While bird numbers are not yet at peak levels, hunters in South Dakota are finding new opportunities, courtesy of a calendar push of divers and puddle ducks into the state.
There has been a noticeable increase in bird numbers over the past week, according to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks senior waterfowl biologist Rocco Murano.
“The biggest sign, maybe the most visible sign, that there has been a bit of a migration event is that we’re seeing swans on some of the larger semi-permanent wetlands. Regarding ducks, I think we’re kind of in the middle of that calendar migration. We are starting to see a bump in gadwall, wigeon and green-winged teal, along with some divers,” says Murano. “There hasn’t been much of a mallard migration at this point, and that will take some help from the weather to push those birds down into South Dakota.”
Murano says that hunters can monitor the mallard migration in part by visiting the GFP website, where weekly updates will be posted throughout the season.
“I’ve got a crew of about a dozen folks who will be helping provide updates on mallards from around the state,” Murano says.
Along with the report of waterfowl migrating into the area, a series of October rain storms is providing another bit of good news for South Dakota hunters.
“Similar to North Dakota, wetland conditions in parts of South Dakota have benefited from recent rains. While there are large areas that are abnormally dry, this moisture has been good news for producers, and it is a step in the right direction for breeding and nesting habitat next spring and summer,” says Bruce Toay, manager of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited in South Dakota.
Toay reports that the northern tier of counties east of the Missouri River have started to see the first migrating flocks of waterfowl, including speckle-bellied geese, lesser Canada geese and some divers and puddle ducks.
“It is a waiting game at this point to see what the weather will do,” says Toay. “Temperatures have been rather mild, so as the migration continues to ramp up, the big question will be how long the birds will be able to have access to open water and food resources.”