Duck hunters move a lot of equipment (decoys, dogs, waders, etc.) from one site to the next over the course of a waterfowl season. In their treks to various hunting sites, duck hunters need to make sure their gear is all they’re transporting and that they’re not unknowingly giving invasive species a free ride to a new home.
Deer season is the primary hunting event that’s in the news at this time of year, but there’s another “D” season – duck season – associated with November in Missouri that’s dear to many area outdoor enthusiasts. Missouri’s North Zone waterfowl season runs from Nov. 4-Jan. 2, the Middle Zone is in two parts; Nov. 4-Nov. 10 and Nov. 16-Jan. 2; and the South Zone is also in two parts, Nov. 23-Nov. 26 and Dec. 4-Jan. 28.
One component of duck hunting is equipment. Decoys, boats, waders and dogs are some of the items that travel into and back out of the water; sometimes through shallow, marshy areas that feature an abundance of aquatic vegetation. One of the results of all this back-and-forth action is that sometimes vegetation gets attached to the equipment and is taken out of the water along with the gear.
And this is where trouble can begin.
Although finding plant parts clinging to decoys and boat parts may seem like a rather innocuous event, it can be the start of big problems – particularly for waterfowl hunters who hunt at multiple areas. One way non-native invasive plant species can get transferred from one body of water to another by getting attached to gear at one hunting site and then falling off at another site. Even though it’s November and nobody is talking about growing plants at this time of year, some aquatic plant species have viable parts that can get moved to other bodies of water where they can sprout anew.
Hydrilla is an example of that. This troublesome non-native aquatic plant has been found at several sites in Missouri, including Fellows Lake just north of Springield – a reservoir that has waterfowl hunting opportunities. Hydrilla has multiple methods of reproduction. One way is through fragmentation – small stem fragments can take root and become new plants. Hydrilla also reproduces by buds called turions. Still another method it uses is by tubers – parts of the plant that can remain viable in underwater sediment for several years.
Waterfowl hunters can help prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plant species by:
Inspecting boats, trailers, decoys and other equipment for clinging plant material.
Removing any attached aquatic plant parts before launching and after loading at the end of the hunt.
Draining all water from boats, motors and other equipment.
Giving your dog a thorough brushing and towel-down before you leave the hunting site.
People can also get information about hydrilla and other invasive species and information about waterfowl hunting areas around the state at mdc.mo.gov.
Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.