Ducks Unlimited Podcast

Host Chris Jennings and Dr. Mike Brasher sit down and discuss the hot topics of discussion for duck and goose hunters this spring. It may be turkey season, but avid duck and goose hunters still want to talk about waterfowl. Brasher provides an in-depth overview of avian flu, Season in Review document, habitat conditions, and a few other bits of must-know information.

Creators & Guests

Chris Jennings
Ducks Unlimited Podcast Outdoor Host
Mike Brasher
Ducks Unlimited Podcast Science Host

What is Ducks Unlimited Podcast?

Ducks Unlimited Podcast is a constant discussion of all things waterfowl; from in-depth hunting tips and tactics, to waterfowl biology, research, science, and habitat updates. The DU Podcast is the go-to resource for waterfowl hunters and conservationists. Ducks Unlimited is the world's leader in wetlands conservation.

Chris Jennings: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the Ducks on the Podcast. I'm your host, Chris Jennings. Joining me in studio today is my co-host, Dr. Mike Brasher. How are you, Mike?

Mike Brasher: I'm doing well, Chris. We've got fancy new microphones in here that people can't see, but we can see them. Good new microphones. Actually, they're not new microphones. They're new microphone stands.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, that's what's getting you excited today. That's right.

Mike Brasher: Pretty strong opener there. I'm looking for distractions, given all the other things that are on our play right now.

Chris Jennings: That's right. Well, you know, today we wanted to kick off this podcast and something that we're going to continue to do, you know, throughout the summer is several different items that duck hunters should know going into spring. Obviously it's April, duck season is a mere memory at this point. But one thing, that's a pretty good segue, one thing that we had on our list of things for duck hunters to know this spring, or at least look for, have it on your radar, Mike's season in review document. We did a season review podcast, but now there is a complete document out there. You can find it on Mike, do you want to go ahead and explain exactly what that is? And we can kind of touch on that a little bit. I know we did a whole podcast kind of on the season in review, but this document really is something that, you know, our members can hold in their hand, look at, see what the season looks like.

Mike Brasher: I would say it's a visual accompaniment to the podcast that we did. And I think I've told this story before. It's something we started a few years ago because around January we would, every year we get these questions, what's going on that is affecting the duck numbers and lack of movement that I'm seeing as a duck hunter and so forth. So, we started pulling together some of the data, some of the maps from weather sites and so forth and speak to how those would have influenced, likely influenced, movements of birds. We also talk about and summarize the recent breeding population survey and habitat conditions on the breeding grounds because that's an important factor as well. I think there's typically a section where we highlight some other important event or topic. Last year it was avian flu, this year we spoke a little bit about El Nino and then its effects and then kind of looking forward section. So, it, you know, provides a good reflection, I think, all the events leading up to the most recent hunting season and gives people an opportunity to look forward. And yeah, it's a document that's available in PDF form online. You just search for Ducks Unlimited Season in Review 2023-24 and you'll find it. I think we changed the format of that website a little bit this year, but you can download that PDF. And yeah, let's go check it out.

Chris Jennings: It's… Yeah, it's a pretty comprehensive report that you even provide flyway based breakdowns. That's right. I think that's really impactful because, let's be honest, a guy who's hunting in Oregon does not care what happened in Kansas. Yeah. Unless they have a trip plan again. Yeah, unless there's a trip, of course But I mean that's gonna be a one-off but you can really look at like each flyway Atlantic Flyway, Mississippi Central and Pacific and see, you know, really it's kind of a document that may answer You know, why did I not see as many ducks as I did or why did I have a great season and no one else did? You know like answer some of those questions from a really high level I think

Mike Brasher: That's a good reminder because I did forget that we included a reports from the field section. This thing has sort of evolved every year that we've done it. It's changed a little bit. The first year we tried to pull in some midwinter survey data and that was a bit more of a challenge than the timing wise than what it proved to be in terms of value. So we scrapped that from subsequent years and this year we added the season or the field reports, I think that's something we'll probably continue, because our field staff actually enjoyed, from what I could tell, enjoyed providing some of that commentary, and we probably missed on some of the, you know, it didn't match everybody's expectations, but that's the way, or experience, that's the way it goes. You liar, I didn't see that duck in front of my blind. And hey, there's value in it from that standpoint. It gives people something to yell at, right? It's like, you don't know what you're talking about still.

