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Hunting Early Migrators

Get a jump-start on the hunting season
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Early Birds

By John Pollman

If you've never stared down a squadron of blue-winged teal screaming across the shallows of a harvested rice field or scattered gadwall decoys across a bed of smartweed, you're missing out on some great early season waterfowl hunting opportunities. Check out the following advice on how you can get a jump-start to the hunting season.

Early migrating species of waterfowl like teal, gadwall, wood ducks, pintails and widgeon are the first to leave the breeding grounds in the north for warmer climes in the south.

Ducks Unlimited's chief waterfowl biologist Dale Humburg says that the ultimate cue for waterfowl migration throughout their lifecycle is day length, but early migrants are prompted to move when weather and habitat conditions change.

But unlike later in the season, when a major cold front with wind and snow will force bigger birds like mallards and Canada geese to move south, Humburg says the changes that prompt smaller waterfowl to move in early fall are not as easy to decipher.

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