If you live south of Interstate 70, chances are you’re ready to pull your hair out. These areas received a decent push of birds about 6 weeks ago and not really anything since. Many had high hopes for the front last week and while there were a few birds that trickled south, the majority stayed put and hunting success didn’t increase dramatically. There have been a few burst of calendar birds since then, but the lack of sustained cold/snow and drought that is effecting so much of the country has kept many ducks well north. Now seasons are closing and birds continue to hang out in northern areas like North/South Dakota and Minnesota. Further east, more influenced by the trough of low pressure, ducks have made strides south due to cold and snow.
Locations as far south as southern Missouri and Illinois started to fight ice late last week. Ducks started to congregate on open water and while it might have appeared there were new birds, the bulk of what was seen was just birds being pushed off shallow water to bigger water that wasn’t frozen. This initial freeze lead to a small bump in success for anyone who could create open water and also for hunters who were able to capitalize on the shift to ducks hitting the dry fields across northern Missouri and the northern half of Illinois. Out in the Central Flyway, a small push of both ducks and geese were behind the front late last week. Waterfowl were pushed to the Missouri River as open water disappeared across The Dakotas. As with so many cold fronts this year, snow was limited so food sources are still wide open across the bulk of North and South Dakota. To hunters in Nebraska, northwest Missouri, and on south, don’t think there’s none left north of you….there is plenty! Latest counts off select locations on the Missouri River showed more than a half million ducks. This late in the year, it’s going to take one heck of a storm to get the last of the mallards to pull out of there….and that exact storm could be on the horizon!
The Week Ahead
A pattern change is on the way next week. There look to be a series of storms that will move across the middle of the country. For the past week, the cold has been centered from Fargo, to Chicago, and down to Columbus. Lots of snow and cold north of that line, but mild temperatures to the west and south. The new pattern that looks to emerge, should have the cold centered more across the middle of the country. The speed of the cold dropping south will be the key. If it pours south quickly, we may have a repeat of a southern snow storm, but if it can be timed right, a large chunk of the middle of the country could wind up white and drought stricken areas could receive some much, much needed rainfall.