Chris Jennings: Yeah. Well, I mean, again, I think it, I'm not saying it answers everyone's questions, but it's a good document for someone to read through. We appreciate that they care. Yeah, that's right. And that's all it is. That kind of leads us into a pretty good segue there. You know, you mentioned in the season in review, you kind of do a little bit of foreshadowing into conditions in the prairies. This spring, leading into the summer, especially around here, I know that there's, you know, people all throughout the continent who are paying attention to this, but definitely around this office, there's definitely a lot of discussion on habitat conditions in the prairies, specifically the Canadian prairies. You just recently did a podcast, I think about, I don't know, three weeks ago or so. Yeah, it was out last week. Was it last week? Oh man, time's flying. I think that's right. Maybe it's two weeks ago. Yeah, with, with Johann in the, uh, you know, Great Plains office. And he provided a really great breakdown of what they're looking at there and even in Canada a little bit, but you want to kind of just recap that. I mean, this is something that really duck hunters should be keeping a very close eye on and be kind of knocking on wood for as many potential spring rainstorms in the prairies as we could possibly get. Cause I think they can, they can take all they, all they can get.

Mike Brasher: Three letters, D-R-Y. It's dry. It continues to be dry across the Canadian prairies. It's been many years, five plus years, maybe even longer than that, since we've had really good wet conditions across the entire Canadian prairies. The Canadian prairies remain dry. A couple years ago, we had some relief in localized areas, but across that entire Canadian prairies, it's been many years since we've had that. The Dakotas have been up or down over the past few years, and parts of the Dakotas also have been up or down, kind of depending on how you're looking at it. This year, I think that, so far, that is going to be the story. Again, very dry in Canada. It wouldn't surprise me if it's drier in Canada this year than last year. I haven't looked at any datasets kind of for that accurate, you know, empirical comparison, but everyone that I speak with says, man, it's dry. It's grim on the Canadian prairies. They, I think there's, it's dry also in the Dakotas. They did receive, I don't know, a foot or so of snow a couple weeks ago, and there's sort of a narrow swath through the Dakotas, but I don't know what they received since then. There was a lot of snow being dumped up in the northeastern U.S., I think, maybe in the Great Lakes as well here recently. But I don't know if that impacted the prairies. I was traveling and lost focus on some of the remote monitoring that I do of conditions in the prairies. But there's nothing that would have happened in one event that would fundamentally change the condition of those wetlands. It's dry. It's not an optimistic situation right now.

Chris Jennings: Yeah. I did see in the five-day forecast, there's supposed to be three days of rain up in North Dakota. Is that right? Well, that's good. We need that. take anything you can get. I don't know how impactful that's gonna be. It's kind of like I saw people or people were sending me messages like, hey, big snowstorm hitting, you know, Saskatchewan. Yeah, but I'm not really sure how impactful that, I mean, it's so dry that, you know, that runoff there may not be what people think it is.

Mike Brasher: I don't think we're gonna be seeing a whole lot of runoff from just single events. Yeah. I think there's a long way to go to recharge all soil moisture and going to build it back up where you can actually start getting some runoff into the ponds. And you know, the good news is that waterfowl breed across an incredibly massive landscape. So even when the prairies are dry, birds are going to find some places to breed. It's not going to be a bumper crop. But we also don't want to lead people into thinking that there's no place for ducks in North America to breed because you've got the boreal forest, you've got Alaska, you've got the eastern Canadian boreal forest.

Chris Jennings: We always forget about that parkland area. That's a, you know, that transition from prairie into the boreal. That's right. That's a pretty strong production area.

Mike Brasher: It really is. It really is. And typically it's a little more stable in terms of water levels. So, there will be ducts produced every year, there's going to be some ducts produced, but I do not anticipate this being a… well, it won't be a bumper crop, because we're not going to be starting with a very high breeding population to begin with. You get one of those bumper crops, you need several different ingredients. decently large breeding population size to begin with and then you need really good wetland conditions across large portions of that breeding landscape and we really don't have either of those right now. But we'll get some production regardless of what happens between now and when the birds actually get there, start doing their thing. You know, and it'll be another one of those years that we get through and say, hey, it could have been worse. We'd like for it to have been better. I feel pretty confident even right now saying that this fall and winter, you know, at best, we're going to have an average year.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, you know, and another side of that too, that, you know, people can really, if they really want to dive in to, you know, that type of information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, when they do start, along with the Canadian Wildlife Service and other agencies, when they do start their BPOP survey, they post a lot of that information online. So, you can go to the Fish and Wildlife Service website. and follow along with the pilot biologists, some of the ground crews in the Dakotas and Montana. And it's some pretty cool information. It gives you a pretty good insight, especially, you know, for specific areas. You know, it's broken down by the transects and the pilot biologists post pretty much exactly what they see. And sometimes it's like, man, it is so dry. Or sometimes it's like, looks great, ducks everywhere, type thing. So, I recommend people follow that if you're into these spring and summer habitat conditions and going into the BPOP survey. It's good info.

