September 12, 2012
Water Wars, Big Bluewings, and Gathering Geese
By David Draper
In the West, the old saying goes that whiskey is for drinking and water for fighting, and that’s true more than ever during a drought. From some of the initial reports I’ve gotten regarding last weekend’s teal openers, there were more than a few pre-dawn confrontations as hunters crowded onto whatever water they could find in hopes of bagging some birds.
I even heard rumors of one guy who staked out his spot at 1:30 a.m. just to have late-arriving hunters move right to the edge of his spread just before shooting time. Luckily, they worked out their differences without going to blows, but I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll be hearing about “water wars” among duck hunters forced onto dwindling public-land puddles this year. It bears reminding folks to play nice and respect other hunters when scouting and staking out your hunting spots this season.
Not all that surprisingly, reports of success from last weekend’s teal openers were somewhat mixed. Sean Sutherland hosts an annual hunt for Nebraska’s teal opener and he said success was decent where he hunts in the western part of the state with a fairly even mix of both green- and blue-winged teal bagged among his groups of hunters.
“Teal hunting was fair, at best, this past weekend,” said Sutherland. “Probably due to the past two cold fronts pushing a majority of the bluewings south since Labor Day. I did see good numbers of big ducks for this early. I don’t expect to see any of them linger into October.”
Farther south in Kansas and Oklahoma, hunters reported success on opening weekend, with several groups scratching limits of birds out of the dusty conditions. Of these, most of the blue-wings taken came out of central Kansas, where teal are staging on Glen Elder, Quivira and other reservoirs. A cold front predicted to push through mid-week will probably get most of these birds winging for warmer temperatures of Texas.
For an idea of what’s waiting to the north of us, I reached out to Phil Francone, who heads up Cabela’s Canadian division. He reports that morning temperatures in the prairie provinces are starting to dip into the lower 50s, with heavier frosts dusting the far north country of Manitoba.
“Lots of geese are starting to show back up from the north,” said Francone. “We are just on the start of the wave. We haven’t seen a ton of ducks yet, but the geese seem to lead the charge south up here.”
David Draper shot his first duck – a hen mallard – nearly 30 years ago with a Montgomery Ward .410 hammer gun. Since then, he’s decoyed ducks from the pea fields of Alberta’s Peace River valley clear down to the marshes of South America, but still claims some of the world’s bestwaterfowling is found on his home waters along the North Platte River in western Nebraska.