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State wildlife department making a meal for migrating ducks

Common annual grass planted for birds to eat in Oklahoma during migrating season.
by Ed Godfrey Modified: August 19, 2012 at 1:42 am •  Published: August 19, 2012
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/articleid/3702275/1/pictures/1804591">Photo - Oklahoma waterfowl hunters benefit from the Japanese millet planted by state wildlife officials on some state lakes to attract ducks.The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation just recently completed planting 4,300 acres of millet on five state lakes. Photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
Oklahoma waterfowl hunters benefit from the Japanese millet planted by state wildlife officials on some state lakes to attract ducks.The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation just recently completed planting 4,300 acres of millet on five state lakes. Photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

If there is plenty of food available that means the ducks will stay in Oklahoma longer, which is obviously good for the duck hunters. Oklahoma is a refueling stop for the birds on their long flight.

“We're not just about the hunting,” Stacey said. “We are about keeping these birds in good condition and providing the energy and food base for them that is so critical during the migration period.

“These birds come down and they are hungry. We are just a steppingstone in the migratory journey. That's what we are in the business of doing, accommodating migratory birds. That's my job anyway.”

The Wildlife Department planted 64,500 pounds of millet seed this summer. The cost of the program is $65,000 and paid for largely by duck hunters when they buy their federal duck stamps.

The Japanese millet is intended to supplement the natural food that is already out there for ducks. In years where there is little natural food available for the ducks, the millet can be a lifesaver.

As any farmer can relate, state wildlife officials are rolling the dice each year. Some years it will be a bumper crop. Some years it will be a bust.

For the ducks to use the millet, the lake must come back up in the fall and winter.

“The millet, provided we get some timely showers on it, will provide some good supplemental food to the natural forage base,” Stacey said. “But we are dependent on Mother Nature. It's always a gamble.”

“It's a big-ticket item, but boy when things work out, it really pays off big time. It makes a huge difference in some years when there is very little natural food.”

by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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