in geological time, way out there, that it’s possible at some point in time in the future, maybe the migration in North America is not what our generation remembered it being 1000 years from now. They’re not migrating.

Michael Schumer: These are not stagnant events. They’re just within our lifetime. We would like that consistency to a large degree. And hope for it. But the reality is that the, I mean birds are dinosaurs, they’ve made it through a lot of different stuff and they’re going to make it through the next major bottleneck. That will happen on this planet. It’s, but that’s way out in the future. Folks now are worried about seeing ducks in front of the blind. But yeah, I mean these birds will make it through some of them will make it through and that are doing something a little bit different from somebody else and they’re going to be the ones to repopulate areas. So they’re winners, birds in general and definitely waterfowl, they’re winners on the long term scale of animals on this planet. Ramsey, the one thing that we haven’t had a chance to discuss and I know you had a friend and colleague of mine Philip Gretzky from University of Texas, El Paso on here and he does a lot of work with Mallard genetics. Phil and I talk about it all the time, about the East Coast now is largely these game farm jeans. Most of the birds that you shoot in the Atlantic flyway and now even getting into the Mississippi aren’t 100% pure wild birds. In fact they’re not even close to that anymore. I mean there are some of the 20, 10% game farm and what Phil and I wonder is how much the difference in genetics is affecting mallard migration. Because you think about a wild mallard to go to the prairies that bird when it wakes up in the morning and November is thinking about going south and hitting the deep woods of Arkansas, the domestic bird that has no innate sense a bird with game farm jeans. And that has no innate sense to go to any ancestral grounds, wakes up, and just reacts to probably what’s in front of it, which is, yeah, I got to go south, but it’s only going to go south as far as it needs to be grad student, Matt Colombo, that I worked with and on Lake ST Clair and he put radio tags on birds in that Lake ST Clair region of the Great Lakes and for the most part those birds didn’t go any further south and like the Ohio River Valley and then went right back north, most of them. And that’s what we’re seeing is that Great Lakes population just makes it jump as far as it needs to, doesn’t go back north. So a lot of like South Carolina, not seeing birds anymore. That used to be a traditional migration from like the Michigan area over. And we recently did some work with some hunt clubs in northwest Ohio kind of on the edge of that range and out of 300 birds I think 27 of them from one hunting season that they collected for us were pure wild. So those game farm jeans are moving west and so some of this, I really think some of this migration stuff might be, we’re just dealing with a different type of bird too. So my concern is that I think screwing with the eastern population, mallards is one thing. But if these genes get into the prairie population to have a degree and those birds stop moving south, even worse than they are now, that could be really problematic.

Ramsey Russell: Over time and that really could happen. There’s a perception among the hunters that the mallard migration is shifting west. And one thing Phil pointed out in his initial podcast just amounted, which has been quite a while ago was that it’s really not. It’s almost like because of this domestic matter gene that it’s infiltrating the Atlantic is going west into the Mississippi Flyways now. It’s almost like a spigot starting to the native the new world genetic matter genetics are still migrating down the central and pacific flyways. But what we’re beginning to see is the spigot shut because of this genetic influence. That’s scary stuff, man. If you’re a duck hunter, it matters to drive. These mallards are – I’m not a mallard purist – but whe the mallards are in town, they get priority. They get the red carpet treatment. I’m focusing on the mallards and that’s scary stuff, man.

Michael Schumer: Yeah, it is. And I think you know there’s a pile of good work going on with eastern mallards and with domestication and I think we’re going to have some real good answers and the next 5 to 10 years, hopefully it’s soon enough. I don’t see the other thing I don’t see release of game farm mallards going away. Honestly, I don’t feel like that’s a thing. The question really is just lost my train of thought completely. Give me give two seconds to regain here. Oh the one that stick, it’s probably not going to turn off the one thing that actually might be happening I think is interesting is do you think about the black duck wasn’t cut out for when we cleared the landscape and urbanized it. They really weren’t cut out for it. And they declined substantially and moved west. Some of that might have been over shooting. I mean, that’s when we had bag limits that were like nine birds or whatever. And you were shooting primarily black ducks. So we could have put a dent in them a little bit. But then we mallards might have moved in from the west to fill that empty space. Or that’s also about the time we started releasing a ton of mallards and putting them into that, the east is really an urban landscape. There’s a ton of mallards that are that fit within that. So maybe we actually put a duck in these that can survive here, that where others can’t. And I think that’s an interesting thought, is not intentionally, but maybe my mistake. We created this animal that can survive in a relatively populated landscape where wild mallard can’t and a black duck can’t and that maybe we do keep p ping game farm birds out, who knows? But I think we’ve got a lot of good questions we’re asking about the potential negative effects. Again, confirmed genes into the wild population and end of the day, we’ll provide the best information we can to the powers that be. And as scientists, we don’t make regulations and decisions like that. We just try to produce the best information and hand it over to the decision makers to do what they do.

