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Migration Alert: Sacramento Valley hunters need winter weather

Report posted on Jan. 5, 2012
  • photo by Bill Houghton
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By Virginia Getz, DU Biologist

Waterfowl numbers continued to increase in the Sacramento Valley through early December with the arrival of additional migrants, particularly wigeon, shovelers and white geese.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s early December surveys reported more than 1.2 million ducks and 481,000 geese on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex alone.  Pintail numbers on the complex peaked in mid-November with more than 774,000 birds reported.  By mid-December, a significant number of birds had dispersed from the westside refuges to other portions of the valley, as is the norm.

Hunter success was relatively poor in most of November, but a howling north wind on the afternoon of Dec. 30 brought hunters excellent success throughout the valley.  The best hunting in the Sacramento Valley usually occurs in December in conjunction with stormy weather.  However, this past month was the driest December on record and, consequently, hunter success suffered.  Good hunting during December was sporadic and generally tied to strong north winds, since there was really no significant rain, fog or south winds to take advantage of.  Good afternoon shoots were reported from both the east and west sides of the valley during strong north winds. 

The birds are in the Sacramento Valley but hunter success for the remainder of the season is going to depend on weather, especially for rice-field hunters.  The weather forecast for early January is not encouraging.  However, if the storm door opens by mid-January, hunting season should finish very strong.

Read about California's limited water supplies in Running on Empty.

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