By Joseph Albanese, WF360 Atlantic Flyway Migration Editor
Rain, rain, and more rain has characterized the season thus far in Massachusetts. Ample rain translates to ample habitat, allowing hunters that do some searching to find pockets of ducks in areas with little hunting pressure.
Current DU District Chairman Mike Donnelly calls central Massachusetts home, though he will often find himself on the coast when the mercury drops and freezes the ducks out of inland ponds and rivers. With the opening of the coastal zone still weeks away, he has been diligently hunting the state’s interior.
The Nashua River is currently plenty high, which means there’s a lot of habitat available, and Donnelly explains that this is “good for hunters and good for ducks.” But to be successful, you’ll need to do some scouting. The birds are spread out, which he believes creates more hunting opportunities. He suggests using public access easements that have been secured by DU on private land, like the recently completed project in southern Berkshire County.
Resident Canada geese have been abundant and keeping many hunters occupied. “I’ve been fortunate enough to harvest five banded geese this season,” Donnelly says. “All but one was banded in central Massachusetts.” The local Canadas can be found feeding in freshly flooded fields in the morning and loafing on ponds in the afternoons. To be successful with the cagey locals, hunt a field they’ve been hitting the day after a good rain.
“The wood duck population is stronger than ever,” Donnelly adds, speaking about America’s favorite tree-nesting duck. Woodies provided plenty of sport for Donnelly early this season, likely due to the excellent hatch the birds experienced this year. The big ducks are starting to show, and Mike believes the coming front will push the bulk of the black ducks down within the next few weeks.
DU regional chairman Joe Delsoldato hangs his hat in the Berkshires and hunts about 45 days a season. He believes the migration is well under way with “flocks of 30 to 50 geese” arriving in recent days. Despite warm temperatures, Delsoldato says the “mallards are starting to show right on schedule.”
On some of the bigger waters he frequents, ringnecks are also beginning to arrive. Hooded and common mergansers are right on their heels, making their way south through the state. Diver hunters should seek out larger bodies of water to cash in on the diving duck migration that could be picking up speed with the blast of colder air expected at week’s end.
High, fast water was a bit of an issue for Delsoldato, causing him to rethink a couple of his favorite river spots. Instead, he’s been looking for slower water in river bends or keying on freshly flooded areas. These recently flooded habitats, which provide abundant food resources for both resident and migratory waterfowl, can have immense drawing power. Delsoldato suggests using aerial photos, such as those on Google Earth, to make scouting time more efficient. The higher than normal water levels may just lead you to a new favorite spot.
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Joseph J. Albanese is a New York–based freelance writer with a lifelong love of salt marshes and Atlantic Brant. Joseph will be providing habitat and hunting reports for the Atlantic Flyway during the 2018−2019 waterfowl season.