Michael Furtman


An early-season migration of puddle ducks and geese into North Dakota is providing a boost for waterfowl hunters in areas of the state with improved wetland conditions. With no significant change in the weather in the near future to drive birds south, hunters are hopeful that these new birds will continue to create opportunities in the weeks to come.

The month of September featured unseasonably mild weather conditions, but an early-October blast of colder temperatures and gusty northwest winds delivered the first real migration of waterfowl into North Dakota, explains Brian Vose, Refuge Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Devils Lake Wetland Management District.

“There was a noticeable change in the number and species of waterfowl in the region with last week’s weather,” Vose says. “The most obvious indication of a migration was the arrival of snow geese, but I’m seeing additional ducks on the wetlands in the area, too.”

That there is water to be utilized by ducks and geese migrating into the region is good news, Vose says, as the north-central part of North Dakota was extremely dry coming out of summer.

“We’ve received some very good rainfall in September and October, which has really improved conditions, in terms of our sub-surface moisture levels, as well as water levels in our wetland basins,” Vose says. “Any snow we receive over the winter will only help improve conditions as we look to next spring.”

Wetland conditions vary in parts of southeastern North Dakota, but Greg Hastings, a conservation officer with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in the Jamestown region, reports that where he sees water, he is also seeing waterfowl.


Michael Furtman

“Overall, our numbers seem to be good, especially after the cold and wind last week,” Hasting says. “I’m seeing cranes, new puddle ducks, specklebellies, and even swans in the area, which are all new to this region in the last week.”

It is a similar story in the central part of the state, according to Tanner Gue, Ducks Unlimited’s Manager of Conservation Programs for North Dakota.

“Based on my observations while scouting, it appears that we picked up new gadwall, wigeon and green-winged teal last week,” says Gue. “I was a little surprised to see them arrive, to be honest, just based on how mild our weather was leading up to that weather system. I suspect that these birds probably didn’t find what they were looking for in the Prairie Pothole Region in Canada, where the conditions remain very dry, so they just kept flying south until they found water in North Dakota.”

Gue is optimistic that the new arrivals to North Dakota will remain in those parts of the state with quality wetland conditions because of the availability of preferred food resources.

“And I hope they stick around for a while. They are fun ducks to hunt, especially until we see the first real migration of mallards into the state,” Gue says.

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