As seasons start to close down in the eastern half of the Central Flyway, waterfowlers in the western section are still getting birds, as recent cold temperatures and the resulting freeze-up have both ducks and geese on the move. In the southern region, hunters are either seeing birds or still waiting for them to show up.
Late last summer, just before the opening bell on early waterfowl seasons, the chatter among hunters was about the record number of ducks poised to come down the flyway. Now that seasons are closed for many waterfowlers, or at least will be closed in the near future, that cautious optimism has done a 180. From the forum posting and bulletin board chatter, you would think every duck in the Central Flyway made it south safely and is now wintering in some secret refuge. “Worst season ever!” decry anonymous Internet types, who lay the blame for their lack of success at the feet of everyone from local DNR officials to other hunters to Mother Nature herself.
After last week’s report stating freezing temperatures up north were sending ducks winging south into Texas, several readers in the Lone Star state chimed in to say they were waiting, maybe not so patiently, for birds to show up. Thus is the nature of a late, and spotty migration. Hunters on one side of the road can be into birds, while nearby waterfowlers watch empty skies and wait. Still, as duck numbers up here in the north continue to decrease in direct proportion to the amount of ice on area lakes, hunters down south should continue to see more birds.
By most accounts, Texas waterfowlers have been enjoying a banner season, especially during the second half of the split. The December 8 opener coincided with the arrival of cold weather in the northern half of the Central Flyway, driving a fresh population of birds into Texas. My contacts there, along with forum postings, indicate a true mixed bag of ducks for hunters, including gadwall, green-winged teal, ring-necked ducks and plenty of pintails. What has been missing, at least until recently, has been a consistent population of mallards. Now that temperatures up north have struggled to overtake the freezing mark for the past week or so, water there is locking up, sending birds south where gunners await. The most recent mallard migration index puts peak numbers of birds in east Texas and along the Gulf Coast.