With forest fire ash drifting in the air and temps in the toasty range, most Idahoans are probably not thinking about the whistle of wings on a chilly morning breeze, but duck hunters are a breed apart.
This is the time of year when the size and composition of fall waterfowl flights become clear and the possibilities for this year's migrations are outstanding. Overall, production this spring was the third highest on record.
Last year's North American production of 105 million ducks was the highest since scientific waterfowl counts began. This year 90 million ducks will make up the fall flight, just off the 1997 figure of 92 million. Hunters and bird biologists knew last fall that they were seeing a one-time thing. Mallard numbers are down from last year's record of 13.6 million to 11.3 million.
As last season in Idaho demonstrated all too clearly, having record numbers of birds on the breeding grounds does not necessarily guarantee good hunting here. Balmy temperatures extending north over the border with Canada delayed migration from waterfowl staging areas. When weather did finally arrive, the pattern was not helpful for bringing ducks to Idaho. Duck hunters wait and hope for more normal weather patterns.
No major changes in seasons or bag limits will be proposed to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for this year. They are scheduled to approve waterfowl seasons at the August 24-25 meeting.