By Bill Monroe, WF360 Pacific Flyway Migration Editor
Reports from Idaho's panhandle indicate that the fall waterfowl migration is now in full swing. With Pacific storm fronts approaching from the northwest, coupled with the onset of freezing temperatures in prairie Canada, hunting success should only improve throughout Idaho and much of the Pacific Flyway.
"When I lived [in the Panhandle], you could always count on a surge of northern birds the last week of October," says Jeff Knetter, waterfowl biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Indeed, some hunters in the Sand Point area report a major influx of ducks on Lake Pend Oreille. In addition, some hunters in the state's southeastern agricultural areas are also reporting limits, but the best is yet to come.
"The weather hasn't been miserable enough yet," says Chris Colson, a DU regional biologist based in Boise.
Idaho's terrain influences the distribution of waterfowl as the season progresses. Birds filter into the panhandle early, and then spread out across the south, loitering in the Snake River Valley from Twin Falls to Pocatello. Good hunting is also available near farming communities closer to the Oregon border such as Weiser, Payette, Fruitland, Nampa, Caldwell, and others.
The elevation increases along the Snake as you move east, Colson says, so when freeze-up occurs sometime between November and late December, many ducks migrate south while others move west into agricultural zones. Until then, hunters south of the panhandle should concentrate on the Snake River as ducks arrive.
Knetter says some of the best hunting of the season occurs on spring creeks, which remain open after shallow ponds and marshes freeze, concentrating remaining waterfowl.
"Stick to the Snake River plain for now," Colson says. "Our best hunting is late, when it's cold everywhere and it moves birds to the west."
Washington and Oregon hunters, meanwhile, report decent numbers of snow geese in Skagit Flats, north of Seattle, and an influx of ducks on Oregon's Sauvie Island Wildlife Management Area near Portland.
California duck hunters are still experiencing a slow start, but good numbers of white-fronted geese have arrived in the north.
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.