Michael Furtman


After a three-day hiatus, the timing was perfect for the reopening of duck season in Oregon's Western and Columbia River Zones on Nov. 2.

A freeze in Canada forced many birds south and was followed by high winds and drenching seasonal rains, providing arriving migrants with sheet water, plenty of food, and an abundance of quality habitat.

And it looks like the birds are here to stay.

“It's been really good,” reports Mark Nebeker, manager of the state's most popular public duck-hunting area on Sauvie Island near Portland. “There's a lot of sheet water now, so they're spread out a little bit. And there's more wigeon than I've seen in 20 years."

Wigeon are often a key species along the Oregon Coast and its abundant marshes. So far this season, they've also been the dominant bird in hunters' bags at Sauvie Island.

“Instead of going to the coast, they're still plentiful here,” Nebeker says. “Our fields, private clubs . . . everybody is seeing them.”

There are also plenty of wigeon along the coast and throughout the Willamette Valley, reports Kelly Warren, DU regional biologist for western Oregon.

“There are a lot of great reports coming from the Willamette Valley,” Warren says. “The coast had some early wigeon and pintails. The last few storms blew some new ones inland, but as some were kicked out from the coast, more came in. It's been crazy.”

Meanwhile, Warren notes, local mallard production was good, with a very huntable mix of adults and young of the year present.

Despite stale weather earlier, hunting has been “pretty good,” Warren observes.

There's no stale weather in Oregon's immediate future, however. While a hard freeze isn't in the forecast yet for southeastern Oregon, more light rain is expected.

Hunters at Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge continue to score between two and four birds per gun, indicating that migrants are settling in locally.

Scott Nelson, assistant manager at Summer Lake Wildlife Area, also reports good hunting, with wigeon being the top-harvested bird.

“Last year at this time, we were frozen solid,” Nelson recalls. “But we have plenty of water, and birds have been coming and going.”

Hunters will enjoy trips to Summer Lake “until we get colder weather,” Nelson predicts.

While snow geese haven't shown up at Summer Lake this year, the birds are plentiful along the upper Columbia River, and Sauvie Island hunters have their sights set on Nov. 18 when the northwest Oregon goose season reopens.

“We've got 40,000 to 50,000 on the area this year,” Nebeker reports.

That's good news for hunters, who are prohibited from taking any dark geese on the popular hunting area but allowed up to 20 snow geese per day.

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