By John Pollmann, WF360 Central Flyway Migration Editor
The first significant weather system of the season in Saskatchewan is changing the game for waterfowl hunters, as ducks and geese react to the arrival of colder temperatures, rain, and snow.
Heavy rainfall totals are forecast for a large area across the southern reaches of the province, while areas further to the north are scheduled to receive measurable amounts of snowfall. By the end of the week, nighttime low temperatures will consistently fall below the freezing mark.
The cold front is providing welcome relief following more than a week of warm weather, says Tony Vandemore with Habitat Flats Central Prairies Lodge.
Finding concentrations of ducks and geese was becoming more difficult, Vandemore says, as birds remained scattered across the area, but the change in the weather is likely to help even the playing field.
"This weather gets them thinking with their stomachs and makes them a little more predictable when it comes to their feeding patterns," Vandemore says. "We're seeing a nice little bump in bird numbers, too, which always helps."
Leading up to this week, Vandemore reports that the migration was moving along "a little ahead of schedule," with mallard numbers above average compared to the past few years. Snow goose numbers have been building throughout the province, and the flocks of light geese contain a healthy percentage of juvenile birds. The first large flocks of lesser Canada geese arrived in the east-central region last week, while local Canada geese can still be found in good numbers.
"I imagine the change in the weather this week is going to impact a lot of where the birds are found and just how many are here," Vandemore says. "With the cold and snow, I'm guessing the Boreal Forest region is going to open up and birds are going to start pouring south."
Heavy amounts of precipitation will most likely create difficult field conditions for hunting, Vandemore says, but adds that the moisture is needed to help fill wetlands across the province.
"We're going to be wet for a few days, but the benefits for next year far outweigh the inconvenience," Vandemore says.
The weather is also good news for hunters who are waiting for migrating birds to arrive south of the 49th parallel.
"The weather pattern and migration sure seem to be different, especially compared to last year, when we were hunting in short sleeves in the middle of October," Vandemore says. "Things are moving along nicely so far, and this cold front is going to kick-start the next stage of the season for us."
John Pollmann is a freelance writer from Dell Rapids, South Dakota, who is an avid waterfowler and conservationist. Pollmann will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Central and Mississippi Flyways throughout the 2016-2017 waterfowl season.