Much above normal temperatures have covered much of the country east of the Rocky Mountains this week, but this hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing for duck hunters. After a brief cold snap 10 days ago, many ducks and geese headed south. With the now warming temperatures, some are bouncing back north which has lead to some renewed hunting success as fresh birds have been moving into new areas. This trend looks to continue through the weekend, but should slow as temperatures move towards more seasonable next week.
As we entered this week, Large concentrations of mallards were as far south as the central Mississippi River, Missouri, and Kansas. These birds moved in just before Thanksgiving as the last of a series of cold shots pushed in. Many of the ducks had cleared out of South Dakota and Iowa thanks to a deep blanket of snow. Times have changed in the 10 days since then. Temperatures have drastically moderated and in many locations have been running 5-25 degree above normal. The snow is now gone and many of the ducks that had entered these southern locations have retreated back north. An aerial survey on a refuge on the central Mississippi River went from well over 100,000 mallards on Tuesday down to just under 20,000 on Wednesday. Pretty much all of the ice and snow is gone and these ducks have bounced back. Reverse migrating ducks and geese have been noted across many locations of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. The snow line is now non existent all the way to Canada and there is plenty of open water just about anywhere along that path.
The Week Ahead
With many ducks now retreating back to the north, the question is will they come back. There always seems to be a point in the season that if we haven’t had sustained cold, many of them will ride out the harsh conditions into Spring. Hopefully, this year that isn’t the case, but with seasons in the northern states now beginning to close, a lack of pressure being put on the ducks will make it tough to get them to move south. The weather in the near future doesn’t look to help southern hunters causes either. A pair of storm systems in the next 7 days should usher in more seasonable temperatures and the second system could lay a new pack of snow down across the Dakotas. Until then, look for birds to continue to bounce back north in the next couple days. It’ll be early season weather, but decent hunting can still be had if fresh birds move into areas looking for water to rest.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of Hard Core Waterfowl TV where we filmed a 10 man limit of mallards from a late season corn field before the warm weather hit!