A quick rundown of the current U.S. Drought Monitor Map illustrates the start of what could be the most complex migration Waterfowler.com has monitored since we began tracking the North American Waterfowl Migration four seasons ago.
For starters, water conditions across much of the Prairie Pothole region is normal to above average. Food sources are abundant and if you are heading to Canada, the Dakotas or Western Minnesota during the early part of the season you will likely experience some incredible hunting opportunity.
What happens when the birds pick up and leave the prairie will be anyone’s guess. Water levels across the nation at key migration stopover and destination points are low to literally non-existent in some critical areas.
Often considered the “Western Everglades,” the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California has been described by some as a virtual dust bowl. In an average year Klamath hosts over 2 million migrating waterfowl. Without rain those 2 million birds could easily skip right over most of the Flyway straight into Sacramento and Southern California.
In the east, the northern most portions of the Atlantic Flyway, stretching from Ohio all the way to Maine, water levels range from abnormally dry to severe drought conditions. In the southeast, South Carolina and Central to North Central Florida are facing the same plague of extreme evaporation and little precipitation.
All along the upper Mississippi Valley, including eastern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and most of Iowa, both farmer and waterfowler have been hoping for rain. Based on current conditions both crop and duck harvests could suffer if dry conditions persist.
In the Central and Southern Mississippi Flyways, moderate-drought to abnormally-dry conditions are widespread in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and a huge swath across central Nebraska.
Now before you go writin\’ off the entire duck season, early September is well known for its ability to generate considerable amounts of precipitation. Record rainfalls from as much as 5-inches in 3 hours to 13.75-inches in less than 12 hours have occurred in parts of the nation during September. In other words, your cup could runneth over if your fingers and toes are crossed tight enough.
Now, enough with weather and onto ducks. While the scuttlebutt continues on who counted what right and wrong this past nesting season the fact is most duck and goose numbers, while down from last year, are still pretty incredible when you consider that only a decade ago most seasons were 30-days and 3-ducks.
Being the calendar ducks they are, Teal are already on the move in the Mississippi and Central Flyways. Early arrivals have been sighted as far south as Texas and Arkansas. For those with early seasons opening in the next few weeks, expect most birds to hug the Grand Ol’ Mississip’ to the north and spread out in areas in the central parts of the Flyways where water conditions are normal.