Mike Brasher: The good news is that southern states have been receiving some rain and have started to kind of pull out of the drought that we were in much of last year. Now, this is always the wet time of year for us down here. We'll take it. But that's one of the things that I heard. I don't remember if I mentioned this on a podcast last year when I was driving down to New Orleans. saw a lot of what I thought at the time were dead pine trees, and I was thinking, what the heck are all these dead pine trees still standing on the side of the interstate from? I was kind of speculating that maybe it was drought at the time, given it would illustrate how severe it was last year down here, and I have a friend that lives in Jackson, Mississippi, and he was basically saying that one of their communities is on the verge of declaring like a disaster because of it is in fact massive amounts of dead pine trees that died from drought stress last year. Really? He said it looks like an apocalypse. Wow. And, like, disasters, maybe seeking state or federal disaster assistance because they do not have the funds to remove all the trees that they need to, and you have a lot of dead pine trees just standing. That's a hazard, right? So, just random thought that popped in my head, but illustrative of how dry it was. down here last summer and into the fall. And so, I think we've gotten some relief. I know we've gotten some relief from some of those conditions since then, but… I haven't gotten any relief on those crawfish prices. We sure have not. Have not, have not. And that was, you know, we were talking about that. I don't remember if we mentioned that on an episode, but, you know, why were the prices so high? One of the things that I mentioned was that I I was rather confident that the dry conditions would have suppressed production out of the basin, the Atchafalaya Basin. That kind of comes online a little bit later and results in a significant drop in prices. But what I didn't think about and what I read an article on was that it was so dry in portions of Louisiana that it actually dried out the crawfish burrows and, you know, essentially killed the young. And so you were working with a depleted stock before you even had the opportunity to pump water even in some of those… rice-crawfish rotation situation. So, yeah, it was a double whammy. And I didn't even think about it being that dry, but it was.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, I mean, we had the DU crawfish bullet last week. And in years past, we've ordered up to about 8,000 pounds of crawfish. And this year, the most that we could get from like 10 different suppliers was like 2,700 pounds. No way. Yeah. Wow. So, we just added some shrimp. It was great. Oh, really? Okay. It was a good event.

Mike Brasher: Hey, I missed that.

Chris Jennings: Alright, so moving on, and this also, you know, this has been a major topic, and it will continue to be so. It's so, and what's funny is I'm seeing it on the news now, and that's kind of scary, and that is the avian flu update. The avian flu. And so, do you have any more information? You know, we talked about it during the season, and probably why we left it off the season review, compared to last year's was that the avian flu outbreaks were not as significant as they were in the years prior. Even early in the season when it was dry, especially around Arkansas and Mississippi, you know, we just did not see that massive, you know, die-off that you could drive out into a rice field and see 20 or 30 dead geese in a rice field. Almost every field over there in Arkansas seemed to have them. We did not see those huge numbers this year and I don't know, you Were you aware of any, you know, major reports or any regions that, you know, I know the Pacific Northwest had a pretty decent outbreak up there at one point during the season, but do you remember anything like that and do you have any update on that?

