Geese Bunching, Ducks Stirring, Big Water Will Be a Draw

Like a locomotive of old, the Mississippi Flyway is bit by bit beginning to ball up steam. Another mass of cold Canadian air was slated to slide through this week, accompanied by from what our weatherman says will be 20 to 45 mph winds aloft. Now if that's not a recipe for some type of migration, I'm not sure what is. Only time will tell.

Out of the Great White North, Kentuckian Field Hudnall is, even as I write this, on the Delta Marsh near the town of Stonewall, Manitoba, just north of Winnipeg. Courtesy of text, Hudnall sends - "Rain! Very slow this morning. Hunting divers. Killed some bluebills and canvasbacks yesterday. Even some teal." Seems the same cold front mentioned above has pushed a goodly number of birds out of northern and central Manitoba, and into the southern parts of the province or, as Hudnall's case might be, into the northern half of North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Ah, if we Yankees could only be so lucky.

Via Facebook, former Iowan Brad Gudenkauf, now living just outside the Twin Cities and hunting to the north and east around the McGregor, Minnesota, area, sent me this report last evening. "Canada geese are bunching up, and have provided steady action for everyone who has tried for them. We still have wood ducks around, and I'm still seeing blue-wings and green-wings. Some good-sized flocks of divers are moving in the mornings. And I did see my first flock of canvasbacks last weekend. I haven't noticed a build-up of mallards, though it's still early for them." Brad finished his note saying the tundra swans were on the move, but doesn't believe them to be migrators. "We have a good local population of swans right here."

Brad's brother, Jeff, from out of the Waterloo, Iowa, area, said "We killed three geese on Friday (12 October). Should have had more, but I'm out of practice and rusty." (I admire honesty in man, particularly when it comes to relating tales of accuracy trauma.) A day later, Jeff and a buddy made the trip east to the Mississippi River, where they killed eight mixed ducks. Poor weather, the man said, made for a long day, driving the wood ducks high into the clouds and the majority of the other ducks, Lord only knows where.

Iowa's North Zone (north of Highway 30) opened on Saturday, 13 October, with what I'd call little fanfare. The reviews I've seen have been mixed, with most coming from the Mississippi River north of Clinton. Mallards, woodies, teal, and grey ducks are standard fare right now, though the divers shouldn't be too far behind. It's going to take some weather before the big-water birds get here. Good friend and Avery Outdoors territory manager, Travis Mueller, spent time on the Upper Mississippi last week near the Minnesota border. "Everything! Lots of ducks - mallards, gadwall, widgeon, green-wings, blue-wings, wood ducks, pintails," he told me. "With the interior rivers so low this year, the Mississippi will likely be the spot." Hawkeye State gunners south of Highway 30 have their opener on 20 October, but the lack of water, despite some recent rains, will be fowlers' biggest obstacle.

Moving east to Ohio, a note from my cousin, Jim, a diehard waterfowler, echoes what we're seeing here in Iowa. "Most of the local (NE Ohio) swamps are low or have no water," Jimmy said. "A few wood ducks, but not much. Mosquito Lake is 'beyond' low, and the guys who are hunting it are having so-so luck. But their blinds are 100-200 yards out into the lake, and stick out like sore thumbs. It will get better during the second split, once all the smaller potholes freeze up."