After an excellent start to the 2021-22 waterfowl season, hunters in Northern California are challenged to find concentrations of ducks, as heavy rains in December created massive amounts of new habitat in the region.
The season couldn’t have started any stronger, says Ryley Haugh, guide with Merlo Waterfowl Company near Durham. There was just enough water to attract large numbers of wigeon, pintails and other puddle ducks, and there was plenty of food in the region’s fields of flooded rice.
“But when those big rains came in mid-December the birds really shifted,” says Haugh. “We know we lost a lot of ducks to the southern part of the valley, and those that stayed here really scattered. There’s a lot of new water, and that gives the birds a lot of places to go.”
While the local duck population has decreased, pintails remain in large numbers, and smaller concentrations of mallards, wigeon, shovelers and green-winged teal can also be spotted feeding in flooded rice checks. In addition, the region has picked up good numbers of white-fronted geese and snow geese. Non-game species like sandhill cranes and tundra swans are also abundant.
“With about a month of the season left, what we need is another good push of birds, either out of Washington an Oregon, or a big wind to send some of those that we lost to the south back up here,” says Haugh. “There’s still time to turn things around.”