Warm weather has hunters crying fowl

January 07, 2007|by BILL ANDERSON

January is usually one of my favorite months. The late season waterfowl hunting is at its best and you can count on seeing local birds and birds from colder areas - unless, of course, you are talking about this winter, which has been something of a heat wave.

The weather this winter has most people very happy. About the only exceptions that come to mind are the companies that supply home heating fuels and waterfowl hunters.

Most of the waterfowl hunters that I have talked to are pretty bummed out. The diehards like really cold weather - the colder the better. So far, we have not really had any cold weather, so the duck and goose hunters are looking at the weather maps and hoping for a change.

Cold weather helps waterfowl hunters is several ways. First and foremost, it reduces the options the birds have. When nighttime temperatures drop well below freezing, most ponds and the slower moving waters in streams freeze. Open water is at a premium, and it becomes easier for hunters to predict the movement of the birds and make hunting plans accordingly.


Another really big factor controlled by the weather is the feeding patterns of both ducks and geese. When it gets really cold, the birds hit the corn fields. Corn is a high-calorie, high-energy food, and the birds need the corn to keep warm when the temperature drops below freezing. The birds will hit the corn fields more often, and stay there longer, making for a good situation if you happen to be the owner of several dozen goose decoys and all the related equipment.

According to one of the talking heads on the tube, we may see this mild weather pattern continue for some time - maybe the entire winter. If so, the waterfowl season will come and go with limited conditions that would be considered ideal.

But keep in mind that the season for resident Canada geese will remain open until mid-February so there is plenty of time for things to make a drastic change and for some really cold weather to move in.

Most people will then be wishing for this lovely warm weather to return - except for the duck and goose hunters.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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