Ramsey Russell: Mike, tell everybody how they can get in touch with you. How can the listeners connect with you mentioned the YouTube channel. I know you’ve got a Facebook page Instagram. How can plug into you and learn more?

Michael Schumer: Yeah, I think the YouTube channel went dark this year because we are, I don’t know if a lot of folks don’t know this Suny ESF is about the fourth largest wildlife conservation Biology and aquatic sciences university in the country. And every degree that we have is focused on the environment from pulp and paper science to wildlife science, to fisheries, to forest resource management. We kind of have everything. So it’s not like this in a dig at Mississippi State or anything like that because I went there, my wife’s alumni, but their wildlife department is going to be, x number of students and in ours is we’re in the 300 students and wildlife science or something. So we’re pretty big. And so this goes back to the YouTube channel. I had to cut cutting around on that one because one on one of the things I’m trying to do at E.S.F is making sure that a person like me training that next generation of waterfowl wetland scientists exist in perpetuity. And that takes a lot of time talking to folks with the pockets to donate money to ensure that an endowed program in waterfowl wetlands continues to exist in this part of the world because the Atlantic Flyway might have less ducks. But it’s still a real important part of the world for these birds. And we need to continue that tradition of good quality science. So reality is, I didn’t have time to run a weekly YouTube channel this year trying to raise 3 to $6 million. So that slowed me up. But our lab is the easiest way to find me at our wallets, at our waterfowl, and it’s on Facebook. Our lab maintains a Facebook page there and folks can send messages and stuff through that with any questions for sure. That’s probably the easiest way to get a hold of me.

Ramsey Russell: Are you seeing you’re talking about your big wildlife program? Are you seeing a shift in the amount of hunters that are participating in this program versus just kids that have an affinity for wildlife? And do you think it matters?

Michael Schumer: I think it matters for sure. I feel like the students that I get that hunt tend to have more skin the game. They tend to come with skill sets, from farming communities. They grew up jumping on a bike with a fishing pole. They’re a little more savvy, they can throw a pair of waders on and walk through a wet line without falling over six times. I mean I’ve been known to do that too, but the skills that kind of make you a good wildlife biologist. I mean I think being able to run a change on jump on a tractor matter, and we got less of that. The, what we’re find, what I’m finding is that the guys that used to go into the field are going into more blue collar type jobs right out of high school that they can make good money at because it doesn’t pay a lot. And what we tend to are actually beginning our, if we get guys from cities and the gals we get are really good and they have a very kind of mothering, nurturing type attitude towards the environment. It’s a little more, it’s a little different than the old school hook and bullet mentality but they’re not bad students. And the thing I’ll tell you though is the hunt, the hook and bullet, the hunting, fishing kind of kids that are in these wildlife science programs still exist to a large degree. I mean we had a kid come to me a few years back and say, hey, I want to start a collegiate Ducks Unlimited chapter at the SF. I said, yeah, I’ll be your advisor. That sounds like a great idea. And my goodness did kids that duck hunt come out of the woodwork from everywhere and then other people glommed onto them and they started taking each other, their duck hunting, not as officially as part of the club or anything, but just as friends. It was all well and good until I started going to my duck hunting spots and all these students were there.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Oh gosh. Good story. Mike. Thank you very much for your time. I know you’re very busy and I greatly appreciate shedding some light on waterfowl migration. Some of the reasons we may not be seeing as many ducks over our decoys, here in the deep south as normal. Folks, thank you all for listening. You all have been listening to Michael Schumer, Senior Research Associate at SUNY ESF. Thank you all for this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. We’ll see you next time.


Podcast Sponsors:

GetDucks.com, your proven source for the very best waterfowl hunting adventures. Argentina, Mexico, 6 whole continents worth. For two decades, we’ve delivered real duck hunts for real duck hunters.

USHuntList.com because the next great hunt is closer than you think. Search our database of proven US and Canadian outfits. Contact them directly with confidence.

Benelli USA Shotguns. Trust is earned. By the numbers, I’ve bagged 121 waterfowl subspecies bagged on 6 continents, 20 countries, 36 US states and growing. I spend up to 225 days per year chasing ducks, geese and swans worldwide, and I don’t use shotgun for the brand name or the cool factor. Y’all know me way better than that. I’ve shot, Benelli Shotguns for over two decades. I continue shooting Benelli shotguns for their simplicity, utter reliability and superior performance. Whether hunting near home or halfway across the world, that’s the stuff that matters.

