January 08, 2013
Peak Bird Numbers in Many Places
By Michael R. Shea
With my truck in the shop and no way to tow the boat, I spent Saturday scouting for walk-in spots. Not five minutes from my house, on one of the big coastal ponds here in southern Rhode Island, I found open water and three-dozen black ducks. Right away I called my young cousin Johnny McConnell and asked him if he wanted to see how this thing called duck hunting works.
I didn’t grow up in a hunting family. Most of my stories still get funny looks at the holidays. But like all 16-year-old boys, John’s always wide-eyed and interested in most things outdoors and everything gun-related. His parents were big enough to let him go hunting – not a small feat for city-dwellers in the Northeast, especially with the national discussion on firearms where it is.
Saturday night Johnny tasted bear for the first time, and loved it. Breakfast featured venison sausage and he gobbled that down, too. By shooting light we were on the pond. He helped me toss the decoys and settled into a layout blind. Like clockwork the black ducks came in, and I dumped my one-bird limit as the sun started to break through an overcast sky.
“I can see why you like out here,” John said.
As far as conditions in the Atlantic Flyway, if the birds are in your neighborhood, hunt this week. It’s going to get warm this week all over.
Ricky Jackson, who runs @OhioWaterfowl had a bang-up shoot in southern Ohio over the weekend. The state is a good example of what’s happening in the flyway as a whole. The northern half is frozen and under snow, but guys on big or open water are doing well; in the southern half of the state, the name of the game is food. Birds are pushing out of the snow-covered north looking for an easy meal, and hunters set up in fields and shallow open water with good vegetation are slaying them. “If you’re in Ohio and not hunting this week, get out there!” Jackson wrote.
“Great weekend on the Barnegat Bay,” wrote C. Adams near Manahawkin, New Jersey. “Lots of ducks and geese flying on Friday on public land, and tons of divers on the bay on Saturday. Limited out on brant, got a couple buffleheads and black ducks. Great weekend.”
D. Nickle near Delaware City, Delaware wrote: “Wow seen more big ducks and geese then we have all season.”
Wow is right, but things could change Thursday and Friday with warm weather moving through the region. Flyway-wide temperatures could run 10 to 15 degrees above average.
So what does this all mean? It means if you live anywhere between Connecticut and the Carolinas, you’re feeling a little sick. You probably want to call out of work soon.