By Bill Monroe, WF360 Pacific Northwest Migration Editor
“Stale” is a good description for Idaho waterfowling during this year’s prolonged warm and somewhat wet fall. As temperatures drop, however, waterfowl hunters should reap the rewards as the last mallards and Canada geese finally push south across the border from the prairies.
Idaho’s weather this fall has been vastly different from last year, when many wetlands were already iced over and ducks seemed to be everywhere.
“The weather has been stale,” says Jeff Knetter, waterfowl biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, “but hunting has been steady in the southwestern part of the state.”
Habitat conditions and waterfowl movements should change in the weeks ahead as temperatures fall and many wetlands freeze up tight. Knetter says that will drive ducks and geese to open water on rivers and spring creeks.
DU Regional Biologist Chris Colson recently traveled across Idaho and found good numbers of waterfowl on many DU projects. “I’m not sure all the birds have arrived, but a lot of them are already here,” he says.
As cold weather sets in, Colson says scouting will be the key to success. “A lot more corn is being grown around here, and the birds will trade back and forth to the fields,” he adds. “Position yourself between a feeding area and open water, and you’ll see some birds.”
Outfitter Travis Hough agrees. “I hunt from Ontario, Oregon, all the way over to Twin Falls,” he says. “I believe we have had a better push of ducks than most people think. But it’s been too warm; they’re not acting like normal December mallards.”
Hough says that the main flight of Canada geese still hasn’t shown up in his area, although he has seen more snow geese than he expected. He adds that he is confident that colder weather will bring more birds, sooner rather than later.
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 2017–2018 waterfowl season.