November 20, 2012
Storm Birds Should Stick Around Through Holiday Weekend
By David Draper
Waterfowlers in the Central Flyway are still reaping the benefits of last week’s winter storms, and with the long-term forecast showing a warm-weather pattern until at least Sunday or Monday, the holiday weekend should continue that trend. On the downside, the warm-up has made for some short days in the field as birds fly early and then spend the rest of the day resting. As Avery Pro Staffer Jerrod Watson put it, “This warm weather is confusing everything, including me.” Still, with plenty of birds up and down the Flyway, a few hours might be all hunters need to fill their strap with a mixed bag of ducks and geese.
Down in Choctaw, Oklahoma, another Avery Pro Staffer, David Williams confirms that birds have made it at least that far, and are staying in the area despite low water levels. According to Williams, the migration is showing “pretty decent numbers for the middle of November, including good numbers of teal, gadwall, and redheads and decent numbers of mallards, widgeon, and ringnecks. Hunting has been better than expected considering the fair weather and less than desirable water conditions,” he said, also noting that the hunters who are having the best success are taking the time to scout--a key factor when food and water conditions are less than ideal and birds are scattered.
Waterfowl numbers are up in Kansas as well, with Wildlife and Park officials in several areas reporting a significant increase in ducks and geese over the past week. Duck counts at Cedar Bluff Wildlife Management Area have jumped to 10,000, with a mix of species including teal, shovelers, widgeon, and mallards, along with a few divers. Glen Elder comes in with an estimated 4,000 mallards, 2,500 other puddle ducks, and 6,000 divers. Goose numbers are also on the increase, with 110,000 snow geese and 7,000 Canada geese using the 12,500-acre reservoir. Jamestown, Norton, and Lovewell are also showing increased numbers of both ducks and geese.
In central Nebraska, Chadd Bragg spent this past weekend deer hunting on the banks of the Platte River, but he reported seeing “more ducks than I may have ever seen in the area.” Superlatives like that have not been uncommon in the Cornhusker State over the past week. It seems that a cold front, combined with record duck populations, may have conspired to make this fall “the best duck season in years here” as many pundits (including myself) have claimed. Many of my contacts in Nebraska are reporting epic numbers of birds.
In the Panhandle, Tyler Sanders did well on Canada geese hunting an alfalfa field, and he confirmed that many hunters in the area are also enjoying success. “Most people are reporting the most geese around this early for quite some time,” said Sanders. “One of my buddy’s pits has almost already equaled last year’s totals.”
A bit further east along the North Platte River, Matt Arndt also says he’s seeing what could be a record migration. Note that his report below is actually referring to the weekend before last, but it tells why you should plan on spending at least some time in a blind this coming weekend.
“This last weekend might have been one of the better migration pushes I’ve witnessed in a long time. Saturday was slightly foggy but I could tell that a large push of mallards had hit the valley. With just one MOJO and a few duck floaters mixed into the goose spread, I got 50- to 75-bird groups of mallards to work. It was one of those days that it was almost more fun to watch than shoot. Wigeon were everywhere and there were plenty of lesser Canadas to mess with. Sunday was totally different with the temps on the “stupid-cold” side. I saw countless flocks of Canada geese, snow geese, some specks, a flock of cranes, and a lone swan all hit the river from the north. I also saw the first mergansers of the year flying the river. The river was slush-free so hopefully with this week’s warmer temps, all the birds will call the valley home for quite a while.”