The season is open across much of New York, and waterfowl are on the move despite unseasonably warm temperatures. Waves of ducks and geese are winging their way down from Canada, with more dabblers and divers arriving every day.
“Wigeon, pintails, teal and wood ducks are around in good numbers,” explains Josh Stiller, migratory game bird biologist with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. “The typical early migrators—wigeon and pintails—are all over the state. Mallards and black ducks are just starting to move, but they aren’t the dominant species yet.”
Stiller notes that below-average water levels continue to be an issue throughout the state, which has concentrated the birds. “Lake Champlain is still holding good numbers of waterfowl. The lake is very low, but many of those who made it out for the opener had good hunts. We even have low water on a number of our refuges. Right now, if you find water you will find ducks.”
In the Finger Lakes region, Captain Jay Barnes of Frontenac Fowlers is reporting strong duck numbers in his area. “The migration has definitely kicked off,” Barnes says. “There’s probably record numbers of wigeon around now. We’re starting to see a few mallards. The refuges are holding thousands of ducks.”
Barnes notes that the warm weather has also kept many early migrators in the area. “We actually shot a bluewing teal the other day. Wood ducks are all over the backwaters and swamps,” he adds.
Jordan Davenport of Duxmen Outfitters, who hunts farther downstate, echoes the positive reports. “We had a big push on Tuesday night. I had one of the best hunts I’ve ever had in New York, with a really mixed bag,” he says. “It was a true gentleman’s hunt, where my clients were able to pick the species they wanted to shoot. We were done in time for breakfast around nine. We’re starting to see divers show up. There are huge rafts of ruddy ducks on the reservoirs. I would say there’s a few thousand geese in the area as well.”
The season appears to be off to a great start for New York waterfowlers. With temperatures predicted to drop during the coming week, the hunting will only improve for hunters in the Empire State, and hopefully for those farther down the flyway.