Rain, Warm Weather Equals Slow Start for Washington and Idaho Waterfowlers

Migration Alert: Nov. 2, 2016 – Washington and Idaho

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Photo © John Hoffman

By Bill Monroe, WF360 Pacific Northwest Migration Editor

The remnants of a typhoon left the Pacific Northwest drenched with record October rainfall. The storm scattered local and early-migrating ducks across thousands of newly flooded acres in Washington and Idaho, leaving waterfowlers waiting for new birds in these states.

"There was one bit of cool and stormy weather (two weeks ago) and we had a shot of ducks move through western Washington, but they're pretty spread out now," says Kyle Spragens, waterfowl section manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Opening weekend reports were good in many areas, but hunting success has tapered off as the first wave of migrants has pushed south or dispersed on the abundance of water.

"It's just been one of those years," says Chris Bonsignore, DU regional biologist in Spokane. "We've had a ton of rain (six inches in October set records across eastern Washington) and small creeks and tributaries are out of their banks."

On the bright side, Bonsignore says the rainfall will help recharge wetland habitats in the state's Potholes region and provide plenty of habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl when they arrive.

In Idaho, Lake Coeur d'Alene and the region south to Boise received a record seven inches of rainfall in some areas, reports Jeff Knetter, waterfowl biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"The last week of October is when we usually get the first nice push of birds, but we haven't seen much down here," Knetter says. "Folks did well on the opener, but recent reports suggest that new birds are needed. That being said, precipitation over the last week or so should create newly flooded feeding opportunities for waterfowl in the area."

Chris Colson, a DU biologist in Boise, echoes other reports from the region. "Most of the ducks aren't down here yet," he says. "When they do arrive, they're going to have more places to feed and rest and that may make the hunting more challenging."

Unusually warm weather persists in western Canada, where the forecast is for above-freezing daytime temperatures the next couple weeks as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, and west across central and southern British Columbia. Until cold weather freezes wetlands across western Canada—forecasters say maybe by Thanksgiving—geese will offer some of the best prospects for waterfowl hunters in the Pacific Northwest.

"Our season started out slower than usual," says Jon Roadenbaugh of Four Flyways in Marsing, Idaho. "There has been a slight trickle of new geese with a couple snows traveling with the honkers, and we're focusing on them until the ducks arrive. We usually get our first big push of migrants during, or before, the full moon in November."

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.