To quote the late Chris Farley as Tommy Callahan in Tommy Boy: Holy schnikes! We have finally gotten some weather. Here in eastern Iowa, and throughout much of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, the first true blizzard of the year is ushering in Winter. And it’s here with a vengeance, with sustained winds of 25 to 35mph, with gusts up to 55 and above. Add about six inches of snow–two in some places, 12 in others–and it’s building up into quite a mess out there. So bad that fellow Field & Streamer Phi Bourjaily told me, “The only reason to hunt today is if you’re really mad at yourself.”
However, and that all said, there are still geese to be had in the northern half of the Mississippi Flyway, and in some places, a lot of geese. (Ducks are closed in about 99 percent of the flyway at present.) Our numbers here in Jones County, Iowa, have definitely swelled over the past few days. A young neighbor and a buddy did a little pass-shooting on a fence line just north of the house here midweek, and each boy killed his three-pack of Canadas in short order. “Every goose on the pond came our way,” he told me from the field. “Must have been a thousand or more.” And he wasn’t far off on that number; I checked personally.
To my north, Greg Owens with the Avery Team reporting from Rochester, Minnesota on December 18 says, “We have a good number of new geese in town. Almost all of the roost ponds are still ice-free, so these birds should stick around for a while.” Unfortunately, Rochester’s high temperatures are only supposed to be in the teens for several days following Christmas. That said, if there’s open water to be had, the birds will find it. And as long as there’s little snow, they should stay. Maybe.
In north-central Missouri, Tony Vandemore’s crew at Habitat Flats continues to do well on big ducks and should continue to until their season ends on Christmas Day. Then it’s on to dark geese until they start setting spreads for spring snows toward the end of February or the first week of March, depending on the weather down South. No rest for the wicked–and those boys are as bad as they come.
Randy Ryals, another member of the Avery Team, reports from Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake that the “lake levels are way down, and many blinds in the woods cannot be reached by boat.” Ryals continues reports that “not much has come down in the last two weeks, and we really need a push from the north in order to bring us some new birds.” Mallards, grey ducks, and some greenwings are making up the bulk of what Ryals and his buddies are hanging on the straps.
John “Gordo” Gordon of Memphis, Arkansas–but who hunts over around Harrisburg–likewise speaks of some mallards, gadwalls, spoonbills, and pintails, plus plenty of whites and specklebellies to go around. “Not much has happened recently,” Gordo writes. “The recent fronts from the northwest didn’t really bring many birds into the area. I’d say it’s fair to slow right now. What birds we have are beginning to shy away from the pit blinds in the fields. It’s best if you scout hard, and try to locate pockets of birds in the corners where you can hide layout blinds.”
Finally, Jay Hayter from El Dorado, Arkansas, says “the sheet water in the rice and beans is holding birds right now. Good number of mallards, with fair numbers of gadwalls and woodies around. We do need that Arctic push to bring the birds down, but on sunny days, guys have been having good success.”
Not to worry, Mister Jay. You’ve got quite the Arctic push sweeping across the states directly above you even as I write this. You ought to be seeing something soon. Very soon.
To all you ‘fowlers still trudging into the darkness each morning, best of luck to you. And above all, have a safe and merry of Christmas.