Migration Alert: Changing Condition Improve Much of Oregon’s Waterfowling Opportunities

Nov. 11, 2021 – Oregon 

© Michael Furtman

After the opening month of the duck season, Oregon hunters have settled into a better routine than expected. Not as good perhaps as last year, but also a little more productive than predicted as summer's intense heat and prolonged drought suddenly gave way to fall rain and wind. Current forecasts are showing more rain in the near future, which may help habitat conditions in some areas.

“It's been an interesting year, with drought going into heavy rain,” observes Kelly Warren, Ducks Unlimited's western Oregon biologist. “It's nice to have some water on the landscape. Migrants are not just shooting through.”

He describes October success in his region, the state's most populated, as a “mixed bag.”

“Some days, the coast shot well, and some days it didn't; some days the (Willamette) valley shot well, and some days it didn't.”

The lower Columbia, from Wauna to Astoria, has probably been the best, but Warren believes those who can get out safely on stormy days can find good hunting coastwide.

That said, hunting in the valley does seem to pick up after savage winds whip up coastal estuaries and push birds inland.

Mark Nebeker, manager of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's popular Sauvie Island Wildlife Management Area near Portland, notes a bit of a drop in hunter numbers from last year’s surge as the pandemic wanes, schools reopen and folks get back to work. However, he says the interest is still above average.

They're rewarded with a decent average to date of 2.2 birds per gun. Green-winged teal top the list of success, followed by mallards, wigeon, shovelers and pintails, in that order. Handfuls of gadwalls and divers round out the list.

Sauvie Island, fortunately, has what several other state-owned areas are missing – a good water supply, pumped from the nearby Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

That's not the case across most of the other state-operated hunting areas, according to Brandon Reishus, the department's migratory waterfowl coordinator, who gives this thumbnail:

Fern Ridge (near Eugene): Still very dry with little water and slow hunting.

Charleston/Coquille Valley (south coast): Slowly flooding the wetlands from area rivers and should improve.

Ladd Marsh (La Grande in the northeast): Also, still in need of some water to hold migrating ducks.

Summer Lake (southeast of Bend): Still a better bet, also with a year-round water supply; hunters are scoring nearly two birds each per day and have taken full advantage of an early arrival of snow geese.

Klamath (south central): National wildlife refuges straddling the border with California are bone dry but hunting on Miller Island has been fair. “To date, hunters there have taken more pintails than the usual local mallards and gadwalls,” Reishus says, “and with a bag limit of one (pintail) per day, it's very clear east and southeast Oregon production was very, very poor,” Reishus says.

All eyes now are on the continued warmer-than-normal weather in Prairie Canada, pinning hopes on a hard freeze to drive birds south into the region.