A Holiday Tradition

Tyson KellerIn my life, holidays have always been a time to get outdoors. Whether it be fishing during the summer or hunting during the fall, a holiday break is always considered a time to be in the field. Every year, I look forward to continuing the tradition of getting together with friends and family to hunt during Thanksgiving. Typically, the late November holiday yields great success as plentiful waterfowl numbers are usually close by.

This season has been quite a bit different according to other hunting buddies across the nation and according to my own observations. The unseasonably mild weather throughout November has allowed many birds to stay farther north than usual. The cold blast we had during early October throughout the Dakotas had many hunters licking their chops in hopes of early migrations. In reality, the cold front in early October pushed a few birds but the following mild temperatures allowed many birds to remain north, way north. For the past eight seasons, I have been able to traditionally count on great hunting in my area for Lesser Canadas, Snows, Specks and Mallards by the first week of November. This year was different. A slow trickle of what I call “Calendar Migrating Geese” have been taking place for nearly a month but many birds have been flying over and have been reluctant to stop. Although a few geese have staged along the way, we have not seen concentrations that resemble the past. We are still awaiting the northerners that are on the way. On the other hand in different areas, the birds have been in great numbers.

During this past summer, some of my old stomping grounds were clipped by heavy rains, resulting in large areas covered by shallow sheet water. Up through Thanksgiving, many crops such as corn and soybeans had not been harvested due to the amount of water pooled in low lying areas of many fields. This wet climate created some of the best duck habitat known to man; standing flooded corn and beans. During the month of November, many traveling birds were stopped as the conditions were favorable and food sources were plentiful. The cooling trends just before Thanksgiving concentrated many birds into numerous consolidated areas. This was likely the last “Big Flock” concentration before the wintery weather froze the water holes and broke them apart. The sight was spectacular but that sight has come to an end with a major cold front. Although a few birds remain to battle out the cold and keep water open, many birds have begun to migrate south.

With the season ending throughout that region in less than a week, many hunters cannot believe that the birds lasted this long. Typically, ice fishermen are out drilling the first holes by Thanksgiving but that did not happen this year. I do know one thing, the mild conditions and abundant food sources have allowed the birds to put on the feedbag and produce some very healthy ducks!

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