Minnesota waterfowl hunters have been patiently waiting for the migration to kick in, and all indications are that the time has finally come. Persistent summer-like weather had stalled even early migrating species on the breeding grounds, but that all changed when seasonal weather pushed through the northern portions of the Prairie Pothole Region this week.
The latest reports indicate ducks are finally moving southward in good numbers. Minnesota DNR Waterfowl Staff Specialist Steve Cordts reports a diversity of ducks being taken throughout Minnesota, including diver species that follow the calendar more consistently, as well as a variety of puddle ducks.
Persistent drought has plagued much of the Midwest throughout the summer months, turning many wetlands into overgrown mudflats. Recent rains have recharged many of Minnesota’s plentiful marshes, particularly in the southern two-thirds of the state, providing waterfowl with a prime food source as moist-soil vegetation withers and drops seeds.
Access will remain an issue in many areas as water levels, while improved, continue to present a major challenge for watercraft. This is especially the case in the northern part of the state, where water levels remain well below normal. This includes major water bodies such as Lake of the Woods. While ducks and geese continue to use large marshy areas associated with bigger lakes, getting to them is often a challenge.
In other good news, divers are beginning to stage on traditional migration stopovers where wild rice, sago pond weed and wild celery offer species such as redheads, canvasbacks, and ring-necked ducks with ample forage.
Crops continue to be harvested at a good pace, which is providing geese and mallards with abundant food resources. Big numbers of geese are being reported throughout much of the state. Incidentally, an unusual number of white-fronted geese as well as a fair number of snow geese are now present in western Minnesota.
“It’s been a strange year. We shot specks on the opener, which is very rare,” says Bret Amundson, Sporting Journal Radio and Prairie Sportsman TV host, who hunts primarily in the west-central portion of the state.
“Pintails and wigeon have been moving through, and we had our first sightings of lesser Canadas the other day. You may have to put on some miles while scouting, but birds can be found,” Amundson adds.
At this time last season, frigid temperatures, deep snow, and ice essentially ended the Minnesota waterfowl season early. This year, above-average temperatures continue to slow the pace of the migration, and the best hunting is yet to come.