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Banding Together for Waterfowl

A Freelancer's Guide to the Prairie Pothole Region

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Midday is the Way

As September gives way to October, influxes of migratory waterfowl from the north provide even more hunting opportunities for prairie waterfowlers. Light geese and specklebellies stack up on staging lakes and adjacent grainfields, mallards fall into more predictable flight patterns between roosting and feeding areas, and "calendar ducks" such as gadwalls, wigeon, canvasbacks, and redheads congregate on larger potholes in preparation for their trip south.

While freelancing in the PPR, waterfowlers shouldn't overlook productive hunting opportunities during the middle of the day, says Montana resident Steve Bierle. "After the beginning of the season, mallards and Canada geese get conditioned to hunting pressure when they go out to feed early in the morning and later in the afternoon," he explains. "I have some of my best hunting on 'day roosts' and staging ponds the birds use late in the morning and early in the afternoon. They aren't expecting any trouble in these spots."

Bierle says waterfowl use a variety of habitats as midday resting areas. "You might find honkers loafing around a pasture pond, mallards tucked into a willow-lined slough, or pintails sitting on patches of sheet water in harvested grainfields. Wherever you find the birds, if you can get permission to hunt these spots, you're in for a treat."

Bierle adds that getting permission to hunt waterfowl on private land is still a reality across much of the PPR, but it's a privilege that shouldn't be taken for granted. "Sealing the deal on a hunt with a handshake is something that just doesn't happen everywhere," he says. "Many landowners still enjoy sharing the hunting opportunities on their property with visitors. In return for their generosity, hunters should be sure to pick up after themselves, close all the gates, and just say 'thanks.' Leaving a good impression may mean more hunting opportunities in the future."

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