While Oregon is holding solid waterfowl numbers for this time of year, unusually mild and dry weather is making the birds difficult to hunt.
“It’s 56 degrees out here,” says Eric Strand of S2 Outfitters, near Portland. “This is more like spring weather.”
Strand has canceled hunts this week and next due to a lingering Indian summer weather pattern, which may persist until the last week of November.
“The weather is the big story in western Oregon right now,” observes Brandon Reishus, waterfowl manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’ve got a lot of dry habitat that needs water.”
Veteran duck hunter Chris Middleton, of Tigard, found a flooded corn field this past week. “I kicked out thousands,” he says. “I was surprised by the number of birds around, but there is nothing to make them move.”
Harvests on the state’s most popular public hunting area, Sauvie Island, near Portland, have recently returned to the season average of about two ducks per gun. Hunting success has been best in the few areas with plenty of open water.
Strand advises hunters to try the lower Columbia River or coastal bays and estuaries, where wigeon, mallards and teal typically congregate in mid-November. “I talked with some hunters in Astoria this morning who shot two limits with a mixed bag,” he says. Reishus agrees, predicting coastal bays will offer good hunting through the end of the month.
For those who don’t mind a longer drive, there are better hunting opportunities in the upper Columbia Basin. Irrigon, Umatilla, and the Columbia River are holding impressive numbers of ducks, which arrived on the heels of last month’s early cold snap. Although warmer weather has returned, thousands of birds remain in the upper basin.
Farther south, in the high desert, hunters at Summer Lake continue to harvest approximately two birds per gun. Reishus predicts the ducks will stick around until freeze-up, which typically occurs in late November or early December. However, snow goose numbers have declined in the area as most of the birds appear to have pushed to the south.
Hunters on Sauvie Island have had a good early season for snow geese, with plenty of young birds in the population, and Reishus expects as many as 20,000 light geese will spend the winter on the public hunting area.
In northwest Oregon, cackling and Canada geese have settled in for the winter as hunters wait for the special goose zone to reopen on Nov. 23