2013 Waterfowl Forecast

The 2013 waterfowl forecast has a drastically different look than last year. The weather conditions across much of the country have been a total reversal from last year. Rather than hot and dry, the conditions in 2013 have been below normal temperatures and normal to above normal rainfall in most of the plains and midwest. There are areas that have really dried out recently, but the wet start to the year has kept ponds and lakes still with plenty of water. Bag limits and possession limits have also been increased in many locations. Couple this with the 2nd highest duck survey on record and the ingredients are in place for a great season, but the 2013 waterfowl forecast is most dependent on one thing: the weather.

Food Sources

Food Sources WaterfowlMany of the crops across the plains and midwest were planted late or not at all due to the wet spring. Thousands of bottom land acres had initial plantings flooded out. The fields that have been planted will be harvested later than normal. Soybean and corn fields could still be standing as seasons begin to open. If winter starts early, some crops may not even get harvested. This will not only effect locations hunters have to hunt, but also available food sources for migrating waterfowl. If a limited number of fields have been cut, they could be loaded with waterfowl, but large numbers will likely exhaust the food source quickly.

The wet spring and early summer has also limited the moist soil vegetation bloom in flooded impoundments and banks of water sources. Unlike last year, when water levels recceeded quickly in the spring to allow moist soil vegetation to germinate, weekly rains kept water levels high and never exposed the soil this summer. This could also contribute to a lack of food sources for migrating waterfowl, but birds are resourceful and will find areas to feed in. Find the food and you will find ducks and geese.

Rainfall and Water Levels

Another contributing factor to the 2013 waterfowl forecast is the availability of water. Without water, ducks and geese have nowhere to roost and loaf. Water levels in most areas across the middle of the country have greatly improved after the 2013 Waterfowl Forecastwidespread drought of last year. In our trips to North Dakota and Sasketchewan last year we noticed numerous pot holes and ponds completely void of water. This is not the case this year! While not all locations have received above average rainfall, most have at least been near normal allowing water sources to recover. Where there’s water, there will be waterfowl and unlike last year, places that typically hold water should have it for this year’s migration.

The Forecast

After back-to-back warmer than average winters, one would have to think this year we will get one back from mother nature. It would be great to have a true to form winter that starts in December and eases up leading into February. Many of the long range forecasts are calling for an average winter. If this is the case, instead of large numbers of ducks and geese staging in areas as the season closes, they will be forced to follow the advancing ice and snow lines further south. The last two years, large numbers and Mallards and Canada Geese were left in the North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as their seasons closed. Hunters in these areas were tortured with the site of thousands of birds in fields and a closed season while hunters to the south only heard stories of large numbers of birds. The seasons are set based off of long term reports and weather conditions. Throw a couple odd years of weather in the mix and the uproar over season dates begins. We can’t control the weather and the weather plays the biggest role in the waterfowl migration.

Most of the country is in far better shape than last year at this time. Areas that have food and water are in great shape leading into the 2013 waterfowl season. Most locations should have both, but the wild card is the crops being harvested. Early in the season food sources may be limited, but as the season progresses, more and more should come available. An early snow storm could leave a lot of crops standing in location across the northern part of the US, but would also get the migration started quickly. The unknown of the weather is what makes the 2013 waterfowl forecast difficult. It is the most important aspect of the migration and is the one that is the most uncontrollable for a waterfowl hunter.




Waterfowl Hunting Food Sources and the Effects of Flooding

Waterfowl Hunting Food Sources

A key component of waterfowl hunting and the migration is the availability of food sources. Last year was characterized by a an early onset to spring/summer weather followed by a historic drought across much of the country. This weather led to a prolific bloom of moist soil plants such as Smartweed, Barnyard Grass, and many others. It also left many farmers and waterfowl managers with corn crops that failed. Fast forward one year and the exact opposite conditions have prevailed across most of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. Many acres of corn have either been flooded out or left untouched because of all of the rainfall. So where does that leave us for the quickly approaching waterfowl season of 2013-2014?

