Idaho Waterfowl Numbers Spike as Weather Deteriorates

Migration Alert: Dec. 8, 2016 – Pacific Flyway – Idaho

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Photo © Avery Outdoors

By Bill Monroe, WF360 Pacific Northwest Migration Editor

Subfreezing temperatures finally enveloping much of Idaho and deep snow in the eastern portion of the state are driving ducks to the Snake River and any other open water the birds can find. Reports of new birds arriving from Canada is exactly what waterfowlers in Idaho—and throughout the Pacific Flyway—have been waiting to hear all season.

"The cooler weather appears to have brought more birds into the area," says Jeff Knetter, waterfowl biologist for Idaho Fish and Game. "I have heard of good numbers at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Area and the Snake River near Hagerman. Water bodies are likely starting to freeze in eastern Idaho, so birds will be concentrated along open waterways."

Chris Colson, DU biologist in Boise, agrees with Knetter's assessment.

"It looks like the honkers arrived in strong numbers this week," he says. "And we're starting to see mallards in the ditches. I tried calling a couple of hunting buddies, and they're not answering their phones. That usually means something is up."

Nearly three feet of snow fell in the Grand Tetons along Idaho's eastern border this past week, and more is on the way. Even Boise has an inch or two of accumulation, and more is expected.

"It's a nice cold snap," says Jon Roadenbaugh of Four Flyways guide service in Marsing, located west of Boise. "Lake Lowell is starting to freeze up and that pushes birds around. We started shooting limits last Friday, and we've been going strong ever since."

While hunters will find good to excellent hunting on the Snake River itself, Colson advises hunters to seek out spots along creeks, drainage ditches, open spring-fed ponds and the Snake's marshlands and tributaries.

Colson believes warmer weather will allow birds to stick around for a while in these areas.

"I don't think all the water is going to freeze up," Colson says.

Roadenbaugh agrees, giving Idaho hunters a thumbs-up for at least the next couple of weeks. "It can get cold, but this is the time to be out," he says. "This is the way it should be."

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 2016-2017 waterfowl season.