By M.D. Johnson, Field & Stream's Mississippi Flyway Duck reporter
Even from a Comfort Inn in northern Utah, which is serving as my base of operations as I hunt the Great Salt Lake and surrounding marshes, I can hear the rather rotund lady either warming up or in full voice in the northern portion of the Mississippi Flyway. For many hunters in the Upper Midwest, it's time to start putting away the duck gear and begin thinking about geese, or ice fishing.
Wisconsin and Minnesota's duck seasons will be over by the first of next week. Iowa will soon follow, with a northern closure of December 6 and a south-zone end on the 13th. Reports from the eastern third of The Hawkeye State continue to be mixed; however, most folks I've talked with lately agree that the frigid temperatures of this last week brought in a small number of new mallards and Canadas, while putting birds already in the area on the feed. A gent down Iowa City way (who asked to remain nameless for fear of divulging his exact location) tells of excellent numbers of honkers, with slowly increasing numbers of mallards locally.
"The weather isn't quite right for them to be patterned consistently yet," he said. "And they're flying late--right at or just after legal shooting time. We need some nasty weather, and then it should be on."
Closer to my home, good friend and Avery Territory Manager, Travis Mueller, continues to do well on mallards in the fields, while my–yes, they are mine–Canadas are just beginning to hit the stubble in earnest. Snow, but not too much snow, and cold would help.
My cousin Jim told me of a good hunt he had last week on a small river in northeastern Ohio. "We had a cold front come through," he said, "dropping the temperatures from the 50s to the 20s, with snow squalls. The mallards worked the decoys wonderfully. No calling, they just dropped right in. It was a crazy morning." On a sad note, Jim ended by telling me of a waterfowler who lost his life over the weekend on Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County. It's a reminder that cold water, wind, and cold temperatures can, and quickly, make for a dangerous, even deadly situation.
Be careful out there.
Down in Missouri, Avery pro-staffers Ralph Harr and Shaun Patrick write of "stale birds, no wind, and high temperatures," all of which is making the duck hunting extremely difficult. "There are lots of birds in the area, but they stay where they're safe, and that makes for some very frustrating hunting." And unfortunately, the weather forecast for the St. Louis area throughout the first week of December calls for unseasonably warm--mid-50s to mid-60s--temperatures, south winds, and overcast skies.
Arkansas' duck season is closed following their week-long opener, but will reopen on December 6 with another split before continuing through until January 27. Water, or the lack thereof, seems to be the main factor down at the tail-end of the flyway. Jay Hayter out of El Dorado puts it simply: "We could use some rain for sure. Feeding conditions are good. The fields are cut, but you need water to have ducks." The first week was mixed, he said. Those with water did well on puddlers, including mallards, grey ducks, pintails, and teal.
In the eastern part of the flyway, Tennessee's season is set to reopen on Saturday, December 1, following their weekend start immediately after Thanksgiving. Kentuckians will again have their chance come Monday, December 3. Both states run until January 27. We'll talk to these folks, along with the gunners at the southern tip of the flyway in Louisiana, Mississippi, and of course, Arkansas, and should have some information, along with some good news, by the middle part of the next week.
Find hunting and migration reports in your area on the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map.
Northerners Turn To Geese; Southerners Await Ducks