With portions of Oklahoma receiving record snowfall last week, there was reason to believe that the winter weather might send ducks packing to escape the cold. In the aftermath of the weather system, however, it appears that little has changed, which means a mix of good and bad news for duck hunters in the Sooner State.
James Morel, chief migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, reports that the initial word from the field is that the snow did little to impact bird numbers in the state, which just began the second split of the season.
“Starting back about that second week in November, we’ve just seen a steady movement of ducks into the state, with the larger concentrations out west,” Morel says. “But with this latest snowstorm it does not appear that we had any real significant influx or exodus of ducks, though it sounds like we did see a small migration of cacklers. Based on the numbers I’ve observed and the reports I’ve received, it appears that we are right at the cusp of seeing our peak duck numbers for the year. Overall, it has been a pretty good year for hunters, particularly those hunting mallards out west.”
Wildlife photographer Joseph Edwards spent several days hunting a tract of flooded green timber in central Oklahoma, where he encountered fair numbers of mallards and other puddle ducks. “There were a surprising number of green-winged teal, but the mallard numbers were not nearly what I expected to see,” Edwards says, adding that the area typically attracts large concentrations of mallards this time of year. “There could be any number of reasons why they aren’t here right now, including the lack of water on other timber areas in the region.”
Just south across the Red River, Clay Shipes, a wetlands biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department based in Tyler, says that the weather in Oklahoma didn’t appear to affect waterfowl concentrations in the extreme northeast corner of the state. “The private landowners that I’m talking to have not seen much in terms of new birds arriving in the past week, and overall they are reporting that hunting this season has been a bit slower than normal,” Shipes says.
There are pockets of birds in the region east of Dallas up to the Sulphur River, Shipes says. The most prevalent species include gadwalls, pintails, and green-winged teal. “We have yet to see a really good push of mallards,” he says. “Another round of weather, perhaps farther north in the flyway, would probably change that for us.”