By Joseph Albanese, WF360 North Atlantic Flyway Editor
Reports indicate that waterfowlers in northern and western New York have had a solid start to their season, with puddle ducks providing most of the action thus far. Recent northwest winds have also pushed migrating waterfowl into the region, but the peak of the migration has yet to take place for hunters in the Empire State.
Captain Nick McNamara, of Basswood Lodge, hunts the Saint Lawrence River and surrounding agricultural lands and wetlands. With temperatures still above freezing, he’s been concentrating his efforts on smaller waters. Right now, he’s seeing fair numbers of ducks. He’s also optimistic about this weekend’s goose opener, as plenty of honkers are staging in the area.
Mossy Oak Pro Staffer Jacob Wargala lives on the shores of Lake Erie and divides his hunting time between the big water, coastal marshes, agricultural fields, and the Niagara river. He says wood ducks and teal are still present in his area, but their numbers have been declining with falling temperatures. On the upside, new birds have been trickling in from the north.
“Some wigeon and pintails have been moving in,” Wargala says. “We are also seeing some small flocks of divers—mostly ringnecks but also small groups of bluebills on Lake Erie and the Niagara River.”
Chris Davanzo, of Fish and Feather Outfitters, hunts western New York from the Great Lakes east to the Syracuse area. He has his eye on geese as lots of honkers have moved into the western portion of the state in recent days. There are fair numbers of ducks in his area as well.
“We seem to have more mallards than usual for this time year,” Davanzo says. “There is also more water around.” He notes that mallards aren’t the only game in town, as plenty of woodies and wigeon remain in the area.
Mossy Oak pro-staffer Dave Combs calls Geneva, New York, home. When he’s not hunting, he’s out training dogs—and scouting. “The northern Finger Lakes region saw a large push of migrating Canada geese last week, and puddle ducks have shown up in good numbers on traditional areas. The majority are green-winged teal and wigeon, but there are gadwalls, pintails, and ringnecks mixed in,” Combs says.
Longtime DU member Craig Larter hunts the Montezuma marshes in the Finger Lakes region. He and his hunting partners enjoyed a strong duck opener, taking a mixed bag of mainly wigeon and green-winged teal. He has also seen fair numbers of mallards and black ducks, although he suspects they are still mostly local birds. Larter notes that local concentrations of wood ducks are beginning to thin out, and like other New York waterfowl hunters, he knows that’s an indication that northern flights of mallards and black ducks should be on their way.