November 30, 2012
Northerners Turn To Geese; Southerners Await Ducks
By M.D. Johnson
Even from a Comfort Inn in northern Utah, which is serving as my base of operations as I hunt the Great Salt Lake and surrounding marshes, I can hear the rather rotund lady either warming up or in full voice in the northern portion of the Mississippi Flyway. For many hunters in the Upper Midwest, it’s time to start putting away the duck gear and begin thinking about geese, or ice fishing.
Wisconsin and Minnesota’s duck seasons will be over by the first of next week. Iowa will soon follow, with a northern closure of December 6 and a south-zone end on the 13th. Reports from the eastern third of The Hawkeye State continue to be mixed; however, most folks I’ve talked with lately agree that the frigid temperatures of this last week brought in a small number of new mallards and Canadas, while putting birds already in the area on the feed. A gent down Iowa City way (who asked to remain nameless for fear of divulging his exact location) tells of excellent numbers of honkers, with slowly increasing numbers of mallards locally.
“The weather isn’t quite right for them to be patterned consistently yet,” he said. “And they’re flying late--right at or just after legal shooting time. We need some nasty weather, and then it should be on.”
Closer to my home, good friend and Avery Territory Manager, Travis Mueller, continues to do well on mallards in the fields, while my--yes, they are mine–Canadas are just beginning to hit the stubble in earnest. Snow, but not too much snow, and cold would help.
My cousin Jim told me of a good hunt he had last week on a small river in northeastern Ohio. “We had a cold front come through,” he said, “dropping the temperatures from the 50s to the 20s, with snow squalls. The mallards worked the decoys wonderfully. No calling, they just dropped right in. It was a crazy morning.” On a sad note, Jim ended by telling me of a waterfowler who lost his life over the weekend on Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County. It’s a reminder that cold water, wind, and cold temperatures can, and quickly, make for a dangerous, even deadly situation.
Be careful out there.
Down in Missouri, Avery pro-staffers Ralph Harr and Shaun Patrick write of “stale birds, no wind, and high temperatures,” all of which is making the duck hunting extremely difficult. “There are lots of birds in the area, but they stay where they’re safe, and that makes for some very frustrating hunting.” And unfortunately, the weather forecast for the St. Louis area throughout the first week of December calls for unseasonably warm--mid-50s to mid-60s--temperatures, south winds, and overcast skies.
Arkansas’ duck season is closed following their week-long opener, but will reopen on December 6 with another split before continuing through until January 27. Water, or the lack thereof, seems to be the main factor down at the tail-end of the flyway. Jay Hayter out of El Dorado puts it simply: “We could use some rain for sure. Feeding conditions are good. The fields are cut, but you need water to have ducks.” The first week was mixed, he said. Those with water did well on puddlers, including mallards, grey ducks, pintails, and teal.
In the eastern part of the flyway, Tennessee’s season is set to reopen on Saturday, December 1, following their weekend start immediately after Thanksgiving. Kentuckians will again have their chance come Monday, December 3. Both states run until January 27. We’ll talk to these folks, along with the gunners at the southern tip of the flyway in Louisiana, Mississippi, and of course, Arkansas, and should have some information, along with some good news, by the middle part of the next week.
Last week’s Mississippi Flyway report went mistakenly unposted. Here it is. –The Editors
Weather Slows Midwest Action; South Sees Early Ducks
It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and the weather forecast for the state of Iowa has temperatures in the mid- to high 60s, with spots in the southern part of the state approaching 70. Not what I’d call duck weather--unless you’re in Argentina.
Avery Outdoors’s Travis Mueller returned yesterday from a trip to northeastern Nebraska, where he and four buddies had great hunting. “We killed our 20 greenheads every day, with some other ducks and a handful of Canadas, to boot.” Now back in Iowa, he said, “Here, honkers have been trickling in, but we’re dealing with stale birds overall. Nebraska and South Dakota are where it’s at right now.”
Even as I type, two friends are hunting a small slough south of Iowa City along the Iowa River. “No ducks,” Brett texted me. “Buddy missed one, and I didn’t shoot at two that worked early that I should have. That’s all we’ve seen. Not even seeing anything working the fields here around us.”
Over near Kansas City, Rusty Burnam, also with the Avery Team, tells me there’s 170,000 mallards sitting on Squaw Creek refuge about 30 miles north of the city. “The guys who are pumping water around the refuge (on private ground) are doing well,” he said. “But I haven’t heard of anything happening in the dry fields just yet. As far as geese are concerned, the local honkers are bunching up, and I am starting to see some bigger numbers on the larger lakes and impoundments. They’re not doing much, though. I saw 75 honkers chowing down in a field outside of town last night, but they’re only ¼-mile away from a subdivision pond among $500,000 homes.”
The Habitat Flats crew in Sumner, Missouri, continue to knock out limits of greenheads, with their other ducks--woodies, greenwings, sprig, and tons of grey ducks--on a daily basis. Vandemore even posted a photograph on Facebook of a dandy drake canvasback that one of his clients downed – and that over a puddle duck spread in the middle of a flooded cornfield. “We shot several cans and redheads last year,” Tony told me while I was down there a couple weeks back. “Blackjacks (ringnecks), too, and lots of ‘em.”
John “Gordo” Gordon, with Avery Outdoors in Memphis, spent opening weekend (November 17-18) across the Mississippi on the water just north of Wynne, Arkansas, and had nothing but good things to say about his kick-off. “It was awful good, man,” he said, his smile evident even over the phone. “If you have water in Arkansas right now, you have ducks. We saw lots of greenwing teal, pintails, and gadwalls, and good numbers of mallards. Actually, more mallards this early than we’ve seen in some time. Maybe it’s because of the drought in the Upper Midwest because we sure haven’t had any weather to move ducks down here. Maybe they did overfly the North. Jason Campbell, a friend in Louisiana, is saying the same thing. He told me he’s seeing more mallards now than he’s seen in the past 10 years. It’s good, man. The ducks are here.”
As for me, I’ve been travelling out of the northern part of the flyway this year. Last week it was Utah; next week, Utah again, and then back to the Beehive State in early December before Iowa’s late muzzleloader deer season begins on the 17th. Goose hunting here in The Hawkeye State will get good, I’m sure, on either side of Christmas, but unfortunately droughts and ducks make for an awful poor combination.
To all you ‘fowlers out there, have a wonderful, safe, and enjoyable Thanksgiving--from Julia Carol, me, and the dogs.