Flyway Federation: ‘Hot-cropping’ a big reason for poor Louisiana duck seasons

Josh Goins founded the Flyway Federation in 2018 to bring about change in the flyways and get more birds down to Louisiana.
Josh Goins founded the Flyway Federation in 2018 to bring about change in the flyways and get more birds down to Louisiana.

New organization working to bring about change in the flyways

By most accounts, Louisiana waterfowl hunters just wrapped up yet another disappointing duck season— and Josh Goins thinks he knows the reason.

The 38-year-old Deridder native founded the Flyway Federation in 2018, which got its start innocently enough after he posted a comment on LouisianaSportsman.com’s waterfowl section last January.

“I was trying to find out what was going on, and if everyone was having as bad a year hunting as I was,” said Goins, who lives in Dequincy. “I saw all the young guys arguing over things I knew wasn’t the problem. So I laid out facts for them, and I think there were 32,000 views with almost 2,000 comments …

“I could see no one was going to step up and do anything, so I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to create it.’”

The Flyway Federation, a 501(c) non-profit, was born — and now has more than 8,000 Facebook followers from multiple states, including Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Idaho, California and more – even reaching into Canada.

In a nutshell, Goins believes the duck migration game has changed because a loophole in the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act in 1998 now allows some farmers in northern states to legally attract and hold birds by flooding fields of unharvested corn, a practice known as ‘hot-cropping.’

“The issue facing us is we’re at the bottom of the Flyway, and you have people that are manipulating the law in northern states by concentrating birds,” he said. “They commercialized conservation programs in 1998 … and that’s when every Tom, Dick and Harry up the Flyway became a farmer.

Most Louisiana duck hunters didn’t exactly have a banner season in 2018-19, and according to Josh Goins, at least part of the reason is a change in agricultural practices in the northern part of the flyways that concentrate birds and keep ducks from migrating south until after the season is over.
Most Louisiana duck hunters didn’t exactly have a banner season in 2018-19, and according to Josh Goins, at least part of the reason is a change in agricultural practices in the northern part of the flyways that concentrate birds and keep ducks from migrating south until after the season is over.

“But they’re just farming for ducks. They grow a cornfield with no intent to harvest it, then flood it, which is not a normal agricultural practice. It’s strictly for duck hunting. Some are actually getting paid through CRP, WRP and other conservation programs. Some have even made insurance claims on the crops, and all that is funded by United States taxpayer dollars.

“So we’re actually paying for what’s killing our hunting. The more land they farm for ducks, the less ducks we get here.”

Goins said just 1 acre of unharvested corn can create about 200 bushels, or 10- to 13,000 pounds, of corn kernels. Many farmers in the upper-Flyway grow dwarf corn, which he said only grows about 3 feet high and features very symmetrical ear growth.

“They flood the fields to the ears, and whenever they start to run out of corn on those ears, they flood it to the next set of ears,” Goins explained. “The ducks never run out of food, and they never run out of water because they’re keeping the water open utilizing the pumps the federal government provided for the conservation programs to keep the water circulating.

“So the birds have no reason to migrate. The only reason for a migration is a lack of food source, or snow and ice — that’s when they move.”

Goins, who recently traveled up to Arkansas for meetings and a hunt with members of that state’s Game and Fish Commission, is planning meetings with Louisiana’s congressional delegation to discuss the possibilities of federal legislation to remedy the issue. He’s also been in contact with Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office to explore a different kind of relief.

“The only way to fix this is to file a class action lawsuit over the loss of the natural resource and manipulation of the law though our Attorney General,” said Goins, who works nationwide on water systems for refineries and chemical plants. “Because we can prove both of those things: That we’ve had a loss of the natural resource, and there was manipulation of the law due to the Cooperative Extension Services controlling a federally protected bird at the state level.”

And from his perspective, organizations like Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl are part of the current problem.

“I do not support them as of right now. I’m not saying I’ll never support them again, because they did good things in the past, but right now I don’t support them — and until they see and recognize that we actually have a problem that’s going to end up hurting this sport and hurting North American waterfowl, that’s my stance,” said Goins, who described himself as just a country boy from Deridder who’s come along and is raising hell. “They need to quit using all the excuses — global warming to hunting pressure to mud motors — and support what the real problem is and quit looking at the money.”

For more info on the Flyway Federation and agricultural processes up north, Goins said Louisiana hunters can keep up with the organization via its three Facebook pages, or visit www.flyfwayfederationusa.com for more information, additional fact sheets, merchandise and the organization’s mission statement.

Patrick Bonin
About Patrick Bonin 1320 Articles
Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.