Howdy, pilgrim. Top of the morning to you.
Maybe you thought I was missing in action, or maybe you didn't miss me at all. But that's OK, because I didn't miss me either. It was a mixed summer - good, bad and indifferent.
I started the summer out with surgery and recuperation. But I gotta tell you folks, this retirement this is great, especially up in the lake country and the north woods. I did the fishing thing - lots of fishing. And I did the coffee thing - lots of coffee. I took lots of bird hikes, roamed the deep woods and boated on the lakes.
Early on, I went out west and took second place in the sub-small bore class at the Montana State Gopher Shoot (Note: Joe McKinney, if you're reading this, I did it with the .22 Hornet). Then Uncle Sam called and I took time to head out east to Quantico, VA. for four weeks, filling is a substitute instructor at the Marine Corps Sniper School until deployed instructors could be replaced.
I don't know where the summer went. It's fall already. It's on the way, folks, it's on the way. We had five nights of hard frosts up on the Minnesota-Canada border, so, it was time for me to pack it in and head south. Things are very dry, and I don't need to remind you that we need rain. In the north country, the leaves have already turned to their fall colors, and many of the trees have dropped their leaves already.
There was plenty of porcupines and bears to contend with all summer. Canada and Minnesota fishing ranged from very good to very poor. A record-breaking early spring ice-out (mild winter) caused the waters to warm quickly and remain very warm all summer, and of course, this allowed emergent and submergent weeds to grow fast and thick. Stressful above-normal warm lake water forced the fish into deep water. Not to worry though, I brought enough fish back with me to have my annual fish fry for the Good Old Boys. I don't think they'd let me come back to Webster City without those fish.
OK, let's get serious. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects the fall duck flight to total 48 million, the highest since surveys were started in 1955. Canada goose numbers are about average, while snow goose numbers are down slightly from last year, but still above historic averages. That's the good news. The bad news is we are bone dry. Not enough water to attract them, and not enough water to hold them.
Have you looked at the Boone River lately? Try this on for size Iowa's lakes, rivers and streams are the lowest in 40 years. Not since 1972 has it been this bad. There's no water and that's not good news for waterfowl. Our ponds, sloughs, bogs, marshes and wetlands are dried up. Ducks and hunters will be concentrated on the larger lakes, reservoirs and interior rivers. The ducks will pass through the state quickly as a result. Good growth of wild celery in Mississippi River pools should attract large numbers of migrating ducks. Eastern Iowa areas hold all the high cards.
In a word, it's going to be "here today and gone tomorrow." Waterfowl hunters are going to have to be in the right places at the right time and Lady Luck will determine the outcome of hunting success. I'm thinking that there will be a lot of river hunting this season and good decoy spreads on the river bends will attract the most ducks. If it's anything like previous dry years, there will be a lot of duck traffic up and down the rivers good pass shooting.
Having said this, the peak duck migration across Iowa normally runs from mid-October through late November, but the early green winged and blue winged teal movement is going on right now. Too, all is not lost because there usually are some ducks, primarily mallards, lingering in the state until forced south by ice and snow. And then there is always that last minute flight of big, fat, grain-fed ducks moving down out of Canada at the very tail end of the season.
I'm interested in seeing how this new season thing is going to work out. Iowa has been divided into three waterfowl hunting zones instead of two. The north and south zones continue to be split primarily by U.S. Highway 30. However, the new Missouri River zone lies west of Interstate 29 and north of U.S. Highway 175, or basically, Sioux City to Onawa in west central Iowa. Semper Fi.
And now have a good weekend.