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Migration Alert: Freeze-up Approaches the Northern Prairies

Oct. 26 – Mississippi and Central Flyway
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  • photo by Michaelfurtman.com
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By Scott Stephens, Ph.D.

The past couple of weeks offered me an opportunity for an annual trip to western Saskatchewan to chase white-fronted geese and ducks. The trip began for me on October 9, and upon arrival we were able to find good concentrations of whitefronts and large flocks of white geese. I have found the white geese can present a bit of a challenge when focusing on whitefronts as there is nothing quite as attractive as a field full of bright white birds to attract every flock of whitefronts in the area. The first several mornings found us plagued with no wind, which didn't provide much movement in the decoy spread to convince the approaching flocks to join us. Large flocks of decoying ducks, however, helped alleviate our "whitefront blues." As we scouted some new areas, we found spectacular duck concentrations, with several thousand mallards and pintails piled into nearly every small wetland in the area. As we began to contact local landowners for permission to hunt the many duck holes, I was reminded of the remarkable hospitality of the landowners in western Canada as we were given permission to hunt on every tract that we inquired about.

We managed to shoot one limit of whitefronts and shot limits of ducks for three days straight before heading back to Manitoba with coolers full of possession limits of ducks and enough whitefronts to hold us over until next year. 

The wide open western prairies are indeed a waterfowlers paradise!

Since returning here to Manitoba, the temperatures have definitely been on the slide with the forecast for this weekend showing highs near freezing and lows in the low 20s.  If these highs near freezing hold as forecasted for a several days, all but the big water will be locking up and chasing many waterfowl south. 

Parts of north-central Alberta received more than 9 inches of snow earlier this week, which will quickly push birds out of that country as waste grain becomes inaccessible under the snow.  Waterfowlers across the Midwest should be on the lookout for a push of new birds coming southward over the next week. I'm hoping to find a few prime late-season mallards or scaup before they depart again for another winter! 

Snow cover comparison: October 26 2012 vs 2011

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.

Find reports in your area on the DU Waterfowl Migration Map

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