Dire predictions, drought, and dry marshes were followed by stormy weather over the past week, yielding mixed habitat conditions and hunting success as general waterfowl seasons got under way in Washington and Idaho.
Kyle Spragens, waterfowl section manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), says a series of Pacific storms capped by last week’s “bomb cyclone” have benefited waterfowlers in the state.
“Sounds like it’s been busy,” he reports. “Those on the west side got into a lot of birds, with good numbers of wigeon, teal and even pintails in the mix.”
Geese have been arriving in good numbers along the coast, including the typically early whitefronts and earlier-than-usual cacklers as well as impressive numbers of snow geese.
Spragens credits the mass movements to an early hard freeze in Alaska that pushed birds south.
Matt Wilson, the department’s statewide waterfowl specialist, notes that dry conditions prevail on the east side of the state, concentrating birds on any water they can find.
“It was a bit better opener than last year,” Wilson notes, “but I haven’t heard of many limits.”
Snow geese are already in the Tri-Cities area and more are on the way on both sides of the Cascades.
Doug Hargin, an officer in the Washington Waterfowl Association, says his opening day bag near Vancouver, along the lower Columbia River, was primarily composed of shovelers, and while his hunting was slow, it is improving.
“At Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), north of Vancouver, hunters have been doing very well on ducks and geese, bagging a mix of cacklers, Taverners, lessers, and westerns,” Hargin reports.
Ridgefield NWR is hunted every other day, and waterfowlers looking for additional opportunities can find information on the refuge by visiting https://washingtonwaterfowl.org/resourcesRidgefield%20Hunt%20Blind%20Guide%202021.2022.pdf
Chris Colson, Ducks Unlimited’s biologist in Idaho, has received good reports from this year’s youth waterfowl hunts in central and southwest Idaho, where many young participants enjoyed good action for local ducks.
“There's still more water here than lots of other places,” Colson notes, “and we had decent duck production this summer.”
General waterfowl seasons are now open, and plenty of ducks and geese can be found in parts of the state, especially along the Snake River and adjacent wetlands and agricultural lands.
Colson notes that recent drought conditions caused farmers to leave many fields fallow on the east side of the state. “They just ran out of water and left them. Grain and potatoes are big on the east side, so there should be plenty of food on the ground,” he says.