By M.D. Johnson, Field & Stream's Mississippi Flyway Duck Reporter
Despite the weather coming through Iowa right now, I reckon what they say about the "October Lull" might actually have some truth to it. The blue-wings, along with quite a few of the locally raised wood ducks, have long since headed to warmer climes southward, and the northern birds – the hoped-for migrators – have yet to arrive, leaving – well – not a whole lot between the rivers here in the Hawkeye State at the moment. But enough with the glass half-empty.
There is weather, though. A big – not massive, but big – cold front sweeping down from the Dakotas through the Upper Midwest brings with it hope for ‘fowlers in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and lands to the south. There are birds ahead of that front; perhaps not the swirling black clouds of mallards, but goodly numbers of grey ducks, green-wing teal, widgeon, and sprig. The truth is, it's still far too nice in Canada, and gunners north of the border continue to do quite well in both the fields and on the water.
Reports from Chris Stoddart and Angelo Casbarro, both of the Avery Outdoors Team, show excellent and building numbers of Canadas, lessers and honkers both, as well as increasing numbers of ducks. Some divers, bufflehead and goldeneyes, wrote Stoddart, are beginning to show up; a sure sign the migration is in, as the men say, full swing. From Kelowna, Alberta, Russell Brzenzinski, who is also aligned with the Memphis-based waterfowl outfit, also speaks of divers, and excellent numbers of Canadas in his area between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Calgary, Alberta. Things are happening up north, and it's just a matter of time – and weather – before those of us in the U.S. begin to see an influx of new birds.
From out of Minnesota, young Eric Wolf is hoping for some nasty stuff to the north. "A lot of birds have moved out of the area in the past week," he wrote, "with very few new birds moving in. Still, hunting has been good for those willing to put in the time to scout." Elsewhere throughout the Land of 10,000 Lakes, many of which, unfortunately, remain low due to this summer's extended drought, the story's the same – stale ducks, but good numbers of Canadas.
Here in Iowa, I'm getting very mixed reviews from the field. Some along the Missouri are doing well; others aren't seeing much, either for locals or migrators. The Mississippi is providing good shoots for those willing to spend their time on the big river, but it seems to be really hit and miss. Another couple weeks, though, and the divers should be showing up on the Old Man in the southeast corner of the state, and that's where I'll be calling the bottom of a Mighty Layout Boys layout boat home. As far as species here between the rivers, there seems to have been a recent push of grey ducks (gadwalls) into the state over the past two/three days, all ahead of this current front, I assume. There are some green-wings, too, though from past experience, we're still another two weeks away, more or less, from the biggest numbers of GWTs passing through. Hopefully, and despite the lack of water, they'll stay for just a bit.
Tony Vandemore in central Missouri has been seeing "lots of green-wings, pintails, widgeon, and gadwalls over the past few days. Our early duck migration, at least to me, seemed a couple weeks behind this year. We usually see these little ducks around the first week or so of October, but everything started showing up Tuesday. We're getting our first smattering of green here, too. I wouldn't say enough for full limits, but there's gonna be some greenheads get it tomorrow morning."
Farther to the south, it's another three weeks before seasons open in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but folks are already gearing up for those kick-offs. Mike and Lamar Boyd, a father/son duo who guide on historic Beaver Dam Lake near Tunica, Mississippi, spent the weekend as guests of Vandemore's at Sumner. We'll catch up with the Boyds this week, and get their take on northern duck hunting. But given the conditions here in Iowa, do I really want to hear what they have to say?
Cold Weather Should Push Some Birds South
Find habitat and hunting reports in your area on the DU Migration Map