Migration Alert: Missouri Hunters Have Ducks, Need Weather

Nov. 30, 2017 – Central Flyway – Northwest Missouri

Photo © Michael Furtman

By John Pollmann, WF360 Central Flyway Migration Editor

Hunters in northwest Missouri have Mother Nature to thank for the abundance of ducks currently residing in this portion of the state, and they’re hoping for a little more help from the weather to improve conditions for the remainder of the hunting season. 

There is no shortage of waterfowl in the region—or in much of the rest of the state—as the significant cold front that impacted so much of Prairie Canada and North Dakota in early November helped push down a large number of mallards, green-winged teal, and other ducks. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) reports that nearly 1 million birds are currently in the Show Me State, and roughly seventy percent of those are mallards. 

Bird counts from state- and federally-managed areas in northwest Missouri show large, fairly stable concentrations of ducks. Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City is reporting nearly 100,000 ducks, including 40,000 mallards. At Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Sumner, nearly 100,000 mallards are taking advantage of the area’s shallow waters and food sources. Fountain Grove Conservation Area and Grand Pass Conservation Area are also reporting strong numbers—46,000 and 96,000 mallards respectively. 

The challenge facing hunters in these areas isn’t the abundance of birds; rather, it is the current weather pattern, which has brought moderate temperatures that do little to encourage ducks to move during the day. Moonlit night skies make these conditions even more difficult.

“We are dealing with daytime temperatures in the mid- to high 60s, some days even into the 70s, so ducks are moving a lot before and after shooting time,” reports Habitat Flats guide and co-owner, Tony Vandemore. “With the warm temperatures, we just haven’t seen much of a migration of new birds into the area, so the ducks that are here have been here a while and know the routine. Some cold weather would help us out a lot.” 

The weather forecast for the upper reaches of the Mississippi and Central Flyways includes a mass of cold air descending out of Canada next week, which could be enough to help push down some of the hardy birds still found in the Dakotas. It may also help move the large number of mallards and lesser Canada geese that are currently staging in Nebraska

Vandemore notes that birds migrating into the northern part of Missouri will find outstanding food and water conditions. “We have a lot of food and water available for the birds,” Vandemore said. “Hopefully that cold front next week brings some new ducks.” 

Frank Nelson, ecologist with the MDC, believes that the best hunting of the season could be on its way. “With colder weather forecasted in the next week, we are likely to pick up some additional mallards, but we are also likely to lose some of our other dabbling ducks that have stayed through November,” he wrote in his most recent waterfowl and habitat survey. “That being said, we are likely to peak for the season in the next few weeks. The duration and severity of the cold will likely play a large influence on the shape of our migration curve as we head into December. We’ll just have to stay tuned and see.”

John Pollmann is a freelance writer from Dell Rapids, South Dakota who is an avid waterfowler and conservationist. Pollmann will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Central and Mississippi Flyways throughout the 2017-2018 waterfowl season.