By Michael R. Shea, WF360 Atlantic Flyway Migration Editor
Warm weather and low bird numbers have made for a frustrating start to the Keystone State's duck season, but hunters are hoping that falling temperatures and a chance of snow to the north may improve conditions over the next two weeks.
"This season has been very much like last year. The action has been very sporadic, with small pushes of birds coming through," says Jim Feaga, Ducks Unlimited regional field biologist for New Jersey and Pennsylvania. "We've yet to see a grand passage or high bird numbers."
The 2015−2016 waterfowl season in Pennsylvania was characterized by warm weather until the very end of the season, when cold weather kicked off a late migration. Many hunters are now seeing the same thing this year, although reports indicate that early hunting for resident Canada geese and local mallards was better than average.
Avery pro-staffer Kevin Addy shot green-winged teal last week, a rarity in Pennsylvania in late November. "There are very few mallards around, but we still have a lot of geese, which are pretty well educated now," he says.
Lows this week are expected to drop into the high 20s, coupled with rain in the south and light snow in the north. That could concentrate puddle ducks moving south from Canada and northern New York.
In the Empire State's southeast zone, not far from the northeastern Pennsylvania border, puddle duck hunting picked up over the weekend. Several reports indicated that migrating greenheads and pintails had moved into the area, boding well for hunters to the south.
Like most of the northeast, water levels across Pennsylvania were low this summer and fall, but recent rains have brought up many lakes, rivers, and ponds. Yet without cold weather, ducks haven't been forced to feed actively, Addy says.
"We're not seeing any big pushes to feed. Birds are spending all day loafing," he says.
Matt Dull, a pro-staffer with Hard Core Brands, reports that small numbers of divers—buffleheads, redheads, and scaup—have showed up the past few days in the south-central part of the state. "It's not a big push of ducks, but it's starting," he says.
"Today it's in the high 50s," Dull adds. "There's a little bit of rain, but it's just not cold enough to kill ducks. We're still trying to make it happen, but it will be a lot of work for not many ducks until winter weather moves in."
Michael R. Shea is a New York–based freelance writer who hunts waterfowl throughout the Atlantic Flyway. Shea will be providing habitat and hunting reports for the Atlantic Flyway during the 2016–2017 waterfowl season.