Timing Seems To Be Everything

How did your season go last year? Was it better than in 2015? Better than six years ago in 2010? I have to scratch my head a bit to think back more than a couple of years. It all becomes a blur until I see photos from seasons past and recall how we fared in those hunting campaigns.

No doubt, the weather/climate has affected your hunting one way or another. It has affected ours. In the north country, the duck season opens before the end of September, so when that 60-day clock starts ticking, we know we’re up against it. We had only one night the entire month of October with the kind of frost, 26 degrees, that might bother your tomato plants. And that night was preceded and followed by days of balmy weather. This is not ducky stuff by any means!

In another sign of the times, wood ducks, notoriously thin-skinned birds, were still hanging around in the first days of November—just not right. In years like this—too wet, too warm—more than ever, a hunter really needs to be precisely where the ducks are, because there’s not enough spillover to make hunting good over a wider area. Our wild rice failed mostly due to heavy summer rains and high water, and so did our flights of birds. But in those areas where wild rice is farmed and water levels controlled, birds were congregated.

Other than that, a person just had to wait for birds to move, which really didn’t happen. We found the same thing in the Dakotas—spotty bird locations. A person could drive and drive and see few ducks, then, if lucky, happen upon a small concentration of birds that was keyed to some kind of food coupled with a roost area with a high level of privacy.

It seems, and I am just basing this on a sense of things, not hard numbers, that the places that lately have the best hunting are those with longer seasons, or severe splits in their seasons, that allow them to offer seasons later in the year—the later, the better these days. The Pacific Flyway with its 107-day seasons is able to stretch across a range of bird movements. So also states, or parts thereof, such as Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas where seasons align with the flights, though not always, as some would note. Parts of the Atlantic Flyway run late enough to catch late birds, but it can be frustrating there too.

Let’s face it, there is something to be said for hunting a bit later these days. Heck, our duck season in the north country is only open until the first week of December, although I must admit it is typically dead frozen by that time, but there are places along the northern rivers where a person might actually find some pretty good cold-weather hunting. Montana, with its season extending into January, certainly does.

Maybe it’s time to rethink some of the hunt dates in some states, to correspond with the seeming new regime of waterfowl. More days? Bigger splits? More emphasis on zones? If the climate wants to change, why not follow its lead?

The author with an unusual prize for late November in the Dakotas. A white-fronted goose, A.K.A. specklebelly.