Migration Alert: Northeast Waterfowl Hunters Keep an Eye on Potential Winter Weather

Dec. 16, 2022 – Atlantic Flyway – Northeast

© Michael Furtman

Following unseasonably warm conditions throughout much of the Atlantic Flyway, the icy winds of winter loom large in the North Atlantic region, where waterfowl numbers are right on target for hunters to finish 2022 strong and kick-off the New Year with plenty of gunning opportunities.

While waterfowl are still widely scattered over a big chunk of real estate, numbers are increasing daily in many traditional hotspots. Most notably, outstanding sea duck numbers are being reported in the coastal zones as well as growing numbers of Canada geese and black ducks that have started to build up over the past week.

“Due to warmer weather not only here, but up north, many inland wetlands are still open, and birds are spread out. Finding concentrations of waterfowl has often been challenging for hunters,” says Sarah Fleming, DU director of conservation programs in the Northeast. “The good news is long range forecasts predict colder weather is on the way, which will result in inland wetlands freezing, pushing many birds to big water and states further south. Divers have been showing up on the lakes, and hunters are reporting some successful hunts. As snow and cold move in, we should also see more Canada geese moving into the region as well.”

The potential for extreme cold temperatures and heavy snow across much of the North Atlantic has waterfowl hunters excited about what’s to come. “As far as puddle ducks, big numbers are mostly inland,” says guide Captain Ruben Perez of East Coast Guide Service, based in Rhode Island. “Nothing is really frozen yet because we’ve had warm weather, and a lot of southerly storms have worked their way up into the region. When these rivers, ponds and bays start tightening up, more birds are going to move toward saltwater.”

Perez specializes in hunting sea ducks along the North Atlantic coast. “Where you normally see big pods of scoters, longtails, and eiders, they’re scattered all over the place. The numbers are here, but it might not look that way because every bay and inlet is holding birds. If you want to hunt sea ducks, you can find them almost anywhere with a little scouting," he notes.