Amid an unusual and near-record extended Indian summer, and after scattered success on opening days, Washington and Idaho waterfowl hunters report a mostly underwhelming kickoff to the 2022–23 duck season. All eyes are now watching the approach of more seasonal wet and cold weather.
The sole consolation may be carried on the wings of white geese.
Snow goose hunting has opened across the Pacific Northwest, with substantial indicators of yet another successful nesting season on Russia's Wrangel Island. International tensions precluded the sharing of nesting reports from the Russians, but Rob Wingard, private lands biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), says, “I have seen a whole lot of gray geese already.” . Juvenile snow geese are typically light gray and the easiest to lure into decoys. Wingard says the geese are feeding in dry, cut cornfields but will move to grass as rain arrives and begins to puddle up.
“Our fields are bone dry,” he notes. “It's been glorious weather and we had an inch and a half of rain the other day, but there's still no standing water.”
And duck hunting?
“Slow, slow, slow,” Wingard replies. “We've got some ducks around, but in weather like this they just sit out in the bays.”
Kyle Spragens, waterfowl section manager for WDFW, reports much the same. He adds that the nesting season saw lower than usual production of both dark geese and ducks in the far north and, especially, across western prairie Canada. Biologists and seasoned hunters caution against expecting too many young ducks-- dabblers or divers. “There will not be a lot of naive birds in the flocks,” he predicts.
Hunters, however, have some tools to cope with veteran puddle ducks. In eastern Washington, Mossy Oak pro staffer Mike Franklin, owner of Pacific Wings Waterfowl Adventures, reports a good opening day, with duck limits for eight parties of hunters under his wing. “The next day was slower,” he adds. For opening week, “some hunters did good, and some didn't.” As better waterfowl weather sets in, Franklin reports an increase in teal and pintails, along with large honkers.
Snow geese are pouring into the Columbia River Basin as well.
Of special note from Franklin is an unusual influx of wigeon in the Sandpoint region, northeast of Spokane, Washington.
There have been similar reports for cut cornfields around Nampa, Idaho, confirms Mossy Oak pro staffer Hunter Crownover. “We've been out, but it's been kind of slow,” he states. “There's a storm system crossing the valley and it's pushing some ducks and a few geese. They're almost all wigeon—a giant migration of wigeon.”
Jeff Knetter, upland game and migratory bird coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, predicts the change in weather should get birds moving a bit. “We're waiting for the prairies to freeze and send a few more birds south. However, conditions on the prairies were not great, and numbers were down.”
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