Offbeat: Duck Banding

July 30, 2007--Posted at 10:30 a.m. CDT

MANILA, AR--For a duck hunter, harvesting a banded duck is a big thrill with all sorts of bragging rights, but most hunters don't realize just how much work goes into the process and how important those bands are.

One of the state's wood duck banding operations is set up through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Manila.  Both state and federal wildlife officers participate in wood duck banding around the state with a goal of 1,000 banded woodies.  The guys at Big Lake start in early July and twice a week use a rocket net over bait, to capture the birds.  Officer Aaron Mize, says their goal at Big Lake is to band 187 ducks, but other locations around the state usually fail to meet their goal, so they may band as many as 500 at Big Lake to pick up the slack.

U.S. Wildlife officer Jeremy Bennett says it's important that we do this, because traditional water fowl surveys don't accurately reflect wood duck numbers, because they live in the woods and can't be seen from the air.  He says banding the ducks allows the service to track the age, sex, populations, and flight of the ducks and is important to help establish our hunting regulations.

Bennett and Mize say they will continue their capture and banding operation until sometime in late October.