The past couple of weeks offered more opportunities for early season hunting on the Canadian prairies. During my opening week teal hunting trip, an afternoon of driving back roads in a previously unexplored area paid dividends for me as I found a small wetland that was covered in canvasbacks.
Canvasbacks are an early migrant here, with the numbers of staging birds peaking in late September and early October. After tracking down permission to hunt on the small wetland embedded in a pasture, the day was set and I was excited for the opportunity to go on a true Canvasback hunt. I spent the early part of the morning watching the show as waves of birds began to trickle in from an adjacent large body of water, as I waited for good light to discern drakes from hens. As the sun peeked over the horizon, the light had improved enough to offer me confidence in selecting drakes from the flocks.
Although the birds clearly preferred the opposite side of the wetland, my spread of canvasback fakes were good enough to attract flocks over the decoys throughout the morning. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a better way to derive more satisfaction from a morning hunt.
This past week took me to central Saskatchewan for some hunting with DU supporters from across the U.S. and Canada. Sandhill crane numbers were near peak and despite very mild weather with no wind, everyone got in on some crane shooting. Morning field hunts over light goose spreads provided quite the spectacle of mallards and pintails. An occasional pair or single light goose couldn’t resist the big spread of white in the pea field.
Pintail flocks were still largely cloaked in dull plumage with only a few brighter drakes noticeable. Mallard flocks were showing good progress on molt for the drakes with many showing mostly green heads. In another week, most drake mallards should be looking very nice and easy to select from decoying flocks.
Throughout Saskatchewan very good numbers of ducks were scattered across most wetlands. Light geese were abundant, with good numbers of Canada geese and a few white-fronted geese also present. This first week of October is slated to bring more seasonal temperatures after a bout of Indian summer last week, which should keep the migration moving along on schedule. I hope to take advantage of some of the full plumage drake mallards in the coming weeks!
DU Canada biologist Dr. Scott Stephens is an Iowa native who has been an avid waterfowler since his late teens. Based at Oak Hammock Marsh in Stonewall, Manitoba, he oversees DUC’s conservation programs on the prairies. He routinely posts reports on the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map.