Migration Alert: North Dakota Hunters Wait on Weather to Move Waterfowl

Oct. 15, 2020 – Central Flyway

© Michael Furtman

Locally produced ducks and geese are providing the bulk of the opportunities for hunters in North Dakota, who face unseasonably warm temperatures and increased hunting pressure while waiting for an influx of birds from Canada.

There has been very little in the way of a migration of new birds into the northeast region of North Dakota, according to Matt Sprenger, project leader at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Devils Lake Wetland Management District. Sprenger attributes the trickle of birds into the state to the warm, dry weather conditions experienced across much of Prairie Canada since early September.

“Our wetland conditions this spring and summer supported a good season of duck production, so there have been birds around for hunters this fall, but outside of reports of lesser Canada geese and small numbers of snow geese showing up in recent days north of Devils Lake in Cavalier County, we have yet to see any significant migration event,” says Sprenger. “The scaup and green-winged teal that have shown up on our wetlands are another indication that there has been a bit of bird movement, but I’d attribute all of this to more of a ‘calendar’ migration rather than anything due to the weather.”

Wetland conditions around Devils Lake are good, Sprenger reports, adding that the region’s larger semi-permanent wetlands are still holding water despite the dry conditions impacting so much of the state.

“We certainly have the water here to support migrating ducks and geese whenever they do move into the region,” Sprenger says.

With COVID-related travel restrictions limiting access to Canada, North Dakota is a top destination for traveling waterfowl hunters in 2020, but Sprenger says that he has not noticed a substantial uptick around Devils Lake, adding that “the region is always pretty busy with a lot hunter traffic.”

It is a different story farther south, says North Dakota hunter Joe Fladeland, who has spent extensive time looking for ducks and geese between Bismarck and Valley City.

“The number of hunters is pretty crazy, to be honest,” says Fladeland. “The small, local hotels are all full, you see people out scouting everywhere, and it’s really tough to get permission on a field, because so many are already spoken for. I’ve put on as many miles scouting this year as the previous two or three years combined. It’s just that busy.”

North Dakota’s weather hasn’t helped either, Fladeland says, as warmer temperatures have curtailed morning feeding activities for mallards and pintails.

“The forecast for the next week to 10 days is calling for significantly colder temperatures, both here in North Dakota and up in Canada, so I’m expecting things to change for the better,” he says.