Waterfowl hunters in the Mississippi Delta are disappointed that the first major cold front of the season didn’t magically produce a massive migration of ducks. It did make two weeks of unseasonably warm weather disappear overnight, and while making it more comfortable to hunt is a good thing, it would be better if there were more ducks to shoot.
“It didn’t materialize, plain and simple,” said Drew Burton, a farmer and avid duck hunter from Isola. “I don’t know if we’re any better off now than we were before the cold front came through on Sunday night. I actually think that some of the ducks that were already here got run off by that weather. They don’t like storms.
“I am seeing some ducks in places where I hadn’t been seeing any, so I am wanting to say, yes, it helped. I’m only seeing 25, 30 or maybe as many as 50 ducks on a spot, so it’s not a lot of ducks. What I don’t know is if those are new arrivals that came in with the front or if they were just ducks that got tired of being shot at in one spot in the Delta that just upped and moved to a new spot. Or maybe they are ducks that the storm moved around. I wish I knew.”
While Burton is unsure of that aspect of the Delta duck situation, he is certain that the front didn’t have a magical impact. “All of us who were hoping that we’d see a few hundred thousand mallards riding the coattails of that front and coming into the Delta, well we will just have to wait,” he said. “It just didn’t happen. There was no sudden arrival.
“But, let’s be realistic and not get ahead of ourselves. It is still early. We’re not halfway into December, so we shouldn’t be that surprised that the Delta is still short on ducks. Historically, we don’t get them in big numbers until much later in the season.”
Burton hunts farmland in the heart of the Delta and also has a club near the Mississippi River where he hunts flooded brakes.
“We went to the river last weekend and thought we’d have a great hunt,” he said. “It was OK on Saturday and Sunday, but not good enough. We hung up the waders and grabbed our rifles to deer hunt. We really thought on Monday after that front came through that it would really improve so we stayed over to get in the morning hunt.
“The weather was supposed to move through overnight Sunday, but when we woke up Monday, it was still raining cats and dogs. We had to go back to bed. When we did get up, we didn’t see where there was any increase in ducks.”
Reports were spotty from other areas of the Delta, but the best reports involved species like spoonbills. Gadwall and green-winged teal are still carrying a good bit of the load.
“If it weren’t for the spoonies, the gadwall and the teal, we’d be struggling,” said Ernie Green of Oxford, who hunts the North Delta. “I think out of the 56 ducks we’ve killed this year, we’ve only had six greenheads. I went over to check our holes Wednesday and, no, there is no big change. I did see some new ducks but no massive groups of mallards anywhere.”
The weekly migration forecast for North America (available at longpointwaterfowl.org) indicates that the cold front did push more shovelers, gadwall and wigeon into southern latitudes, but the more resilient mallards were only pushed into the mid-latitude areas, and still at the upper end of that range. South Dakota was still reporting a lot of ducks on the ground a week ago.
“A lot of us were hoping that this would be the best duck season we’ve had in decades, based on the lack of water in the Mississippi River and the drought they had in the Midwest,” Burton said. “I still think it can be that good of a season, but I just don’t think it is going to happen as early as we were thinking.”