Mostly weather follows closely by massive landscape level changes in habitat. Sugar cane vs rice in LA, salt water intrusion in LA, rice harvest dates in AR now compared to even 10 years ago…stuff like that.
Duck stamp sales are declining but pressure is through the roof. Everybody willing to travel to shoot ducks and technology of all stripes has made us more deadly. Mud motors, spinners, OnX…etc
Too many refuges are not the issue. People that hunt the same blind spot for 60 days, 8 hours a day and wonder why the hell ducks go nocturnal & stick to refuges need to look in the mirror. The amount of refuge acreage pales in comparison to overall landscape level changes particularly in the southern MS flyway.
I don’t think the snow goose conservation season has helped with this either. Even though ducks aren’t shot, there are still gun shots, sometimes thousands, going off all around them as they try to migrate back north to nest. That’s September through March they are subjected to tons of human pressure.
I do think duck populations and numbers are down also. You see people all up and down the flyway complain about the lack of birds.
We have to decide, do we want quality hunts where ducks work to a call or do you want to maximize “opportunity” and be able to hunt as many days as legally allowed. I think we ought to go to 45 days and 4 ducks, no species specific limits. But then again what the hell do I know about any of this…