2014-15 waterfowl season is all but a memory. For us, it is a good one. We had a bunch of great days and even more great times with friends and family sharing the sky with all of you. I have stated many times,"If all you are going out for is the kill, you are going to have some disappointing days." It doesn't matter if you are in the south or in the far north, you will have slower days. The slower days are the greatest times of fellowship and growth of friendships .....give me the kill.....but I also appreciate the slow times as well.
As you reflect on your season, I hope you have a smile on your face. Let's get geared up for next season. Let's chase a turkey. Let's wet a line. Let's spend some time with family. I know the the next season is going to be as great as this one.
Author Wade Bourne w/Ducks Unlimited
The stage appears set for one of the biggest waterfowl migrations in recent history, and hunters in the Mississippi Flyway are among those who stand to benefit the most.
Based on data collected during the 2014 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (conducted in late spring), the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service have estimated a total of 49.2 million ducks in the traditional surveyarea in Canada and northern U. S. states. This figure is 8 percent higher than the 2013 count and 43 percent over the long term average. Further, hatching and brood rearing conditions have been generally favorable through summer months. The result is that both puddle and diving ducks should be funneling down the flyway in abundance in the weeks ahead. Also, numbers of both dark and light geese remain relatively stable for this fall, with some populations showing small increases and other populations experiencing slight declines.
Paul Schmidt is Chief Conservation Officer for Ducks Unlimited. Schmidt says, "Hunting prospects are very good for the upcoming season, but the weather and local habitat conditions must cooperate to ensure birds in any particular location. There's still a lot of water in the potholes and crops in the fields in the northern prairies, which may affect the timing of the migration. What we do know is that there are big numbers of ducks and geese on the landscape, and if the weather is favorable for a normal migration, hunters should see plenty birds over their decoys."
Avery pro staffer Mike Hungle of Regina, Saskatchewan reports that the southeastern part of this province has "lots of ducks." Hungle says he is very impressed with this year's hatch, and numbers are very strong. He adds, however, that the migration is about a month behind due to abnormally warm temperatures and a delayed harvest. Hungle notes, "Yesterday (Sept. 25) we had a record high of 33⁰ C (91⁰ F). But next week we're supposed to get back to normal temperatures for early October (highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s.), and this should cause the birds to move more."Hungle also noted that only approximately 50 percent of this region's grain crops have been harvested to date, far behind the normal harvest schedule.
Scott Stephens, director of regional operations/prairies for DU Canada confirms Hungle's observations. He says, "I went hunting this morning (Sept. 26) with my son and one of his friends, and we bagged 24 ducks. (Manitoba allows a daily bag of 8 ducks per hunter). They were mostly blue-winged teal. We've had abnormally warm weather for September, and there's been very little movement of local ducks heading south or ducks from up north moving into Manitoba. Based on the summer-like weather and the late harvest, I'd guess that the migration will likely be a bit delayed this year."
The regular waterfowl season kicks off September 27 in Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan. (Check local regulations for specifics on zones and hunting dates.) Steve Cordtz of the Minnesota DNR expects hunters in his state to see good numbers of mallards, wood ducks, teal and ringnecks due to favorable conditions during this year's nesting season. However, forecast warm temperatures and bright skies may put a damper on duck activity and hunter success. Hopefully the forecast cold front in early October will push Canadian birds down into these states.
Barney Myracle of Tennessee returned September 19 from a 6-day hunting trip in central Saskatchewan. He reports that snow geese are already gathered in large concentrations in harvested pea fields. He confirms that, "it's been a very wet fall where we were, and the harvest thereis late. Every pothole is full of water, and every pothole had ducks in it." Myracle has hunted this same area for several previous years, thus providing a viable basis for an accurate comparison in terms of habitat conditions and numbers of waterfowl. "I was very encouraged by what I saw," Myracle states. "It's got me excited for the regular duck season back home."
Wade Bourne is the Ducks Unlimited Magazine editor-at-large, DU-TV host, avid waterfowler and conservationist. Bourne will provide habitat and hunting reports for the Mississippi Flyway throughout the 2014-2015 season for Waterfowl360 and the DU Migration Map.
Early Teal Season Reports
I have been receiving some good reports on Teal for this early season:
Tennessee - New bunches of ducks coming in on opening day. Shooting into some large bunches. Many with limits.
Arkansas - Lots of birds, but spotty in places.
Louisiana - Got birds late in the week of the opener. Cold front aided in the push. Heavy rain early opening day. Bagged limits that afternoon.
Oklahoma - Plenty of birds but spotty.
Just to mention a few. Thanks to the guys giving their reports.
Since high school I have pursued the Blue Wing in the early season. Myself with a group of friends would lay out of school for the day and venture by foot to the mudflats of Cypress Creek. Occasionally we felt the need to show for class and would do so after the morning hunt. Shotguns in the window rack of the truck as we arrived at school. Today, that would get you a visit by the sheriff. My, my, my, how times have changed. The public has changed, not the hunter. Hunters today still hold the same since of value that we held then. They understand the value of life and treasure GOD's creation. Yes, they kill game. But they are also the stewards and conservationist at heart. The anti-gun, anti-hunting activist just do not understand this concept. If it wasn't for the hunter many species of animals would be on the endangered list. Case and point, the Wild Turkey, the White Tailed Deer, the Bob White Quail and others would now be gone or on the way out if the hunting community didn't form the groups that have worked to preserve habitat that supports reproduction.
Ok, enough of that. The early Teal season is a great appetizer for the big meal on the way. Give thanks and Amen to the coming of waterfowl season and pass the Mallards.
The action is fast. Flight patterns are sporadic and when they commit, you better be ready to call the shot. If you have hunted these speedy creatures in the early season, you know, this as fact. The Blue Wing Teal are a challenge for even the best of shooters. So what can we do to improve the odds of coming out with a full bag. I have a couple ideas that may help.
Your first thought is to have your spread in close. Certainly the closer you get them into your set up, the longer you have to get on them. Either on the approach or on the exit, but what if they do not want to commit?
One technique that I have found to work is to have smaller family groups of decoys. Allowing plenty of lanes in between the groups for these sultans of speed. This option is also a strategic method to allow placement for motion decoys. Place your motion in the gaps between you and your spread. Teal love motion decoys with water movement capabilities. They will be drawn in between the family groups and right in your face.
Always remember, your terrain may offer other challenges that can hinder your set up. If what you are doing isn't working, think it out and change.
Also remember how much Teal love motion decoys that move water. The best can be found right here at Team FowlQuest with the Mallard Master Pro.