Good numbers of local ducks are still holed up on the backwaters of western Massachusetts. A wetter-than-normal fall has created an abundance of sheet water and flooded fields that are providing lots of habitat for local ducks, consisting mostly of mallards, black ducks, and wood ducks. With colder weather in the forecast, hunters are optimistic that more waterfowl will soon be arriving in the state.
Abundant geese can be found in the fields, as the heavy rains have forced farmers to harvest crops later than usual, providing a smorgasbord of cut corn for the honkers. Most of the geese are resident birds, but the incoming cold front should push more migratory geese down from the north. Hunters who can locate feeding birds in agricultural fields should have hot shooting with the falling temperatures.
Western Massachusetts DU District Chair Joe Brady is looking forward to the cold snap, as he expects pane ice to form on smaller waters, which will concentrate ducks on the larger ponds. Right now, he’s seeing a mix of black ducks, mallards, woodies, and a handful of mergansers near his home in Springfield. Geese have been plentiful on nearby farms as well.
Avid waterfowler Travis Kolasienski, who lives along the Connecticut River, has been on the water two to three days a week since the season opened, and he’s seen plenty of wood ducks in that time. Above-average numbers of green-winged teal have also been a highlight of his season thus far. Goose numbers are solid in his area, with plenty of resident birds still hanging around. Kolasienski has made a couple of trips to the coast and reports that the first eiders and scoters of the season have arrived. The coastal zone doesn’t open for another few weeks, so there should be plenty of time for more sea ducks to show up.
Massachusetts DU Recruitment Chair BJ Calvi has found some time to hunt the Connecticut River recently. Most of the birds he has encountered appear to be locals. “The mallards all seem to know their way around,” Calvi says. “The geese have been acting like residents as well, flying right off the roost and directly out to a favored field to feed.”
Until new birds arrive, Calvi advises waterfowlers to get up early and be ready when legal shooting time arrives to make the most of the first flights of the morning. That’s when he has been having his best luck on recent outings.
“The wood ducks are everywhere you would expect to find them. Good numbers, and yet to be pressured,” Central Massachusetts DU District Chairman Mike Donnelly says. Donnelly also indicates the water levels have been quite unpredictable, with heavy rains flooding some areas. “Other marshes and backwaters are choked with vegetation, but shallow water and muddy bottoms can make access difficult. Hunters should spend some time looking for ideal feeding locations that they can get to be successful,” he adds.
He also notes that there are strong numbers of resident geese, which are forming larger flocks as the season progresses.