Our first waterfowl migration update of the season can be characterized by one word: slow! Other than a few stretches, temperatures across much of the United States and Canada have been above normal. Other than calendar migrators, large concentrations of ducks remain well north of where they normally are this time of year. However, things look to change in the second half of November.
Calendar migrators, which is mostly comprised of teal, pintail, shovelors, and young mallards have been sporadically reported across many areas of the country. As always, hunting success correlates with the weather. While these ducks have been gradually making their way south, a lack of weather to make them move has led to a lack of success for many hunters. Even though birds might be around, without something to force them to fly, they hang out in the sun on water all day. Many surveys from across the country have been running near normal to slightly above in areas north of I70 across the middle of the country. South of there, surveys are more spotty. A lack of rainfall and flooded food sources has left much of southern Illinois well behind their average numbers for this time of year.
A strong system is forecast to slowly move across the country this week and leave a ton of rainfall in it’s wake. Much of that rain looks to fall across Missouri and Illinois where it is needed. This should help fill the remaining areas in need of water and create some new ones. Unfortunately, the wet spring will limit the amount of food available across a lot of this area. There should be water for resting and roosts, but food sources are going to be limited. This has limited the number of calendar migrators that have stayed for more than a day or two. An abundance of these duck have already made their way south where food is more readily available. This week’s weather system will help set the stage for a second system early next week that could possibly finally usher in colder air and kick the migration into gear. It’s too early to tell exactly when and where, but next week’s front has the potential to spur a good migration and improve hunter’s success across a large portion of the country. Hopefully the large concentration of mallards that are currently residing in southern Canada will get a nudge south into the US.