By David Draper, Field & Stream's Central Flyway Duck Reporter
It seems the fears of forum posters who predicted last week’s cold front would push ducks through the Plains were premature. Though the storm may have moved out some local birds, according to my sources, ducks are plentiful in the northern part of the flyway and the main part of the migration is just kicking off with new birds showing up daily.
One of the first signs of autumn’s migration is the trilling call of Sandhill cranes as they wing their way south for the season. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been hearing cranes, and picking their faint outlines out of the clouds. Avery Pro Staffers Lance Ohnmacht of Hutchinson, Kansas, and Vance Stolz of Windsor, Colorado, both report a significant migration of the big birds passing through their respective states.
As for ducks, Stolz says there has been a slight increase in teal, widgeon, gadwall and some mallards along the Front Range. Success there, and in eastern Nebraska and South Dakota, has been mixed, with hunters who have good water really getting into the birds. On public land, the lack of water has concentrated hunters and increased pressure, driving ducks and geese on to non-traditional roost sights and changing their feed patterns daily, according to Stolz and Andrew Schlueter of Seward, Nebraska.
Duck season in the Nebraska Sandhills opened last Saturday, and I heard from two different hunters who had success there. Brian Hauptman put his boat on a local lake Sunday and managed to scratch down a typical Sandhills mixed bag, including a mallard, pintail, redhead and three teal. He reported lots of dry ponds, and said new birds in the area were few and far between.
Hardcore waterfowler Tyler Sanders reported much of the same from his section of the Sandhills.
"I was in the Sandhills opening morning on Saturday with heavy snow," said Sanders. "Saw a couple thousand birds on the marsh we were hunting, but nothing wanted to fly much when the snow was heavier. Four of us ended up shooting 14 - three mallards, two widgeon, two redheads, two blue wing teal, two shovelers, one pintail, one gadwall, and one green wing teal. Monday, I was at a different location and three of us shot a limit in about 45 minutes and a bonus snow goose. Called the snow goose into 20 yards with only duck decoys and a mojo out! I have yet to see any migration personally, but there is no doubt some birds came and went with this last system."
Farther south, David Williams of Choctaw, Oklahoma, says there are still some teal in the area, as well as a migration of wood ducks passing through.
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Sandhill Cranes Signal Migration Kick-Off