By John Pollmann, Central Flyway WF360 Migration Editor
For much of the past three weeks, Joe Fladeland has been bumping around North Dakota's back-roads chasing early season Canada geese, but the number of ducks gathered on the state's prairie potholes has the
Avery pro-staffer excited about the opening of the general waterfowl season later this month.
"I was out just recently looking for geese and doves in the eastern part of the state, and it seemed like every wetland had ducks on it," Fladeland says. "I've watched a number of good duck concentrations in some of the fields of harvested small grains, too, which is really exciting to see."
Cold and snow made for a late start to spring planting in North Dakota
, which in turn delayed the harvest of oats, wheat and other small grains toward the end of summer. But Fladeland says that farmers have caught up on the harvest, so there should be good opportunities to hunt ducks in fields when the season opens on September 21 for residents (September 28 for nonresidents).
The cold spring also delayed duck breeding efforts, and the late hatch will mean lots of "brown ducks" on opening day.
Picking out drakes and hens
on opening morning is always difficult, Fladeland says, because many ducks are still in eclipse plumage. "This is part of the reason why I'll be targeting teal on opening day," Fladeland says. "They usually don't stick around here too long anyway, so it's fun to get a crack at them before they go. Plus, teal are so good on the table."
Fladeland suspects that he'll be hunting near Oakes in the southeast corner of the state on opening morning, primarily because this area has good wetland conditions. Water levels are poor near his home in Bismarck, but conditions improve greatly to the north and east.
"The Devils Lake area down to Valley City and Jamestown has good water; same thing goes for the north-central part of the state," Fladeland says. "With the dry conditions around Bismarck, my guess is that the ducks will be concentrated further. Dry conditions in some areas may help hunters too, as ducks will be concentrated on available water."
Overall, Fladeland believes the outlook for the start of the duck season in North Dakota is bright.
"I'd say that the stage is set for a pretty good season," Fladeland says. "We have strong duck numbers in the state right now. Obviously the weather will be a factor like it is every year, but everything seems to be lining up for a solid year."