Temperatures throughout the Pacific Flyway went down last week, but so did migrating ducks, so West Coast waterfowlers didn’t get too frosted about it.
My man on the front line of the action, David Wei in Vancouver, who recently enjoyed a good day afield with friends in the photo here, said the cold weather brought a flurry of migration activity into the region.
“The sudden cold snap that brought snow to the BC Interior – and frost on the coast – has made the northern mallards and lesser Canadas move down into our area,” he said. “Huge flocks of lessers teased me this morning, but didn’t like where I was set up, and wouldn’t decoy right in. Still, I shot a limit of mallards, including a few big northern drakes. Fairly easy shooting with a limit in just over an hour on singles and doubles that hovered over dekes about 25 yards out.”
Over the border, Kent Contreras in Newport, Wash., reported cooler temperatures, with highs in the 40s and lows in the 30s, rain showers over the weekend and some snow showers in the higher elevations. He noted that the wet weather has the river level running a little above average and sloughs are starting to backfill. Waterfowl numbers have risen with the water levels, he said.
“It looks like we are having the first push of the migration coming into the area,” Contreras said. “I went to the Tri-Cities for the weekend and did very well. I didn’t hear any reports from the local area, but I did see some fresh birds Sunday.”
On the other side of the Columbia, early migrants, such as mallards, pintails, and wigeons have arrived at the big waters on Oregon’s north coast, including Tillamook Bay and the lower Columbia, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife field reports. Divers such as canvasbacks and ring-necked ducks also have been observed on and around Tillamook Bay. Netarts Bay is currently a good bet for sea ducks. The latest round of stormy weather should improve hunting success.
It’s the same song in the south.
“We had been getting a few ducks and geese with mild weather conditions,” said Steve DeBerry of the Southern Oregon Chapter of Delta Waterfowl. “This storm on Friday and Saturday helped move the birds a little. We did notice a new squirt of birds, primarily mallards in the Rogue Valley. Hopefully, with cooler conditions the birds will move to feed more often.”
Curt Wilson, territory manager for Avery Outdoors, said water has been a real liquid asset to California hunters.
“As far as the hunting in the Sacramento Valley of California so far, it was a good early season for the guys with early water,” he said. “Most of the rice is just getting harvested and is not flooded for hunting yet. The people who had early water had good hunts consisting of mixed bags of puddle ducks, with most guys doing well on specklebelly geese, as well.”
Of course, you need more than to simply add water for instant duck hunting success; you also need a fully functional shotgun and peak-performance ammo. Just ask Paul Gery of Nor Cal Waterfowl.
“My season started with a whimper as the first shell fired fizzled, lodging a wad halfway down my barrel,” he said. “Luckily my friend had brought his fishing rod, but the wad wasn’t budging and I wasn’t about to destroy a $170 fishing rod! I found a piece of phragmites that was long enough and stiff enough to jam down the barrel and push out the wad. I quickly reassembled my gun and was ready for action! The three of us ended up with limits by 9 a.m. – 18 green-wings, two wigeons and a shoveler.”
Water will come as welcome relief for Nevada hunters like Rob Wallin of Nevada Outfitters.
“We have been in a drought for the last two years,” Wallin said. “Stillwater and Greenhead have water, but Lahontan is dry. The only things we have right now are local ducks. With some weather coming in this week, it should change.”
The cold weather carried over into the Rocky Mountain region of the Pacific Flyway this past week, bringing the birds with it, according to Avery Outdoors pro-staffer David Harper of Twin Falls, Idaho.
“We had a major cool-down middle of last week, and now temps have stabilized to daytime highs of mid-50s and lows down toward freezing at night, with some showers rolling through here and there and looking like the possibility of more on the way,” he said. “A big push of mallards and other puddle ducks arrived in the valley with the front last week, making for some very huntable numbers. Resident geese are still around in good numbers, but are starting to get a bit stale. But trickling in every day are small numbers of new geese. I hear Alberta has been getting hit with some weather and that there are birds moving in Montana.”
Colder weather has the birds on the way. So just play it cool.