Let's look at the facts
September 22, 2014 at 12:59pm
1. Most people have better success in the costal marsh earlier in the season.
2. More hunters kill more birds in the coastal marsh earlier in the season.
3. As others have said, the coastal marsh does not rely on Mallards for the harvest, so Mallard migration has little affect on the population and harvest numbers. Mallards are the really late migrators.
4. The birds that frequent the coastal marsh are predominantly photo migrators, not weather migrators like mallards. They will migrate regardless of winter weather, and will move up and down as pressure and food availability changes. (GWT seem to be the exception, and often help our harvest numbers later in the season)
5.There are more birds in the coastal marsh later in the season!
The 5th fact is the one that most people would find odd. If there are more birds later in the year, why are fewer killed by fewer hunters?
Here are my thoughts. My theory has a few different points to answer the question. Early in the season, everyone is having a blast and killing birds. There are also a lot more people hunting helping to keep the birds moving. The birds are also uneducated, and a lot easier to kill. Then a few things start to happen. First, Birds get educated and more difficult to kill. This then discourages a number of hunters and they go to do other things. Second, Deer season opens and people move from ducks to deer. This increases as the rut increases. These two factors account for the fewer hunters part. The reason for the fewer birds killed despite having more birds is due to more educated birds and fewer hunters to keep the birds moving. I see this all the time in the Biloxi Marsh. The fewer people hunting, the tougher it gets.
This is a tough sport that we choose to play. It requires a lot of effort, and thought to be successful. There is a fine line between too much pressure, pushing the birds out, and just enough pressure to keep the birds moving. Season dates have little effect on hunter success in the coastal marsh from year to year. You may have the odd year with late migrations effecting success, but as a whole it usually doesn't matter. The only thing we can do about it is become better at our sport. I know I have become much better since I started hunting the marsh. It has required me to scout more, prepare more, think more, and try different approaches. This has all increased my success. It aint easy, but it is what it is, and I love every bit of it.