By Chris Jennings
The migration is just beginning across Prairie Canada, and with the season already open, hunters are keying on local ducks and geese. While the weather remains relatively warm in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, duck and goose concentrations will continue to build as the month progresses and cooler temps become the norm.
Ducks Unlimited Canada’s director of operations for the Prairie Region, Dr. Scott Stephens, has spent the opening week of Manitoba’s waterfowl season chasing blue-winged teal on small semipermanent wetlands in the countryside near Oak Hammock Marsh.
“The first three days of the season I traveled to southwest Manitoba, which was pretty dry this year, but I was very surprised to see many of the semipermanent wetlands still holding water,” Stephens says. “This time of year, bluewings are the predominant species, which is why I hunt this area, but I saw plenty of mallards and pintails too.”
Stephens explained that spring habitat conditions were less than ideal in southern Manitoba this year, but scattered thunderstorms recharged wetlands and created viable habitat for brood production in parts of the region. However, not all areas received rainfall, and this may make finding concentrations of ducks a little more challenging this season.
“This is going to be one of those years where there are areas that just didn’t get much rain, and others that had plenty. It’s going to be spotty, and hunters are going to have to poke around a bit to find concentrations of water and ducks,” Stephens reports. “Most of the more permanent wetlands will be holding water, but the smaller, more isolated wetlands across the landscape may be dry.”
In regard to the pace of the migration, Stephens is seeing a small increase in duck numbers, but the birds are largely early migrants, and Manitoba is still holding lots of bluewings.
“I shot seven adult male blue-winged teal just a few days ago, which is a sign that the migration isn’t in full swing yet,” Stephens says. “Those adult males are typically the first to move south due to the fact that they’ve had no responsibilities for some time now.”
As for geese, Stephens reports that very few migratory flocks have arrived around Oak Hammock, but with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, that’s to be expected. Also, he has heard that lesser snow geese had little to no production this year due to a late spring on their Arctic breeding grounds. This will mean fewer juvenile birds in flocks this fall, which will make them much more difficult to decoy. Canada geese fared better, and hunters should expect to see a typical fall flight of these birds.
“The migration is just beginning up here,” Stephens concludes. “Hunters should expect to see numbers similar to last year’s, but finding these birds may prove more difficult than in wetter years.”
For more reports, visit the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map.