Migration Alert: Pacific Northwest Early Season Outlook

Oct. 4, 2017 – Pacific Northwest

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Photo © Michael Furtman

By Bill Monroe, WF360 Pacific Northwest Migration Editor

The Pacific Northwest received significant precipitation after last year’s duck and goose seasons closed, and now waterfowlers in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are poised to reap the rewards.

Following several years of exceptionally dry weather in eastern Washington, habitat conditions have improved dramatically, and now the drought has nearly been forgotten.

“Some of the old timers can hardly remember seeing it like this,” says Chris Bonsignore, a DU regional biologist in eastern Washington. “It’s as wet as we’ve seen in a long time—just a phenomenal set of conditions for waterfowl.”

Eastern Washington’s scablands and potholes should offer good hunting opportunities on opening weekend. Local ducks are the rule in these areas, and production this year was excellent. Along the coast, migrants are moving through and hunting should be good in saltwater marshes.

In eastern Oregon, Summer Lake should have an excellent opener, with new birds moving in and good water conditions. Warner Wetlands should also hold good numbers of birds. The waterfowl season will open a week later along the coast, where hunters will have the opportunity to pursue Chinook salmon as well as ducks. 

“The weather has been ducky,” says Brandon Reishus, waterfowl biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The early migrants—pintails, wigeon, and teal—have already arrived in good numbers. They’re on the coast and in the east. We’re looking better than we have for the past few years.”

Chris Colson, a DU biologist in Idaho, is also optimistic about the upcoming waterfowl season opener.

 “We’re mostly seeing mallards along the Snake River,” Colson says. “Local birds roost and then use the farm fields. They’ve already gotten a taste for corn.”

Hunting should be good across most of southern Idaho, with plenty of water and crops for local ducks. Hunters should concentrate on the Snake River and state wildlife management areas. Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs are drawn down a bit, but Lake Pend Oreille and Coeur d’Alene are at good levels.

As winter weather sets in across western Canada over the next few months, the bulk of the waterfowl migration will arrive from the north. With luck, the birds will settle in the Pacific Northwest and stay for a while.

“Last year’s weather pattern was good early, but then we froze up and the birds headed right over us,” Bonsignore says. “We’re hoping the excellent habitat and weather will keep them here.”

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.