2017 North Dakota Duck Hunting Report for Oct. 19

Hunting slows. Canvasbacks have showed up.
It has been a tough week for waterfowlers here at Prairie Smoke Ranch and nearby areas.  Gadwalls arrived earlier but have found remote ponds and sloughs and pretty much stay put unless rousted.  When flushed they tend to just return to those areas again.

Mallards are pretty common but are following the same pattern -- remote loafing areas are being used. The difference here is they will quickly abandon a loafing or roost area when jumped; heading over the hill to the next suitable spot and settling in again.  Field hunters are having a similarly tough time finding birds consistently. 

We had three hard frosts in a row last week, which helped autumn settle firmly onto the landscape but we hit 79 degrees today -- not helpful! 

Geese and cranes are around but scarce. We are seeing a few flocks of snows but nothing worth putting out a spread. Swans are around but not in big numbers.

Our hunters report that cans are working the sets on the larger water but few are being taken.  Some larger water bodies are holding fairly large concentrations of bluebills (scaup), and they are staying put.  Many of these larger sloughs are ringed with mud flats, making it tough to try a sneak or set up on the birds.

Frosty morning lookout
Pheasants remain spotty but sharptails have become concentrated and much easier to find.  For some reason, I'm thinking frost-killed insects, the sharpies are also starting to use the alfalfa fields instead of their usual brushy areas.

We had a strong west wind yesterday but that has ushered in unseasonably warm weather -- in the mid/high 70s -- and has now switched again to the southwest.  I expect that may have moved some new birds in but the warm weather will not help stir them up.

After yesterday's big blow, morning shoots over the water should be productive, afternoon shoots will be spotty. Many of the PLOTS areas well back from the roads are holding a lot of birds; anyone willing to hoof it should do well.

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. 

2017 North Dakota Duck Hunting report for Oct. 12
2017 North Dakota Duck Hunting Report for Oct. 25

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