By Wade Bourne, WF360 Mississippi Flyway Migration Editor
Mississippi hunters pray for cold weather up north to push ducks into their state, and this year their prayers have been answered. A series of powerful cold fronts, hard freezes, and snow storms in the Midwest has triggered one of the biggest migrations of ducks into Mississippi
in several years. The result has been better, more consistent shooting throughout the Delta and smiles on many hunters
"Our duck count in the Delta was much higher than it's been in the last several years," says James Callicutt, waterfowl program biologist for the Mississippi
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "It's been a long time since we've seen a really cold, snowy winter, and the ducks have responded by moving into our state en masse. Earlier in the season, they were concentrated more on managed areas (public and private), but now they're spread out across the Delta."
Callicutt conducted an aerial survey on Jan. 7-9, just after the polar vortex froze many of this region's shallow wetlands.
"When we flew, the ducks were concentrated more on the river and deeper oxbows and sloughs that remained ice free. And there were some pretty impressive numbers," he says. "We estimated 300,000 mallards in the Delta, and there were also a lot of pintails, gadwalls
, canvasbacks, redheads and other species. Again, we tallied more ducks than we've counted in a long time."
Callicutt adds that just after the survey was completed, many shallower wetlands thawed, and the ducks spread back out across the landscape, improving hunting prospects across the region.
"Catfish" Flautt of Tallahatchie Hunts guide service in Webb, Mississippi
, has witnessed this dispersal. "We've had a lot of gadwalls hitting the sloughs the last couple of days," he reports. "Shooting has been pretty good. In fact, we had a record one-day harvest this past Saturday, then the action slowed down on Sunday."
Flautt adds that "our ducks are getting pretty skittish. We're cutting back on the number of decoys and motion decoys, and we're moving to areas where the ducks want to work. Overall, we've had a good season."
Lamar Boyd of Beaver Dam Hunting Services in Tunica, Mississippi
, reports that while his duck season has also been good overall, the shooting has slowed down in recent days. "We've had a really great year until this week, but our birds left over the weekend," Boyd says.
All things considered, it's obvious that while Mississippi has attracted a lot of ducks this year, hunting
success remains spotty. Hunters who can keep up with the birds' movements can enjoy consistent shooting. Those who are not so mobile continue to experience sporadic action due to the whims of the birds, which are often here today and gone tomorrow.
Mississippi's duck season closes Jan. 26 (except for the one-day Youth Hunt on Feb. 1). The weather forecast
for the last week calls for good hunting conditions. Another cold front will bring sub-freezing temperatures, but daytime temperatures will warm back up, and ice shouldn't keep hunters out of their blinds.
Wade Bourne is the Ducks Unlimited Magazine editor-at-large, former
DU-TV host, avid waterfowler and conservationist. Bourne will provide
habitat and hunting reports for the Mississippi Flyway throughout the
2013-2014 season for Waterfowl360 and the DU Migration Map.