The wind is blowing a sustained 45 miles per hour outside right now, with gusts to 60. It’s a day fit for neither man nor beast, but if you believe everything you read on the Internet, a mallard duck can travel 800 miles in eight hours with a 50 mph tailwind. That means I should be covered up in fresh migrators by morning. Sounds good in theory anyway.
When it comes to fact, the past two days of high winds will probably push some new birds down the Central Flyway from Montana and the Dakotas, but not as many as waterfowlers might think. Without snow or freezing temperatures, this front will most likely have most ducks hunkered down rather than winging their way south. As long as open water and abundant feed are still available and hunter pressure is low, ducks don’t have a lot of motivation to migrate.
As this system moves east, winds are forecast to subside by the weekend, offering waterfowlers a respite just in time for some scheduled openers. In Nebraska, Zone 2 High and Low Plains units finally open on October 20, about two weeks later than normal. During a quick scouting mission Tuesday night, I saw only a few ducks along the North Platte River, though the majority were mallards. Other waterfowlers in the area are saying about the same. Trevor Sanders checked in and said hunting last Saturday in the Sandhills was notably slower than the previous week, with only a few hundred birds seen and just four added to the bird strap.
A bit farther south, on Colorado’s Front Range, Avery Pro Staffer Vance Stolz says duck numbers there are on the rise. “[There’s been a] notable increase on ducks this week,” Stolz reported in an e-mail. “Mostly teal, mallards, pintails and widgeon. Increase in redheads in certain areas as well.” He also noted the uptick in birds has also resulted in more success for local hunters who are lucky enough to have water to hunt.
David Williams of Choctaw, Oklahoma, say things are looking a little brighter there after rains last Friday and Saturday brought some much needed moisture to the area. The migration still hasn’t made its way down there yet, but Williams did note that along with some small numbers of teal, a noticeable amount of wood ducks have made their way into the state.