KDFWR: Biologist forecasts better waterfowl hunting

Published 1:14 pm Thursday, January 3, 2019

Bitter temperatures north of the Ohio River should push birds south

FRANKFORT — A bitter cold front is expected to wash over duck-holding areas north of the Ohio River early next week, which should mean good news for waterfowl hunting in Kentucky, according to experts at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

“The cold is coming,” said John Brunjes, migratory bird program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “An expanding cold trough should create single-digit temperatures across much of the central portion of the country by Tuesday night. Ducks tend to move in front of cold conditions. Hunters in the field on those movement days will likely experience exceptional hunts.”

Email newsletter signup

The relatively warm weather in duck-holding areas to the north has given the birds little incentive to fly south in search of ice-free water, making conditions for Kentucky waterfowl hunters more challenging.

Compounding those conditions is Kentucky’s abundant rainfall. The number of flooded areas have provided ducks protected areas to feed away from hunters. The scattered flocks of birds are not exposing themselves in open grain fields traditionally used by hunters, but instead are feeding in areas almost completely free of hunting pressure.

“Kentucky is not alone,” Brunjes said. “In speaking with biologists from Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee this week, I’ve learned those states are facing similar hunting conditions. Missouri and Illinois, in spite of having high duck numbers, have also experienced below average seasons. It’s tough across the board.”

Snow cover across the Midwest and Great Lakes regions was almost nonexistent early in the last week of December. Duck surveys in northern states revealed those areas were still retaining higher than usual numbers for this time of year. “Ducks have simply not had the need to come South,” Brunjes said.

Once cold weather does push more ducks into Kentucky, hunters should be prepared and in the field. “The first half has been tough, but there’s still a lot of season left,” Brunjes said.

For more information on season dates and regulations, go online to fw.ky.gov and look for the Kentucky Hunting Guide for Waterfowl.