The “Good Old Days” are back in California. What has been classified by most as the best opener in seven years surely foreshadows a great season ahead for California hunters. While Klamath Basin hunters are shaking their heads about current water management policies, hunters throughout the Sacramento Valley are ready to capitalize on the resulting dispersal of migrating fowl. While mallard, sprig and cotton-tops comprised a good portion of the bag in northern California, green-wing teal provided the hottest shooting from the far north to the extreme southern portions of the state. Speckle Belly numbers are reported in the tens-of-thousands at the Sac. NWR and reports from Oregon have more birds moving south past Klamath.
To the north, hunters in both Oregon and Washington are reporting increased success over the past week as pockets of big-ducks trickle in from the north. Mallard harvests are on the rise and persistence is paying off for those hunters heading to the field. As extreme to moderate drought conditions persist in all but the far northwest corner of Washington, hunters who find water are finding the birds throughout Washington, Idaho, Western Montana, Oregon and Utah.
As the second cold front of the season moves across the Prairie the next few days, the big question is how many pintail, gadwall and wigeon will move with it? This past week saw increasing numbers of northern mallards, snows and Canada geese moving into northern segments of North Dakota. If you are hunting the west, plan to spend your time scouting for water and birds. If you are in the east, there are birds and water and you\’ll likely be scouting for a place away from the crowds.
Both South Dakota and Nebraska are kicking around local ducks with moderate levels of new birds. While pockets of northern mallards, wigeon and gadwall are present, the activity is not widespread.
Heavy pockets of green-wing teal and a surprising number of bluewings comprised the primary bag in Kansas with Gadwall being the runner up. While we had been left to assume the tremendous teal numbers in Texas had bugged south of the border, is it possible they ran north on a Gulf wind to escape hunting pressure? Reports coming in some refuge areas had teal numbering 30,000. Based on all previous northern state reports of low teal incidence, it is highly unlikely these birds were northern arrivals.
Persistence, patients and prayer separate the men from the boys as the mid-season lull settles into the northern portions of the flyway. As Minnesota and Wisconsin hunters await the next cold front, pockets of various species are tip-toeing down the flyway providing intermittent and much needed excitement. While it takes a lot of divers to spark an adrenaline rush in Minnesota, the flocks raging in 50-100 birds in northern Wisconsin have some hunters just giddy. While cold northwest winds are on their way, it is unlikely they will be cold enough to bring on any heavy influx of bills or cans — adding pressure to the volatile canvasback season selections.
Ringneck numbers are on the rise in Michigan\’s Upper Penninsula and goose hunters throughout Michigan continue to experience consistent success.
Goose numbers continue to build in Wisconsin and Minnesota — though Rochester numbers remain low.
In Illinois, woodduck numbers approach peak levels and early pintail were a welcomed surprise for many hunters on opening day. While duck numbers across the state are high, hunter success varied due to the education already delivered to these birds from the north. Mallards, both local and early migrants were reportedly spinning-wing decoy and call shy. In the coming days, hunting pressure and the approaching cold front could make the grand woodduck days in Illinois short-lived.
NOTE: Illinois hunters be aware that cooling lakes adjacent to various nuclear power plants have been closed to hunting and fishing as a safety precaution resulting from the terrorist attack. Please check with the IL DNR on closure status before heading afield.
With good to excellent water conditions away from the Mississippi River and combines nearly finished with beans and into corn, head west in Iowa for success. Hunter success remains high for those scouting hard and moving with the ducks. If your not moving, plan on waiting — days even.
In the southern portion of the flyway, the boat was left rocking by last minute proposed framework and season changes. To read the latest news on this very important topic, click here.
Woodducks continued to provide fast-flying, pitched excitement for hunters in Pennsylvania and New York. As they and other states wrap their early seasons with few big-ducks around, the hopeful thought is that “The second season will be better.” As Connecticut, Vermont, Delaware and Massachusetts kick off their seasons, woodducks, teal and mallards comprised the primary bag — with black duck success highest inland.
Teal numbers have increased over previous weeks\’ reports though numbers are still lower than previous years at this time. Isolated, heavy pockets of green-wings are providing incredible shooting, if you happen to be in one of those areas north of Jersey. Black duck and mallard numbers in New Jersey\’s northern zone are fair and teal numbers should climb as hunting pressure increases to the north.
Maryland hunters are seeing an influx of woodducks as pressure to the north continues — providing the best shooting of the first split this far this season. To the south, the early teal seasons were uneventful — to say the least. With woodduck levels increasing as far south as North Carolina, the big question out east remains “Where are the teal?”