Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock for the past week (which really isn’t an excuse; today, even rocks have Internet access) you know that Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and points inland through the Ohio Valley very hard. It’s rain and wind for Ohio, Indiana, and eastern Illinois here in the Mississippi Flyway. Thus far, we Hawkeyes have been spared anything save for mild temperatures and a touch of grey sky. Our best from the Midwest and South-Central to those in the Atlantic Flyway as the cleanup and rebuilding begins.
Along the easternmost part of the Mississippi Flyway in Trumbull County, Ohio, my cousin, Jim, writes to tell me the dreaded in-between time has officially arrived. “The first split in Ohio came to an end yesterday (28 October),” Jimmy said. “I thought with the cold temperatures and wind/rain, we’d see some new ducks, but nothing much. A handful of high-flying mallards and Canadas. Now it’s back to the gym until the second half starts on 24 November. Hopefully, the predicted 3-5 inches of rain from Sandy will help with our water conditions.”
Out of Toledo, Gerry Mazur talks of Sandy’s effects on Buckeye State waterfowling as of late. “(We’re) feeling the effects of the Superstorm,” he wrote. “Strong winds out of the northwest, despite warnings telling of an easterly direction. Goose numbers right now are decent, but ducks could be better.” Low water, said Mazur, will haunt Ohio ‘fowlers throughout the whole of the season.
Up near Midland, Michigan, Shawn Lewis of the Avery Team tells of “too much feed now. The geese are bouncing from field to field, and changing from day to day. Most of our geese pushed south, but a bunch did move in right behind them. Wood ducks, too, have moved out, but have been replaced by a good number of flight puddle ducks. Hunting has been awesome, with the pushes of new birds.”
Brad Gudenkauf speaks of slowly building numbers and relatively steady action around the McGregor, Minnesota, area. “Geese are grouping up big time,” the young man told me. “Many flocks of 100+ Canadas are moving throughout the day. Swan numbers, too, are on the rise. I’m still seeing wood ducks, but haven’t seen much increase in mallard or diver numbers. Still, the shooting in my traditional spots has been light but steady – a change from a couple weeks back when the action was only early in the morning.”
Around eastern Iowa, it does seem as though we’ve picked up good numbers of big geese, and I did see my first bunch of Hutchies (Richardson’s geese) on Sunday morning (28 October); not many, but enough–75, more or less–to tell me that something’s happening above us. Based on what I’ve seen here locally over the last 5-6 years, the little geese are here about 10 days but not quite two weeks early, meaning…I’m not sure. I do know the fox squirrels we’re shooting right now are as thick-furred as I’ve seen them in a while; perhaps we’re in store for a hard winter?
To my south, Matt Pence in Iowa’s Keokuk County reports concentrations of puddlers in and out with this recent cold front. “Saw a really good number of gadwall, green-wings, and mallards roll through late last week, but most were on a mission south and didn’t stick around. Right now, we’re just waiting on another front with colder temperatures to bring us some new birds.”
To the north and west of Saint Louis, Shaun Patrick and Ralph Harr, members of the Avery Pro-Team, have encouraging news for ‘fowlers. “There was a huge push of ducks into the area beginning last Monday,” said Patrick, “that continued on to the end of the week. Pintails and mallards, with some shovelers and green-wing teal mixed in. It seemed to get better the farther north you went into the North Zone.”
“I got reports of large numbers of birds dropping down into Arkansas as a result of this recent cold front,” said Harr. “Our opener (27 October) was very good; Sunday was a bit tougher, with the hunting pressure spreading the birds out.”
The folks in Arkansas have a couple weeks still to wait. However, the speckle-bellies and snows have been pushing into The Natural State for a week or better now, along with the smaller puddlers: spoonbills, teal, grey ducks, and widgeon. If we get another deep-diving cold front, the green timber and rice fields should load up with greenheads and sprig as well.