Kelly Bostian: Duck hunting still only 'OK'
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Thursday, December 13, 2012
12/13/12 at 5:43 AM
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Last week as we looked ahead to the duck season opener I said it wasn't great but it looked "OK."
I'll stand by that again for this week. This is not to say some hunters haven't had some great days on the water it's just that, overall, the season opener so far has been OK.
Wednesday morning I hunted Eufaula Wildlife Management Area with Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited and Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel as part of a story for Sunday's Outdoors page. We bagged just eight ducks. It wasn't lights-out but still, it was a good morning and we saw more ducks than I had expected - more water than I expected, too.
As Jack Morris offered in last Sunday's Pro Tips column, it would have been a nice day to pack a sandwich and stay there most of the day and enjoy occasional sporting action throughout. It was not super great, but we saw regular small groups of birds and as a report I just have to say it really was just OK, three stars out of five, fair to middling; however you'd like to put it.
Last week we looked forward to an Arctic air mass dropping in from the North and expected that would bring us some more birds. It brought us temperatures in the teens on Tuesday morning and it did bring down some birds. This week we're looking at warmer temperatures but at least it looks like we'll get a little rain Friday. It likely won't be enough to put a dent in the nearly statewide extreme drought, but every little bit helps.
"There are a lot of birds between Kaw (Lake) and Sooner (Lake), anywhere we've got open water," said Kay County game warden Spencer Grace. "More birds, especially mallards, have come in."
He guessed "conservatively" that Kaw has 30,000 ducks and Sooner has 10,000. The catch is, of course, "the water is low so they are difficult to access and it's hard to hide."
It can be done, however.
The general report is that if a place has sufficient water and access to food there are at least a few ducks around and you might just run into a bucket load if you hit it just at the right time. Ponds, especially given the freezing weather this week, have been an exception to that rule, but they should be ice-free in the days to come.
Good examples of that water-plus-food-equals-ducks are folks who have water impoundments where they pumped water or otherwise have a way to maintain a wetland in spite of the drought. Local guides Gordon Montgomery and Kelly Walker are two who have those sorts of areas - and they are popular guys right now.
Walker has one area that is spring-fed, one that is pumped, and quite a few more requests from hunters than in years past. "I'm having a hard time keeping my messages to where my voice box isn't full," Walker said. "That's not a bad problem to have, I just don't always have enough ducks to entertain everybody."
Walker said his hunters did well the first few days of the season and that he's looking forward to a good season, "it's just that normally I'd have 10 or 12 different places to hunt and right now I'm down to about five places to hunt because of the drought," he said.
Walker seconded Grace's report that the country has more mallards than it did last week. "There are definitely some new birds in the area, without a doubt," he said.
Montgomery said his phone has been busy as well and that his weekend waterfowl hunters filled several bag limits. I posted a blog item on one of his hunters bagging an 8-year-old mallard.
"A lot of guys that usually just dove hunt with me but don't do waterfowl have been calling," he said. "Guys are just short on places to go."
Montgomery also does quail hunts and said poor upland conditions for wild birds also has more hunters than usual calling him for quail so their dogs can get some upland work this fall.
Waterfowl hunters will just have to put in their time, Montgomery concluded. "I think it'll be a decent second half," he said. "I think guys are just going to have to keep looking around and if you've got a place with water and something to eat then it's going to get birds at some point. We're going to get these cold fronts and more birds will trickle through."
Indeed, Oklahoma's winter may be a little different this year, but it still is winter and ducks still will migrate. The weather will determine how many and when. It might not end up being a great season, but I'm not giving up hope yet. It really is going to be OK.
Original Print Headline: Duck hunting still only 'OK'
To reach guide Kelly Walker call 918-694-2949. Guide Gordie Montgomery can be reached at 918-557-4791.