After a strong start to the waterfowl season, Nebraska hunters are hoping that a cold front in the forecast for this week will deliver another round of ducks and geese from the north and ramp up opportunities across the state.
A timely weather system in October helped the season get off on the right foot, says Ross Juelfs, a guide at the North Platte Outpost Lodge near Minatare in Nebraska’s panhandle.
“The birds were here when the season opened the third week in October. Some may have been local birds, but I think we picked up a lot of birds from Canada when the weather changed up there,” says Juelfs. “Since then, we’ve seen a little bit of everything around here in terms of weather, from really cold temperatures and snow to some pretty warm temperatures. These changes have helped keep the mallards moving around as they shift from the river to small wetlands in response to a freeze or thaw. Another round of cold and another change in the weather sure wouldn’t hurt us, though.”
Juelfs says western Nebraska seems to be holding a good concentration of lesser Canada geese and snow geese, but the large Canada geese have yet to arrive in any big numbers.
“Overall, it’s been a good start to things on the ducks, as they’ve been responsive to calling,” he says. “Cloudy, windless days are tough, like always, but when we catch some sunshine and have a wind, the hunting has been pretty good.”
Hunters enjoyed a strong start to the season in central Nebraska, too, but Brad Krohn, project leader at the Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District, reports that the area is “in the middle of a lull right now.”
“We had quite a few birds early, thanks to strong local production of blue-winged teal, mallards, and other puddle ducks, and also a decent push of birds from the north, but a lot of those ducks have moved out,” says Krohn. “Still, this has probably been one of the best starts to a season in this area in a long, long time. It’s far and away the best start to a season I’ve seen.”
Quality wetland conditions helped attract migrating waterfowl to the basin, Krohn says, and though the region is losing a little water heading into the end of November, the conditions are still favorable for ducks and geese.
Water conditions in eastern Nebraska were a hot topic heading into the season, as floodwaters had essentially turned the Missouri River corridor into one giant moist-soil unit.
“And the ducks showed up,” reports Mark Vrtiska, waterfowl program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Mallards outfitted with radio transmitters as a part of a telemetry program were actually there up until the beginning of this week and have just moved on, but there are still plenty of ducks taking advantage of the food and water along the eastern edge of the state.”
Overall, Vrtiska echoes the other reports from across Nebraska – that the start to the waterfowl season has been very strong, but a moderating weather pattern has changed bird concentrations and behaviors.
A winter weather system is forecast to run through South Dakota this week, bringing snow, colder temperatures, and northwest winds, which could force some of the mallards, snow geese, and other waterfowl staging there to move south.
“We depend on the weather to push birds into the state, so any sort of cold front that moves through the Dakotas tends to help us a little bit,” says Vrtiska. “We’re all kind of waiting on a change at this point.”