Mike Brasher: I have a few updates. I wonder, and this is a time where I'll speculate a little bit, I wonder if the delayed migration, because we had some of our colleagues around here describing white front migration into Arkansas and places like that, about three months behind what it normally is. I'm sorry, three weeks, yeah. Three weeks behind schedule. And then also snow geese hanging out in North Dakota and Alberta and some of those places like late into December and January. So, I know there were outbreaks, some of fairly significant an alarming, visually alarming size in, in one of the Dakotas. I can't remember if it's South Dakota or North Dakota. There's a lot of, there have been some images circulating and video circulating online showing just lines of dead snow geese that, that I think were, yeah, in a frozen lake type thing, and almost certainly. I think I saw those pictures. So there were Mortality events this year. We didn't hear as many of them down here. There was an outbreak among… There were some mortality in wood ducks in South Carolina, confirmed to be linked to avian influenza. I think, to my understanding, that flared up and then kind of died down pretty quick. But there were isolated cases of, you know, fairly appreciable duck or goose mortality linked to AI again this year. But nothing in the sort of epidemiology or transmission pathways changed or the susceptibility of different cohorts of birds changed from last year to this year. So, there weren't any terribly new discoveries related to that. It was just, okay, this is year two, is this going to be an indication of let's pay attention and see if this is the type of thing that we should expect from year to year. No reports of waterfowl hunters falling ill, testing positive. No reports of any massive infection and symptomatic developments among hunting dogs. We've supported some research that with some folks that does confirm that dogs can get it, and some will test positive, but those dogs that did test positive did not show any symptoms, you know, so we know all that type of stuff is happening, but nothing had fundamentally changed, and so that's why we didn't feature it, I think, as much during this past hunting season, why we didn't feature a segment in the season and review report again this year. and I will mention that we had one person reach out to us and ask why we didn't also mention it in the season and review report again this year and so I explained that and appreciated their input and feedback but now here we are and just within the past two to three weeks we have reports all over the media of HPAI, highly pathogenic avian influenza, the H5N1 type, subtype, being detected in dairy cattle, several dairy cattle operations. This is public information, the media is reporting on it. We've talked with several of our colleagues and partners in the wildlife disease space Trying to set up a call with Dr. Richard Webby, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and also that World Health Organization Cooperative Center for the Study of Avian Influenza in Birds and Animals. We had him on last year I think talking about some of this. I'm trying to get a briefing from him to find out if anything fundamental has changed about the virus that would cause us to be any more concerned about human health risk and things of that nature. At this point I've not heard anything to that effect. I think the CDC's guidance is still the same. and it continues to be a very low risk to humans, but there was a dairy worker in Texas that did test positive for it and they had some kind of inflammation in the eyes, conjunctivitis, but that was the only symptom. I won't bother to describe what we've learned about this. infection in dairy cattle right now. I mean, you can go online and kind of read those reports, but it's not killing the dairy cattle. It's resulting in reduced lactation, reduced milk production. That milk is not making it to the to the market, pasteurization, even if anything does slip through, they'll tell us that pasteurization continues to kill viruses and bacteria and all that type of stuff. So, the key message for our listeners is, and this comes from our partners with the wildlife disease agencies, is that if we, any of us, anybody listening or anybody you talk to, Seize dead birds, whether they be waterfowl or other types of birds, species of birds, report those to your state veterinarian, your state wildlife agency, because they want to do, the USDA and the wildlife services folks want to accelerate, ramp up some surveillance and some testing right now, because this is typically a slow time of the year for them. because you don't really have huge flare-ups among migratory birds this time of year based on past patterns, and so they kind of slow down their surveillance, but now that we've got these detections in dairy cattle, and there's more questions than answers about that in terms of transmission and the role of different types of birds in that transmission, and then whether there's cattle-to-cattle transmission, that doesn't sound like there is right now, but I think they're still testing for that. There's testing in other types of cattle as well. So a lot of ongoing work right now. And so the key point for our listeners is that if you see sick or dead birds, report those to your state veterinarian or your state wildlife agency or to USDA because they want to test those birds. They want to keep track of whether there are any changes, significant changes in the genetic sequencing of this virus and want to be on top of it as soon as we can figure out if anything like that has happened at this time. It's my understanding that the virus they've isolated from the dairy cattle is very, very similar, almost identical to the one that they were finding in the fall. So, you know, that's kind of what we know in terms of its similarity to past viruses that we've been dealing with. Yeah, we'll continue to keep an eye on that and talk with our people and communicate on it as appropriate because our members, hunters, waterfowl, habitat managers are out there in those systems. And here's just another example of where we need to be cognizant of the different type of poultry and food service operations that we interact with. So, just be cautious and continue to report sick or dead birds.

Chris Jennings: You know, this one wasn't on my list, but it just popped up when you were talking as we're just doing an update. Now, it's kind of turned into stuff Chris wants to hear. Sure. I make a dish at the house for my family, and sometimes it just becomes like this goulash type thing. Don't use raw milk.

