By John Pollmann, WF360 Central/Mississippi Flyway Migration Editor
Just a week ago, many Missouri waterfowlers were enjoying stellar duck hunting, with straps of greenheads being the rule rather than the exception. By all measures, the season was going great.
Enter Mother Nature.
"We had a stretch of cold weather that locked up all the shallow water tight," explains Tony Vandemore, guide and co-owner of Habitat Flats near Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Missouri. "There are still some good pockets of mallards around, but the majority of the birds have passed through this area."
In seasons past, mild weather has provided duck hunting opportunities well into December for Missouri hunters, but that is not likely to be the case this season.
"We have four to five inches of ice on the smaller wetlands, and the Missouri River is almost completely covered with floating ice," says Avery Outdoors pro-staffer Clint Roby. "It's the earliest in the season that I can remember where we've frozen up and lost so much open water. We still have ducks, but we are well past our peak numbers for mallards; things have definitely changed in the past week or so."
While small pockets of hardy mallards remain, Roby says that getting to the birds is proving to be a challenge.
"You've got some of the bigger reservoirs that have open water, but the boat ramps are completely locked up so there is no way to get out after them," Roby says. "Field hunts are an option, but when things get cold, the birds tend to sit tight on the roost to keep the water open and conserve energy, so there is limited movement during the day."
There is some good news to come out of the Show Me State, however; warmer temperatures are slated to return throughout much of Missouri this week, which may be enough to convince a few mallards to filter back north for the final weeks of the season. Otherwise, Missouri hunters can turn their attention to Canada geese that arrived in force with last week's cold and snow.
"We lost ducks but we sure did pick up the geese," says Kyle Scott, an Avery pro-staffer from northeast Missouri. "The past two days, we have shot limits of Canadas. Things are getting real good."
The first snow of the season – more than six inches – fell last Friday and Saturday north of Hannibal, which Scott says makes for great field hunting conditions, while the Mississippi River offers good opportunities to shoot geese over water late into the season.
"We hunted the river yesterday and shot a limit of honkers, but only saw one flock of mallards," Scott says. "We are definitely on the tail-end of the mallard migration, but the geese are here, and we'll take what we can get."
John Pollmann is a freelance writer from Dell Rapids, South Dakota who is an avid waterfowler and conservationist. Pollmann will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Central and Mississippi Flyways throughout the 2013-2014 waterfowl season.