Many waterfowlers at the top of the Atlantic Flyway continue to enjoy successful hunts, spurred on by the arrival of Old Man Winter and plenty of strong northwest blows. Though the thermometer still rises to unseasonal levels every now and again, it’s been trending downward long enough for ice to form on some of the smaller waters in the region. Fortunately for hunters, we haven’t entered the deep freeze that sends birds packing just yet.
But the big story has been the powerful winds that continue to push birds southward from Boreal Canada and the Maritimes, bringing fresh ducks and geese to both inland and coastal waters. This week should continue to help hunters, with weather models indicating patterns that should create inland snowstorms and freezing squalls along the coast.
Over the past few days, I’ve joined guide Reilly McCue of RPM Outdoors and a handful of writers to test Benelli’s B.E.S.T. coating on a sea duck hunt. Each daybreak greeted us with plenty of scoters and eiders on the northern Massachusetts saltwater, and we were able to watch large flocks of geese following the coastline south. As the sun climbed to its midday peak and temperatures rose, so did the wind velocity, which greatly increased the numbers of ducks and geese seen winging their way south.
“We just had a little cold snap here in the last few days, and we’ve noticed skeins of sea ducks pushing south on the west and northwest winds,” explains McCue, who has guided duck hunters in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts for over 20 years. “While most of the sea ducks have already staged up, we’re still waiting for more to come down from the North Country. These birds mostly move on the sun, but it can take a dip in temperatures to send the rest of them down.”
Unlike sea ducks, larger puddlers and divers tend to follow the snow and ice line south. More birds are arriving daily with the falling mercury, but you’ll need to break out the binoculars and do some scouting if you want to score.
In addition to the big waves of honkers moving through recently, the duck migration has picked up steam as well. Mallards and black ducks are in the inland ponds, and pintails have appeared in greater numbers than normal this year. Some of the traditional spots for greater scaup are loading up quickly, and goldeneye are following their lead.
“If we stay on this cold trend, we’ll continue to see more birds here on the coast,” McCue says. The big storms predicted for this week should keep the birds moving south and hunters’ bags filled. Just remember to watch the wind and stay safe out there.