HuntProof, the premier mobile waterfowl app, is an absolute game changer. Quickly and easily attribute each hunt or scouting report to include automatic weather and pinpoint mapping; summarize waterfowl harvest by season, goose and duck species; share with friends within your network; type a hunt narrative and add photos. Migrational predictor algorithms estimate bird activity and, based on past hunt data will use weather conditions and hunt history to even suggest which blind will likely be most productive!

Inukshuk Professional Dog Food Our beloved retrievers are high-performing athletes that live to recover downed birds regardless of conditions. That’s why Char Dawg is powered by Inukshuk. With up to 720 kcals/ cup, Inukshuk Professional Dog Food is the highest-energy, highest-quality dog food available. Highly digestible, calorie-dense formulas reduce meal size and waste. Loaded with essential omega fatty acids, Inuk-nuk keeps coats shining, joints moving, noses on point. Produced in New Brunswick, Canada, using only best-of-best ingredients, Inukshuk is sold directly to consumers. I’ll feed nothing but Inukshuk. It’s like rocket fuel. The proof is in Char Dawg’s performance.

Tetra Hearing Delivers premium technology that’s specifically calibrated for the users own hearing and is comfortable, giving hunters a natural hearing experience, while still protecting their hearing. Using patent-pending Specialized Target Optimization™ (STO), the world’s first hearing technology designed optimize hearing for hunters in their specific hunting environments. TETRA gives hunters an edge and gives them their edge back. Can you hear me now?! Dang straight I can. Thanks to Tetra Hearing!

Voormi Wool-based technology is engineered to perform. Wool is nature’s miracle fiber. It’s light, wicks moisture, is inherently warm even when wet. It’s comfortable over a wide temperature gradient, naturally anti-microbial, remaining odor free. But Voormi is not your ordinary wool. It’s new breed of proprietary thermal wool takes it next level–it doesn’t itch, is surface-hardened to bead water from shaking duck dogs, and is available in your favorite earth tones and a couple unique concealment patterns. With wool-based solutions at the yarn level, Voormi eliminates the unwordly glow that’s common during low light while wearing synthetics. The high-e hoodie and base layers are personal favorites that I wear worldwide. Voormi’s growing line of innovative of performance products is authenticity with humility. It’s the practical hunting gear that we real duck hunters deserve.

Mojo Outdoors, most recognized name brand decoy number one maker of motion and spinning wing decoys in the world. More than just the best spinning wing decoys on the market, their ever growing product line includes all kinds of cool stuff. Magnetic Pick Stick, Scoot and Shoot Turkey Decoys much, much more. And don’t forget my personal favorite, yes sir, they also make the one – the only – world-famous Spoonzilla. When I pranked Terry Denman in Mexico with a “smiling mallard” nobody ever dreamed it would become the most talked about decoy of the century. I’ve used Mojo decoys worldwide, everywhere I’ve ever duck hunted from Azerbaijan to Argentina. I absolutely never leave home without one. Mojo Outdoors, forever changing the way you hunt ducks.

BOSS Shotshells copper-plated bismuth-tin alloy is the good ol’ days again. Steel shot’s come a long way in the past 30 years, but we’ll never, ever perform like good old fashioned lead. Say goodbye to all that gimmicky high recoil compensation science hype, and hello to superior performance. Know your pattern, take ethical shots, make clean kills. That is the BOSS Way. The good old days are now.

Tom Beckbe The Tom Beckbe lifestyle is timeless, harkening an American era that hunting gear lasted generations. Classic design and rugged materials withstand the elements. The Tensas Jacket is like the one my grandfather wore. Like the one I still wear. Because high-quality Tom Beckbe gear lasts. Forever. For the hunt.

Flashback Decoy by Duck Creek Decoy Works. It almost pains me to tell y’all about Duck Creek Decoy Work’s new Flashback Decoy because in  the words of Flashback Decoy inventor Tyler Baskfield, duck hunting gear really is “an arms race.” At my Mississippi camp, his flashback decoy has been a top-secret weapon among my personal bag of tricks. It behaves exactly like a feeding mallard, making slick-as-glass water roil to life. And now that my secret’s out I’ll tell y’all something else: I’ve got 3 of them.

Ducks Unlimited takes a continental, landscape approach to wetland conservation. Since 1937, DU has conserved almost 15 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. While DU works in all 50 states, the organization focuses its efforts and resources on the habitats most beneficial to waterfowl.

It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ramsey Russell’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe, rate and review Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Share your favorite episodes with friends. Business inquiries or comments contact Ramsey Russell at ramsey@getducks.com. And be sure to check out our new GetDucks Shop.  Connect with Ramsey Russell as he chases waterfowl hunting experiences worldwide year-round: Insta @ramseyrussellgetducks, YouTube @DuckSeasonSomewherePodcast,  Facebook @GetDucks