While the waterfowl season has already opened in some areas of Oregon and Idaho, the majority of hunters will soon have an opportunity to get afield. Reports from biologists in both states suggest that conditions are typical for this time of year, but considerable uncertainty remains about the size of the fall flight coming from Canada.
“We’re kind of going into the season blind,” says Kelly Warren, DU biologist in Oregon, due to the cancelation of the surveys across Canada. “But the migration appears to have started.”
Several reports on the DU Migration Map indicate large numbers of ducks and geese are already on the move in both Alberta and south into Idaho via the panhandle and west to Kettle Falls, Washington.
Jeff Knetter, migratory game bird coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, reports very good early water conditions in the state, especially in the southwest. Banding crews, he says, found good numbers of locally produced birds.
DU biologist Chris Colson reports that Idaho’s wetlands were largely spared from forest fires this summer. However, he is curious about the impact reduced hunting pressure in Alberta will have on duck numbers and the pace of the migration this fall.
“It’s got to have some effect,” Colson suggests. “Might be interesting to see how things shape up.”
Colson, who recently visited projects in southeast Oregon, observed many early migrants at Oregon’s high desert duck-magnet, Summer Lake.
Brandon Reishus, waterfowl coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, reports that the annual Summer Lake youth hunt produced some very good hunting in September.
Reishus, however, cautions hunters who are planning early-season hunts to check first to make sure their chosen spots have water. While larger marshes such as Summer Lake, Klamath, and Malheur retained water during the current drought, many smaller wetlands are dry for the time being.
Elsewhere, Reishus suggests hunters simply plan to hunt coastal areas since estuaries and tidal wetlands will have plenty of water and ducks.
Reishus adds that interior wetlands were generally undisturbed by Oregon’s fire season. Recent heavy rainfall soaked the ground and, he predicts, will likely help with the production of wetland plants ducks like to eat.
As in any normal year, waterfowlers in the Northwest will have to keep an eye on the weather and remain hopeful that cold, wintry weather will drive the fall flight south sooner rather than later.