By Bill Monroe, WF360 Pacific Flyway Migration Editor
Unfavorable weather conditions—warm temperatures, fog, and a lack of precipitation—combined with a full moon had Washington waterfowlers struggling over the holidays.
Dr. Mark Petrie, director of conservation planning at DU's Vancouver, Washington, office, says that dry weather, in particular, has had an impact on hunting success. "The lack of water means all that food on private lands isn't flooded yet; that slows down the hunt for the club hunters," he explains.
Fortunately, conditions are improving. While no major storms are in the short-term forecast, the waning moon will reduce waterfowl feeding at night. This may improve hunting as the birds transition into daylight feeding patterns.
"When waterfowl have limited options and conditions are tough, scouting becomes critical," Petrie says. "Moving to areas where the birds have been night feeding could pay off as their feeding patterns shift to daylight hours.
Good numbers of geese and dabblers are concentrated in the upper Columbia and Snake River basins, and sea ducks are abundant on Puget Sound and along the northern Olympic Peninsula.
Across the Columbia River in Oregon, waterfowl hunters on Sauvie Island Wildlife Management Area have been reporting sporadic success. Thousands of geese, scaup, and other divers are rafted up in the Columbia Gorge. Geese have been feeding in wheat fields and grasslands on both sides of the river, largely at night.
As waterfowl continue to seek available habitat, ducks and geese may be found in nontraditional areas. Scouting and a little help from Mother Nature will hopefully offer Washington and Oregon waterfowlers the opportunity to ring in the New Year with success.
Bill Monroe is an Oregon-based freelance writer who has hunted the Pacific Flyway for three decades. Monroe will provide hunting and habitat reports throughout the Pacific Flyway for the 2013-2014 waterfowl season.