2017 North Dakota Duck Hunting Report for Oct. 31

Winter has arrived -- along with snows and big northern mallards
We've been wind-burned, froze out and generally beat up the last few days here at Prairie Smoke Ranch.  A couple nights of 18 degree lows and 30 degree highs with 40-50 mph winds tends to test your mettle.  The good news is that the weather came from the northwest and brought with it gobs of snow geese and a nice mix of late-season birds.

The bluebills are rafted up on all the big water and acting like the big water birds they are -- heavy with fat and having a blast in the icy water.  The greenheads are huge, fully-colored and larded down with fat too.  Today any small water in the area not iced over held a flock or two. Really magnificent birds.  The cans and redheads seem to have moved on.  A few spoonies, greenwings and goldeneyes are also working the sets. Did I mention it's really cold?
Waiting for dawn

Snows are roosting on the bigger lakes and feeding in stubble -- wheat mostly as the corn is just starting to come down.  There have been clouds of them over by our Pass area.  As usual, putting them to bed and figuring out legal access to the fields has been a challenge.  They will soon find the combined corn fields and be concentrated in those areas.

We  got a break in the weather yesterday and quickly pulled the blocks off our smaller water before they froze in again.  The larger lakes have sheet ice but should be open through this next cold snap. Snow flurries today but nothing on the ground.

Swans and cranes are moving through in a hurry; lots of cranes heading for warmer climes.

Upland hunting has been solid, with pheasants in the traditional slough areas and in our food plots. Sharpies are spotty -- if you find them you find a pile of them, if you don't find them you are just out for a walk. No Huns have made it into the cleaning shed as of late.

Dog work has been very important on upland and the ducks but we are losing birds now that the divers are in and the wind refuses to drop to less than 25 mph.  Tough to hit them solid and then tough to get them in the whitecaps if they start diving. 

I expect we will transition to some serious field hunting over the course of the next week as our smaller and medium waters freeze up, possibly for the duration of winter.  It feels like we are a good 10 days ahead of our usual late October/early November weather.  Shoot straight and be safe.

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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