Here is a duck hunter’s idea of a gloomy weather forecast: sunny, with high temperatures in the 70s and little change foreseen in the near future.
That’s what waterfowl enthusiasts in Missouri and Kansas are facing. Weather at this time of the year is supposed to include some cold fronts, the first freeze, and a biting wind.
That’s what pushes the ducks down to Mid-America and sets the table for some outstanding hunting.
But it hasn’t happened yet. The “real” fall has yet to arrive. When you have to include mosquito repellent and sunscreen in you hunting bag, something is wrong, the Missouri Department of Conservation points out.
“Unfortunately, the unseasonably warm forecasts look like the movement of southbound birds might be delayed a few more weeks, which will make for some tough hunting conditions,” said Frank Nelson, a waterfowl biologist for the Department of Conservation.
Duck counts at Missouri’s managed wetlands revealed that 207,565 ducks have arrived in the state this week, far below the five-year average of 382,151.
The duck season in Missouri’s North Zone opened Oct. 29, and surprisingly, there was some good hunting at some conservation areas. Hunters at Grand Pass and Bob Brown, for example, each averaged shooting more than 3 birds per person.
But by mid-week, success had dropped as waterfowl redistributed after the opening barrage of hunting, with few new birds to replace them.
The Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri holds the most ducks in the region, more than 50,000. Four River and Grand Pass each have more than 14,000 ducks, while Bob Brown has 12,955 and Swan Lake 10,485.
In Kansas, Most duck-hunting zones are now open (the southeast zone opens Nov. 12), but again, duck numbers are low.
Cheyenne Bottom Wildlife Area in central Kansas, the state’s premier wetland area, has attracted only 5,000 to 15,000 ducks despite having plenty of water and habitat to attract migrating birds. The nearby Quivira National Wildlife Refuge has 36,488 ducks and 23,982 geese.
Closer to Kansas City, wetlands such as Perry, Hillsdale, Milford and Clinton have yet to attract big flocks of migrants.
The other ingredients for a successful duck season are in place, the fall flight is predicted to be a big one and conditions in Missouri and Kansas look good. There is plenty of water and wetland food.
But the ducks up north need to get their tail-feathers cold to send them south. And so far, that hasn’t happened.