Late last summer, just before the opening bell on early waterfowl seasons, the chatter among hunters was about the record number of ducks poised to come down the flyway. Now that seasons are closed for many waterfowlers, or at least will be closed in the near future, that cautious optimism has done a 180. From the forum posting and bulletin board chatter, you would think every duck in the Central Flyway made it south safely and is now wintering in some secret refuge. “Worst season ever!” decry anonymous Internet types, who lay the blame for their lack of success at the feet of everyone from local DNR officials to other hunters to Mother Nature herself.
Truth is, just like every year, some hunters succeed where others fail. It’s kind of like life, where your choices, your luck, and even your fate all combine to put on the right path, or offer the opportunity to stray far from it. Where other hunters are looking at a half-full glass here at the end of season, others are celebrating cups that are still overflowing.
One such hunter is Avery Pro Staffer Jared Shepard, who hunts out of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Like many hunters in the sugar valley, Shepard has been having a banner season on both ducks and geese. In his weekly report, he states hunting has been “excellent,” with limits of ducks being reported on the rivers and creeks that remain open after several weeks of sub-zero weather. Shepard also confirms my own experience (as evidenced by the photo above) that the goose hunting is as good now as it’s going to get, with lots of geese setting up shop in area corn and alfalfa fields. “There are more geese here than I have seen in the seven years I have lived out here,” said Shepard, who also reported lots of mallards and widgeon still in the area. As long as water stays open and field remained uncovered, that should give Panhandle duck hunters something to target in the last two weeks of season.
Farther downriver, near Lisco, hunter Matt Arndt has given up on the ducks and focused instead on the many geese that are using the Garden County Refuge. He gives us a pretty detailed look at what birds are doing in his neck of the woods:
“I haven’t shot a duck in over three weeks. Once it starts getting around 10 degrees at night, my little backwater pond freezes up and I don’t go back. I’ve been spending almost all my time rotating my two pits down by Lisco. Goose hunting has been really good and I was really surprised we didn’t lose all the birds when the snow hit on Christmas Eve. The river froze up pretty solid at Lisco except for a little spot by the bridge and then a big spot just downstream from one of my pits. The birds stayed and the goose hunting actually picked up. Singles, pairs, and 3-packs cruising up and down the river have kept me busy and quite a few mornings it’s taken longer to put out decoys in the meadow that to pick off my three. I hear there are plenty of birds up at Broadwater and I know there are thousands of mallards down at Sutherland. Geese around Oshkosh seem to be somewhat non-existent, but numbers grow the further west you go.”