Flooding of 2013

The weather the last two years has left many hunters questioning their planting of corn. Because of it’s carbohydrate content, corn is a food source best utilized by waterfowl during cold weather. Last year, the cold weather didn’t arrive in most places until the very end of the season or even after it was closed. Good hunts were had over both flooded corn and fields, but it wasn’t as good as prior years. Many of last years corn acres will be forced to be planted in another crop this year or worse yet, left unplanted because of the flooding spring rains. Many moist soil impoundments that typically get drained by now are still holding water which will limit the  germination of beneficial plants for waterfowl when/if things do dry out.

Food Sources for 2013-2014

Waterfowl Hunting Food Sources - Golden MilletFor waterfowl managers who are able to get their land dried out and ready to plant, the question is what waterfowl hunting food sources should they choose. They’re going to need a plant that matures quickly with the limited growing season left. Many areas along the flood plains of larger rivers could possibly not dry out at all. This will leave much of the bottom lands void of any food sources for waterfowl hunting. Areas just above the low lands will offer the first opportunity for waterfowl looking to feed. Any corn planted on this higher ground could be dynamite if the weather cooperates and forces waterfowl to seek out high carbohydrate food to get through the cold winter months, but if the weather follows the past two years, the usage of corn fields will be minimal in the southern parts of the flyways.

Flooding and Nesting Waterfowl

2013 Flooding for Waterfowl

The one positive side of all the rainfall is the abundant water now present for nesting waterfowl across much of the prairie pot hole region. Most areas in the Dakotas have received anywhere from the average to 4 times the amount of normal rainfall. The nesting reports out of these areas for waterfowl is very promising for the coming season. Baring a sudden reversal of weather, there should be ample water sources for staging and migrating waterfowl. Waterfowl hunters rarely go a day with day dreaming of locked wings sailing towards them. Now is a great time to add fuel to those day dreams by checking out the properties you hunt. Conditions the waterfowl hunting food sources are experiencing now will impact your hunting this fall regardless of if you plant crops for waterfowl or just have permission to hunt the farmers field.





Video: Duck Hunting Oklahoma

Duck hunting is a sport best shared with friends both new and old. It is a common ground between people across the country that can bring them together even if it is the first time they meet. This week we feature a few hunts from Oklahoma that brought us together with the guys from First Light Gear, The Management Advantage, and a couple new friends from social media.

The end result of our three days of duck hunting is one that will not be forgotten! To be able to hunt the same spot three consecutive days successfully happens rarely. To share these experiences with both new friends and old makes it even better. Regardless of a successful hunt or not, duck hunting lends an awesome opportunity to introduce both young and old to the outdoors. Passing on the tradition of hunting and the outdoors is something we should all do.




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Video: Duck Hunting Water Sources

Duck Hunting Video

Duck hunting often takes place on water sources. Different water sources determine you strategies for calling and decoying ducks into your decoy spread. Layout boat duck hunting is popular on large lakes such as lake Erie while large spreads of full body and floater ducks and geese are the way to go while hunting on rivers. For smaller bodies of water such as ponds and flooded food sources, a mixed species spread that looks natural is a great way to lure in both ducks and geese. This week, our duck hunting video takes an in-depth look at how to hunt these water sources.




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Video: Duck Hunting Dry Fields

Duck Hunting Video

Duck Hunting Video

In this duck hunting video, we’re in North Dakota hunting a corn field that was a hot food source the day we scouted it. This field had thousands of mallards utilizing it which was an exciting find, but ended up causing more harm than good. Duck hunting dry fields requires a different game plan than hunting over water. A hot food source can offer some great duck hunting, but it requires careful scouting and conditions that allow the ducks to return the following day. If the food source becomes depleted, chances are the ducks might not return to feed in that field again.

For field hunting, we like to run a large number of full body mallard decoys and at times utilize spinning wing decoys. If the situation allows, we will also mix in Canada Goose decoys to help with visibility. Often times, ducks will not land directly on top of goose decoys so we like to shade them to one side and allow the ducks to work front and center of the blinds.

There are times when a dry field duck hunt can go awry. Scouting to find exactly where the birds are feeding in the field and locating a place to hide can put the odds in your favor, but weather conditions can work against hunters as can the food source thinning out. The number of birds utilizing this field the day we found it ended up preventing us from having an exceptional hunt due to the limited amount of waste grain left after thousands of birds were feeding in it.




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