Mike Brasher: That's the one thing I can tell you. Don't use raw milk.

Chris Jennings: And my wife calls it stuff Chris likes. Okay. Because it's just a pile of stuff that I like. So, that's what this podcast becomes. Stuff Chris wants to hear about. So… It might have legs. Duck DNA. We need a DuckDNA update. I know, I'm probably the last person in the entire system to send their samples in because I left mine at Duck Camp, so I apologize for that. It's alright, apology accepted. Sorry. So, what's up with DuckDNA? And I know we got an exciting piece coming out in the magazine, but, you know, just provide a little update on that.

Mike Brasher: First, I will say thanks for everyone's patience. in us getting results back to you. Check your… if you haven't lately, check your dashboard. If you're a DuckDNA participant, check your dashboard, the ducks… what is it? forward slash app. And then, you know, if you were a participant, you should have created an account and reported the data associated with your samples. If your samples have been completed and the analysis… you know, finalized, the certificates created, you should see those certificates on your dashboard for each of those samples. I don't have any data summarized, well, I do, but I don't have it here in front of me.

Chris Jennings: Nothing you want to share?

Mike Brasher: Nothing that I want to share. I said at the beginning, thanks for your patience. It has taken us a little bit longer to smooth out some of the process than what we originally anticipated. What we did not anticipate was how much of a delay we would encounter in the analysis because of the Christmas holidays and New Year's holidays. Because some of the external labs that they have to send these samples off to shut down for the holidays. And then the other thing we didn't anticipate is that A lot of people would be holding on to their samples. They might have one vial left and they're waiting to see if they shoot an interesting bird into the end of the season. That's exactly what I did. End of the season rolls around and then everybody's like, all right, now we'll send them in. So, we received like 400 samples within like two weeks. That was the same time when we were gone to the duck symposium. And our colleagues at UTEP were there, and then they went and did some field, some data collection for a related project the week after that. So, we had this, people were putting those, receiving those samples and putting them in the freezer and all that kind of stuff when they got in. But then whenever they finally got back to the lab, they're like, holy smokes, we have a huge backlog. Because they were able to complete three rounds of analysis of samples, which I think was about 300 or 400 samples. before leaving for the Duck Symposium. And all of those were uploaded. But now we're getting to the point, we've just completed the fourth round. Those certificates, I think, should be uploaded. The fifth round should be available next week. We are going to be sending out an email to all participants and probably all, I think, everyone that had signed up to apply. to participate. We're going to be sending out some emails and communications in the coming weeks to give people updates and make them aware of what we found. And then we're already in the planning process for next year. We're going to be making some changes to the online application and Probably reaching out to a few folks and asking for input. And if you have, if you were a participant and if you have suggestions and you want to just organically send those along, things that can be improved. I know folks are going to say, make the photo uploading easier. I think that's going to be one of them. We're going to, we're going to do what we can. The technology on that is a little bit more difficult than what we hoped it would be. So, no promises there. But anyway, if you have any suggestions or feedback, send it to We do have that email address set up. And so, we'll certainly welcome your feedback. Appreciate everybody's participation. Stay tuned for more updates.

Chris Jennings: Now, has the decision been made that you're going to expand the program? Because I think one of the most fascinating things about the Duck DNA program for me was how much interest there was from our membership. And, you know, I think we had mentioned it before, you know, people were kind of upset they didn't get chosen. They kind of got their feelings hurt there, but is there any plan to expand on that? Have you guys even touched on that conversation?

Mike Brasher: We have. I mean, it's been in our mind for months. Like, okay, so what do we do? Given that we had over 4,000 people apply, and I know some people chose not to apply because they knew we were already vastly oversubscribed. And one of the things, we're going to continue this next year, we're going to still be measured in the scale at which we roll this out. We're not going to ramp up to 10,000 samples. We just do not have the capacity to do that. That would take a significant financial contribution or influx and we just don't have that. One of the things we're contemplating to enable greater participation by hunters is to reduce the number of samples that we send out, number of vials that we send out with each kit, rather than five, send three. And so that would increase the number. If we stuck with 1,500 samples as the target for what we did last year, then that would increase it from 300 potential participants to 500 potential participants. And so that's a big thing, right? And there is agreement from Phil to do that. I want to do that. We're going to run sort of the economic analysis on that and see how that's going to increase what that's going to do, the overall cost. Because you're going to have 200 additional kits for which you've got shipping costs, right? It's not a huge deal, right? Shipping for 200 kits.

