2017 North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Report for Nov. 10

Done and done
With temps dipping into negative territory the last few nights it's clear waterfowl hunting in central North Dakota -- over water or fields -- is done for the year.  Once our big Bluebill lake froze the switch was thrown -- and every bird able scampered, winged and scrambled south. 

Appears we will lose several dozen decoys to the ice and coyotes, which treat them as high-quality chew toys -- they especially like the solid decoys with the chewy center.   Although calorie-free  -- such fun!

Before we turn to deer hunting, beginning this afternoon, let's look at a recap of the 2017 waterfowl season here at Prairie Smoke Ranch.

GOOD EARLY AND LATE
Similar to 2016, our best shoots were experienced early and late in the season.  Early season saw an abundance of mallards, teal, pintails and widgeon find their way to the cleaning shed, along with a smattering of dark geese.  Redheads never showed up in numbers; cans arrived around Week 2.  And greenwings arrived early this year.  Spoonies were relatively rare, and gadwalls, arriving late once again, were probably the second most common bird after mallards.  In previous years, redheads and gaddies usually grabbed the top spots in the game bags.  Our dry conditions last year and this probably contributed to this mix.

Mid-season found a lot of birds in but they remained tucked away in sloughs back in the hills.  We had very little hunting pressure around us, which did not help move the birds.  Those willing to walk in after the birds had good shooting, sometimes great shooting, but it required some effort.

Late season found large concentrations of mallards and scaup on some of the larger water bodies around us. Shooting on our own big water was spotty at best.  Our small water froze early. Again those who were able to target some of the larger water and find the right "spot" did well, mostly pass shooting or shooting over a single spinner.

Our hunters harvested some tremendous mallards and scaup; northern birds, fat, fully-colored and feathered.  A much different bird than those harvested early in the season.

Big late season greenhead
Snow geese came in late October, with big numbers (15,000-20,000?) to the west of us, working wheat stubble or corn, when they could find it.  The snows stayed about a week and left in a hurry once the freeze-up began.  Their movement through our area was relatively quick. 

PHEASANTS HERE FOR THE TAKING
Pheasant hunting was thin but consistent. Those hunters with dogs working the food plots and cattail sloughs put up birds consistently.  As usual more roosters than hens.  Some of the birds were from late hatches and very small and poorly-feathered but most roosters were typical of the robust, healthy wild birds we produce here. Lottsa tail and cackle!

Sharpies were spotty, with big numbers in some areas and few in others. We had a bunch of Huns move into our food plots this week. Upland birds tend to move in as the season progresses and crops around us come down.  We will try to harvest a few more this weekend. 

Be safe out there as the big game seasons commence across the nation.

The author is a former US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Department of Agriculture manager. In retirement he owns and operates Prairie Smoke Ranch, located in central North Dakota, the duck hunting hub of the northern plains. All rights reserved.
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