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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 Migration Update – December 21, 2012

For the first time in what seems like forever a large bowling ball type winter storm has spurred a waterfowl migration across a large chunk of the county. The storm dropped 6+ inches of snow across portions of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin sending waterfowl southward. Even places in northwest Illinois picked up a few inches of wind driven snow. The next storm in the long range is forecasted to hit Christmas day and the day after. If it lines up with where snow has already fallen, look for the waterfowl migration to continue to pickup.

Duck Migration

Early this past week, hunting was slow, but the waterfowl migration began to pickup on Wednesday ahead of the storm. Places like Kansas and Oklahoma began to pickup birds as the system pulled together. On Thursday, the storm continued east and birds began moving out of Iowa and extreme northern Missouri. The 40 mph sustained north wind allowed them to hightail it south. With the storm now to the east, reports of southward moving waterfowl have continued today. Some Waterfowl Migrationbirds held tight yesterday in the wind and snow, but the sunny skies and north wind today have them on the move across Missouri and Illinois. The snow and freeze line birds have finally been forced to move. Areas north of a line from Kansas City, MO to Peoria, IL are not forecasted to get above freezing for the next 7 days. Water should continue to freeze and ducks should continue to migrate south over the coming days. The majority of the birds around in Illinois and Missouri are Mallards with a few puddle ducks and divers in the mix.

Only the Illinois and Mississippi River waterfowl surveys have been posted for Illinois.

Mississippi River Waterfowl Migration Survey, Illinois River, and Missouri

Goose Migration

The arrival of sustained cold weather and snow should begin to force Canada geese to migrate along with the ducks. It’s going to take more weather than what we’ve had to force them south, but what we have received is a start. Since Canada Geese are tougher than ducks, it’ll take more snow and less open water to really force them south. The weather we have received thus far is probably more winter than most places experienced all of last year. Migrating Canada Geese have been reported across Iowa and northern Illinois in great numbers. Hopefully the next weather system will continue to make them move south.

Snow Goose Migration

The majority of the snow geese have moved into Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and points south. This was about their furthest southward push last year. Unlike last year, when the spring conservation season started with many snow geese north of us, this is starting to look more promising. Good numbers of birds are in Illinois and Missouri if you’re willing to put forth the effort to hunt them without the use of an e-caller.

 

Duck Hunting and the Weather: What’s the Forecast for Success?

Duck hunting is very dependent on the weather. The best success can be had on a day where a front accompanied by large temperature drop moves through. The drop in temperature forces ducks to migrate south. Duck hunters dream of migrating ducks because they usually offer the best opportunity as coming home with limits. On days where the weather is calm ducks are far less active and success can be poor. On days with sun, hunters must be careful no reduce anything that might reflect the sunlight such as their face. Cloudy days are shiny objects are far less problematic. Freezing weather forces many ducks south, but some will ride out the harsh conditions. The ducks that do stay around become concentrated in areas of open water with nearby food sources. They are forced to feed multiple times in a day which offers hunters more opportunities at success. Duck hunting in the fog can be as tough as fair weather. A hunter must call frequently to let ducks know they’re there. Without calling, you’re waiting on a to randomly drop into sight. Calling, then listening is the best tactic to use. Adapting to these weather conditions can help you to have successful duck hunting. Just because the forecast looks poor for duck hunting, doesn’t mean you should sleep in. In duck hunting, there are no guarantees!