Chris Jennings: But also with only having three People may not hold on to them as long. Yeah. That's right. Or they may hold on to them longer because they're, you know, like… Man, I hope not.

Mike Brasher: So, one of the things is the other thing that we'll try to do. I mean, yeah.

Chris Jennings: Because you only got three, maybe they're saving it for like if they do shoot a hybrid or, you know, anything like that that they really want to see. I would think they may hold on to them a little longer. It's not just like…

Mike Brasher: And so one of the things that we can do and we have been doing this and I think this would be a good thing that the challenge on a lot of this is communicating like what all the different options are for people. I think what we would love to have happen is for people to use those three vials for ducks that they harvest. over a shorter period of time or don't hold on to them to the end of the season. And if during, as you get close to the end of the season, or don't hold on to them in the hopes of shooting an interesting bird, go ahead and fill your vials. and send them in. And then if you shoot an interesting bird, get back in touch with us and ask for another vial.

Chris Jennings: We can always do that, you know.

Mike Brasher: So, that's probably what we'll do. We've been receiving a fair number of interesting birds here on the hybrid side late in the season. It took a while for people to become aware of that as an option. So, we probably had 25 to 30 birds submitted for hybrids. We found some really interesting stuff.

Chris Jennings: I was going to say, I thought I heard you talking to our photo editor, John Hoffman. Kind of explain that one. That was kind of cool.

Mike Brasher: Yeah, let me think about that one. One of the things that Phil did not expect, and I'm going to get, we'll have to get him on here to, I think maybe just do a step through of some, maybe once we do the whole, have we talked about we're going to do video yet on the whole podcast?

Chris Jennings: Not really.

Mike Brasher: Not really. Yeah, so there's some contemplation of going to video with the podcast. Let me just say that. If we do that, we'd probably wait until then to have Phil on where we can show the actual photo of a hybrid duck and then we talk about it. Talk about what the genetics suggested or indicate that it was. One of the things Phil did not expect to find as much as he did is that there were a surprising number of samples that were submitted that indicated like a three species hybrid and what that means is that it's a black duck crossed with a game farm mallard-wild mallard hybrid offspring. So you've got three genetic signatures that are showing up. And Phil would have to be the one to talk about how he parses it out to figure out which is the, you know, is it a, if you see, yeah, Phil would have to be the one to talk about exactly how he can parse out which is the hybrid pair versus which is the pure one. But yeah, it's like, I think Hoffman's, John Hoffman, our photo editor's bird was a black duck crossed with a game farm mallard, wild mallard hybrid. And So that was interesting. We've seen that in a number of cases. One of the other interesting things Phil shared with me yesterday is that of all the model ducks that we received from Florida, none of them have been pure model ducks. They've all had some hybridization in them. A bird that I shot, it looked like a mallard. It was 72%, let me get this a little bit wrong, 72% mallard, wild mallard, like 20-something percent black duck. I did not see black duck. physical appearance anywhere in this bird. Is that the one that was shot in Mississippi? It's the one that was shot in Mississippi. I got that back, and I'm like, that is crazy. So, I say it's crazy, but that's what happens. So, it's probably a third-generation bird. Could be a second-generation bird, but probably a third-generation bird. So, it was a hybrid at one time. But then it bred with, let's say, probably a mallard, and then the offspring from that bird bred with a mallard, and then I shot that bird. So, and it was reverting because it was back-crossing with mallard, you know, in that lineage. It was regaining the physical, pure physical appearance of a wild mallard and the genetics of it were getting closer to a pure wild match. So, but that's what happens. That's what Phil found with some of the work on model ducks and, um, Mexican ducks. And, uh, it's, it's pretty cool.

Chris Jennings: Did he have a bunch of just like a hundred percent wild mallards?

Mike Brasher: I don't know what the total count is. That's a good question and we can… I don't know. So one of the, I guess, limitations of the way we did it this year is that we did not ask people if the bird they were submitting was a total random bird that they shot or if it's one that they submitted because it looks interesting. If it's a bird that they submitted because it looks interesting, that's not a random sample, right? So, we can't just take all these data, throw them together and say, well, what percentage of your sample was hybrids? Because it was not a random sample. There is a way to account for that next year. We're going to add a little question that said, is this bird that you're submitting just a random individual that you harvested, or is there something interesting about it? You know, so, physically interesting about it.

