Migration Alert: Oregon Hunters Off to a Strong Start

Nov. 10, 2020 – Pacific Flyway – Oregon

© Michael Furtman

Oregon’s duck season opened with a bang, and despite low water conditions, hunters continue to do well.

“Things look great!” declared Brandon Reishus, waterfowl coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “My metric is Sauvie Island (Wildlife Area), and it’s off to a fantastic start. It’s far and away the best start to the season we’ve seen.”

Indeed, Oregon’s most popular public hunting area typically starts strong, but the action quickly abates before northern birds begin to arrive later in the season.

This year, however, the hunting success at Sauvie Island has consistently averaged between two and three birds per gun, by far the best kickoff to a duck season in a long time.

Same, too, for Summer Lake in southeast Oregon and Klamath Lake, which Reishus proclaims as a habitat improvement success, where hunting has been “phenomenal.”

Even Ladd Marsh in northeast Oregon and the Mid-Columbia River refuges are seeing better than usual hunting.

While wigeon numbers seem to be lagging inland, the always reliable Oregon Coast has plenty, especially in Tillamook Bay, where wigeon winter in impressive numbers.

A mix of wigeon, mallards and teal have been holding in the lower Columbia estuary.

“We’re definitely seeing signs of an early migration,” agrees Kelly Warren, DU regional biologist in Oregon. “There are more pintails than we’ve ever seen, and the early storms on the coast pushed some of the birds into the Willamette Valley.”

All eyes are now on an approaching Pacific storm, which is expected to bring moderate rain and high winds to the region on Friday and Saturday.

While storms can make boating hazardous on open water, hunters can find plenty of birds in protected areas along shorelines, small ponds, flooded timber, and other secluded areas.

On the Columbia River between Tower Road and Umatilla are numerous walk-in areas offering protection for ducks and hunters who don’t want to ride out the whitecaps.

“It’s going to be a good storm,” Warren predicts. “It should put some water on the landscape.”

Reishus is looking forward to the rain as well. Popular hunting areas on Fern Ridge Reservoir near Eugene, for example, are still “dry as a bone,” he reports. Reservation hunts will begin later this month.

Warren also calls attention to Oregon’s newest national wildlife refuge, Wapato Lake, west of Portland. Ducks Unlimited was involved in habitat restoration work on the refuge, and hunting opportunities should be good for ducks from blinds in a 275-acre area on the lake’s north end.

A lottery system will randomly draw blinds when the season begins in December. The deadline for submitting applications is Sunday, November 15.