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Fall Flights Disappoint Again

One more time, North American duck production was near record high but Idaho duck hunters saw a dismal fall flight from the north. What's worse, it could happen again next year unless the southwest corner of the Province of Alberta receives a lot more snow than it has yet this winter. Most ducks not produced locally in Idaho and western Montana come to Idaho from that area of Canada. Fish and Game waterfowl manager Tom Hemker said he had recently conferred with his counterparts in surrounding states and learned that their experience of this waterfowl season was about the same as in Idaho. He noted that the duck season in western Montana "lasted about three days." The duck story in eastern Idaho was about the same. The combination of low duck production in southwestern Alberta and a record cold November that froze Montana and eastern Idaho waters early. The few ducks headed to Idaho just kept on going. The exception was in the Clearwater Region where ducks move back and forth on the Lower Snake and Columbia rivers. There, the midwinter waterfowl count showed dabbling duck numbers up by 22 percent, divers up by 28 percent and a whopping 38 percent increase in geese. In contrast, the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in the Southwest Region had 61 percent fewer ducks than last year when the count was taken January 3. The two-month period of November and December was the coldest on record in the 20th century overall in the U.S. Snow has been falling in most of Canada but southwest Alberta has been missed by most of the storms. Overall duck production in 2000 throughout North America was the third highest since record keeping began in the 1950s. Canada geese offer a different story. Geese generally do not use the shallow wetlands that puddle ducks do, so are not so sensitive to short term drought conditions. Goose hunting this season in Idaho has generally been at least as good as other recent years.