If you’re trying to find the best spots to duck hunt in Mississippi, check out the latest Aerial Waterfowl Survey Report. Put out by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP), the survey is a great resource for hunters.

To view the survey, go to Aerial Waterfowl Survey Report.

Ed Penny, MDWFP waterfowl program coordinator, spoke with Delta Farm Press about the survey in early December. Among his comments:

How long has the survey been going on?

“We’ve been flying the survey since 2002. It was originally a cooperative research project with Mississippi State University’s wildlife department, Delta Wildlife and (the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks). We were trying to figure out the best way to count ducks in the Mississippi Delta.

“The method we’ve ended up with is repeatable and, over time, will provide us with a better estimate of how many ducks come through every year. It’s scientific and reliable.

“We’re flying over the Delta and transects — which are randomly selected through a computer program — change from survey to survey. We fly transects from east to west and count every duck within a strip then extrapolate that out to the whole Delta.”

You use a small plane? Helicopter?

“A small, fixed wing airplane — a three-seat Cessna, I think — is used.”

Typical timeline…

“We fly four times a year, starting in mid-November. We try and get it done prior to the opening day of duck season so hunters will have a good idea of what to expect.

“Flights are also scheduled in mid-December, early January and late January. That gives us a good idea of when ducks are arriving. Species of ducks are separated out: mallards and other diving ducks and then diving ducks.”

Trends since 2002?

“The last few years it’s been surprising how many ducks have shown up around Christmas. Mississippi hunters will tell you most ducks show up late in the season, late January. That does hold true — there is a big duck buildup in late January.

“But in recent years, we’ve had more ducks in late December/early January. More early ducks are showing up than used to.”

How is the information disseminated?

“We make the report widely available. The surveys are funded through duck stamp dollars. So, hunters are contributing to this. We post the information on the MDWFP Web site (see http://www.mdwfp.com/).”

Typical questions you get from hunters?

“Everyone always wants to know where the ducks are. It’s become obvious that the most ducks and mallards we count are in the best habitats for them. That includes the northeast part of the Delta around Tallahatchie County and Leflore County. There’s a lot of managing for ducks around there — plenty of flooded fields and other things.

“Other places where there are a lot of ducks are in wildlife management areas owned by the state. We’re always trying to improve habitat there. Early in the year, that’s some of the only habitat available. “

Anything else?

“Because it has been so warm this year, we were expecting to have fewer ducks during the mid-November survey. Surprisingly, we had the same number as last year. We do have fewer mallards but there are still quite a few ducks.”

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com