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Returning duck bands help agencies track waterfowl

WORTHINGTON -- With all the rain that we have been having lately, it brings to mind the saying, "just like water off a duck".

This really does seem to be perfect weather for a duck. It's just too bad that Southwest Minnesota doesn't really have any ducks. The two times I have been out I shot three shells and bagged two ducks. This is not what would be called good duck hunting. I saw almost no waterfowl in the sky anywhere these mornings.

I did come across a really interesting duck hunting story this week and wanted to pass it on to you. This story is about some area hunters that shot a banded goose.

Waterfowl banding is the process of catching live ducks and geese and attaching a metal band around their leg. This normally takes place when the birds are too young to fly. The band does not interfere in the life of the animal, but provides a wealth of information to wildlife agencies. This information is used to help them manage their populations better.

Band information helps track things like migration patterns, mortality and hunter harvest. It the past, only about 30 percent of hunters replied with information about banded waterfowl. A few years ago, the banding agencies set up a 24 hour toll-free phone line to make it easier to respond and reply rates jumped up to over 60 percent.

When a hunter shoots a duck with a band, they call an 800 number to report where the bird was harvested. I have shot three banded waterfowl in my life. One was a goose, which also had a neck band, and the other two were wood ducks harvest in two consecutive weekends at West Graham Lake. For most hunters, shooting a banded waterfowl is really a treat; most hunters rarely get one.

The Tripp boys in Worthington must be really lucky. Dave, Tim and Matt Trip have all shot a banded goose. After getting the information back from the bands, they came across some interesting facts. All three geese were banded in the Worthington area at the same time -- in June of 1990. Dave and Tim harvested their banded goose that same year in September and November.

The coolest part of this story is that Matt Tripp harvested his goose 17 years later in the same location as the previous two geese were harvested. This story tells you that geese live a long time, and these geese didn't change their migration patterns very much. If that goose had migrated 17 times I wonder how many miles it had logged on it wing odometer?

You can tell by the photo that the 17-year-old band is well-worn compared to the two others. For one family to shoot three geese that were all banded at the same time, and to harvest all of them in the same location over a 17-year time frame makes for some great hunting stories. By returning duck band information to government wildlife agencies, this act displays just one more way that hunters prove themselves to be the ultimate conservationists.

Congratulations to the Tripp trio on their hunting success. It will be interesting to see if more of those geese that were banded in 1990 show up in the Trip's hunting bag. Only time will tell.