By Bill Monroe, WF360 Pacific Northwest Migration Editor
Following what appears to have been a strong waterfowl opener in Washington and Idaho, the return of mild weather has led to a lull in the migration of ducks and geese across the Pacific Northwest.
“The weather was just cold enough to kill my tomatoes and end the garden,” recalls Chris Colson, a DU biologist in Idaho. “But it wasn’t cold enough to trigger a large migration.”
As a result, many waterfowl remain in northern latitudes. “It’s not even freezing yet in Nome, Alaska,” says Kyle Spragens, waterfowl coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Alaska has been incredibly warm. There has been no reason for waterfowl to go anywhere yet.”
Canadian outfitters and their clients are also reaping the rewards of a stalled migration. In Alberta, early snowstorms stranded crops in the fields, giving waterfowl plenty to eat.
“The ducks and geese are hanging around,” says Aaron Sauer of Venture North Outfitters in Falun, Alberta. “It’s going to take some colder temperatures than we’re seeing to push them out.”
For the time being, northwestern waterfowlers will have to make do with local birds and early migrants that arrived earlier in the month. Spragens says cackling geese have made their way south, with the majority of the birds found from Nisqually to the Columbia River.
For duck hunters, he recommends scouting the “wasteways,” connecting waterways from Winchester south toward Frenchmen Hills and the Potholes. Spragens’ department has put a lot of effort into developing wetlands and waterfowl habitat throughout central Washington.
Chris Bonsignore, a DU biologist in eastern Washington, echoes Spragens’ assessment. Following a good opening weekend, waterfowl have become scarce in many areas, he reports.
On the plus side, Idaho has plenty of water, even in the south, Colson says. Lakes such as Pend Oreille and Coeur d’Alene are at high levels, which should help hold waterfowl once the migration kicks in.
Colson says the best opportunities for Idaho hunters this coming week will probably be along the Snake River, where an abundance of agricultural crops and roost ponds provide ideal habitat for waterfowl.
Bill Monroe is an Oregon-based freelance writer who has hunted the Pacific Flyway for three decades. Monroe will provide hunting and habitat reports throughout the Pacific Flyway for the 2018-2019 waterfowl season.