With more than a month of the waterfowl season already in the rearview mirror in Canada, hunters are encountering challenges in the prairie provinces, primarily due to the warm, dry conditions that continue to impact most of the region.
“I’ve been across all three prairie provinces this fall chasing birds, so I can offer some observations, including that these are the driest conditions I’ve seen in over 30 years,” reports Dr. Scott Stephens, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s director of regional operations for the Boreal and prairie regions.
Stephens says that duck abundance is down substantially in many areas due to drought and otherwise poor habitat conditions. Blue-winged teal have largely migrated south, but most other species are still around.
“The weather has been unseasonably warm with no frost across most areas, so there has been little in the way of weather to motivate migration,” Stephens says.
He has also observed that populations of both ducks and geese seem to be made up primarily of adult birds, which has made hunting tougher this fall.
“That trend will only be amplified as the migration moves south and the few young birds that are present continue to be removed from the migration,” Stephens says. “I was in western Saskatchewan with a group of friends hunting whitefronts and we shot 43 geese over three days and only three were juvenile birds. I also shot a whitefront banded as an adult that was at least 17 years old. They were tough birds to decoy.”
Terry Kostinec, DU director of development in Nebraska and South Dakota, recently completed an extended hunting trip to southwestern Saskatchewan. Like Stephens, Kostinec reports that the extremely dry conditions made for difficult hunting.
“It was hard to gauge any kind of migration because we saw so few ducks,” Kostinec says. “Conditions are very dry, and it was extremely warm, which I’m sure is holding up any movement of birds from the north.”
In addition to seeing relatively few ducks, Kostinec says that both dark and light geese have yet to appear in any great numbers in the southern portions of the province.
“One bright spot during our trip was the sandhill crane migration appeared to be progressing like normal,” Kostinec says.