Chris Jennings: Yeah, I know it's mine. I just literally had four mallards. Yeah. Like, there was nothing significant about those. So, I'm curious to see if they, you know, and I did that on purpose.

Mike Brasher: You may get a hybrid in there. That's what I did with this one that came back as a hybrid. Now, you might remember there was a bird that I shot in, maybe, I don't know if I talked about this, but I put it on one of my social media feeds. I don't look at your social media. That's good. There's nothing there. It was a bird that I shot, big fat mallard. It was an early season mallard that I shot in an area where I rarely see any mallards. It was the only, it came in by itself. I shot it, it was laden with fat, and then I think I said, my guess is it found a corn feeder somewhere, and it was just sitting up underneath that corn feeder and gorging itself. I sent that bird in, it was a Game Farm Mallard-Wild Mallard hybrid. Yeah, I think you kind of guessed that, too. Yeah, it was like a 70%, 20%. I have not looked to see what that bird was that we shot at Cason's, you know, with Sydney, when we actually had that on the video. I need to look back at that. Actually, I may have. I think it might have been a pure, like, 96… It might have been a pure wild mallard. So, I'm not sure. But anyway, we'll talk about that as well. It's been interesting. Several brewers' ducks have been, you know, a mallard, gadwall, cross, and Phil is learning a few interesting things about, you know, which is the… which species is the male versus which species is the female. I think he told me… that the assumption would be that it would be a male mallard breeding with a female gadwall that produces a brewer's duck, but I think what he's finding is that it's, at least for one of those I'll say, it was a male gadwall breeding with a female mallard. Because you can tell that from the mitochondrial DNA what is the signature on the female. So, yeah, some really neat stuff and there's a lot of gee whiz stuff and also understanding the breeding ecology of some of these birds in terms of what's going on out there. But then also there's some potential management implications as well for those that are concerned about some of those issues. We will continue to share information and get Phil on to talk at length about this. I know a lot of people have become interested in this, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Chris Jennings: Cool. That's good stuff on Duck DNA for sure. You know, anything else you wanted to touch on before we wrap this up? I mean, I know we've got a couple small things just to mention for people to look forward to. May-June issue of DU Magazine will be hitting mailboxes first week of May. Sporting dog spring training issue, always a good one. Everybody loves dogs. Lots of cool stuff in there. We've got the Ducks Unlimited National Convention coming up, which you'll probably hear about in some future podcasts. It's in San Diego first week of June, or first week of June or last week of May.

Mike Brasher: Yes, I think it's a little bit of both.

Chris Jennings: Late May overlaps into June. So, yeah, I mean, lots of cool stuff. You know, that's the deal. That's kind of why I wanted to do this podcast is as we transition in spring, everyone starts, you know, everybody's fishing, turkey hunting right now. You know, people are not necessarily focused on ducks, but there are still some very fascinating things to talk about in the waterfowl world. And we'll continue to key in on those throughout the summer.

Mike Brasher: Yeah, one final thing here is recently we awarded the 2024 Ducks Unlimited Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards. Go online, you should see a news item about that somewhere on our website and just kind of give a shout out to the people that have helped make Ducks Unlimited look good, you know, because we work with our partners and we recognize those partners for what they do and so there's another slate of winners out there this year. Many of them are our close friends and colleagues. They're all our close friends and colleagues, some of them personal friends of mine and yours, and so congratulations to all those folks and thanks for everything they do.

Chris Jennings: Yep, awesome. Well, it's been great, Mike. We'll go ahead and wrap this up and, you know, just I want our podcast listeners just to go ahead and stay tuned through the summer. We're gonna keep on cranking them out. We'll do it, man. Thanks, Chris. Thank you. I'd like to thank my co-host and Dr. Mike Razor for coming on the show today with me and and just kind of giving everyone a little update about what's going on in the world of waterfowl. I'd like to thank Chris Isaac, our producer, for putting the show together and getting it out to you. And I'd like to thank you, the listener, for joining us on the podcast and supporting wetlands conservation.

Mike Brasher: It's a good thing that wasn't a long episode.