Time short for duck migration

By Bobby Cleveland/The Clarion-Ledger

JACKSON — Mississippi has had an above-average duck season, according to most waterfowl hunters and experts.

It could have been so much better, and now time is running out.

Record numbers of ducks were expected in the winter migration, but after an early start, that movement south has been delayed by a very mild winter in the mid-latitude states.

Missouri, for example, was holding what its biologists called a record number of mallards for early to mid-January. Now that the hunting seasons are over in those northern states, there will be no hunting pressure on ducks to encourage the migration.

That’s not good for hunters in Mississippi, where the season closes next Sunday. There’s little time left for ducks to arrive, even for the youth season Feb. 4-5.

“We had better hunting in mid-December than we’ve had so far in January,” said Bill Tolliver of Southaven. “We were getting limits of greenheads with the necessary gadwall and teal to fill the bag, and we were licking our chops knowing that January is always the best part of the season. It didn’t exactly go as planned.

“We had a really, really slow early January and then about a week ago, we started seeing some more ducks. We could still get a great final week, if it just gets cold up there north of us and stays cold.”

That isn’t likely: Weather.com’s 5-day forecast for Cape Girardeau, Mo., includes only two nights of temperatures of freezing or below.

The 10-day forecast for the Mississippi Delta is likewise unseasonable — only two nights in the 30s with a low of 38 for the period. Daytime highs will be in the 50s and 60s.

“We’ve had ducks most of the season but we haven’t always had limit-producing numbers,” said Randy Spikes of Grenada. “We had to back off and let our ponds rest.

“But, in the last week of the season, that won’t be the case. We’ll hunt whenever we can and hope for the best.”