Location: lower Midwestern and Southern states in the Mississippi Flyway
Major Weather Trends
As winter moves in, the Mississippi Flyway seems like a tale of multiple climates. Snow and unseasonably cold weather gripped many Northern states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, as their duck seasons ended, with only streams, some rivers and the Great Lakes remaining open.
However, states to the south experienced varying or even warm weather, and hunting success seemed to waver in response.
Tony Vandemore, owner of Habitat Flats in Sumner, Missouri, has already seen plenty of early-winter weather.
“The weather has been cold, with a blizzard a week ago,” he said. “ It’s definitely a lot colder than normal up here. A lot has been iced up. We had a thaw over the weekend, and everything opened up, and we now have a minor flood going on.”
Realtree.com waterfowl contributor James Buice — who hunts Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee — has experienced different conditions farther south.
“It was cold, but now it’s hot,” said “Unseasonably hot actually — 60 to 70.”
Realtree.com contributor Ben Cole, of Alabama, reported similar weather swings.
“Alabama has had fluctuating weather patterns (that are) not ideal for divers to stick around,” he said. “For example, several days last week were in the 30s, but it warmed up to 65 on the weekend.”
Abundant precipitation throughout the flyway seemed to be the silver weather lining.
Kent Woodrow, owner of Illinois Whitetail and Waterfowl, in Wayne and White counties, in southeastern Illinois, said water conditions in his area look good. Vandemore said northern Missouri water levels were “fine,” and Buice reported wet weather in the Delta region.
“Lots of rain, so at least the rivers are pretty full, and the fields that needed flooded are getting water,” he said.
Species and Numbers
With few exceptions, hardy mallards, honkers and black ducks dominated the remaining ducks in the North. Woodrow said he’s mostly seeing mallards, but he lamented what seemed to be a slow migration.
“The weather and the water have been ideal,” he said. “It just seems like we can’t pick up any birds.”
Vandemore said his area is holding lots of ducks, most of which are mallards, and hunting has been good. However, Buice said waterfowl movement in his area seems to be in a holding pattern.
“There are a fair number of resident birds around but nothing migrating on except a few teal,” he said. “Snows are down and coming in daily. (There are) enough specks to hunt if you want to sweat in a ground blind.”
“Although the weather patterns have been drastic and birds don’t stay long, we have been able to harvest 12 canvasbacks, two buffleheads, one bluebill, one ringneck and eight gadwall in the course of four days of hunting, with five to six hunters each time.”
Personal Hunting Report
Ice ended my open-water hunting two weeks earlier than normal this season. However, I found quite a few mallards and geese using springs and swift-running creeks. After a brief eider sojourn in Maine — more about this later in The Duck Blog — I returned to find solid honker numbers in agricultural areas. And with goose seasons remaining open for several weeks, that was a welcome discovery.
“There’s about 500 in (a) field and more piling in,” a friend said in a text. “There’s a flock of 100 birds going in right now.” Stay tuned.
Boat Ramp Chatter/Upcoming Patterns/Hotspots
Weather fronts will greatly affect success in the mid- to deep South in December and January, and Cole was cautiously optimistic.
“Looking at the future, the weather forecast seems promising for new birds to arrive,” he said. “This week’s projections are for temps in the upper 40s with lows in the 30s, with a predominately northwest wind.”
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