Although area duck numbers are projected to be down seven percent from last year, they will remain well above the long-range average, says ODFW's Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area Manager Dave Larson. The La Grande area wildlife manager says as well that goose production is up.
Specific hunting information for Wallowa County is not readily available, but both Larson and Ducks Unlimited Regional Biologist Steve Donovan agree that a primary factor in the success of one's hunt for ducks depends on the weather on the day of the hunt. "Storms are ideal times for hunts," Larson said.
He said that opening day is also a good time to hunt when the younger ducks are not as aware of the threat posed by humans.
Duck season opens Oct. 9 and goose season Oct. 16. The seasons close Jan. 23, 2005. A special kids hunt is scheduled for Sept. 25-26 and, because the federal government only allows a set number of days for the hunting of waterfowl, a two-day hunting closure will be enforced Dec. 8-9.
Wallowa County Ducks Unlimited co-chairman Gene Bieraugel (along with co-chair Kathi Baird) expects a normal year for duck numbers in the county. He said that the mid-summer rains on what had been the dry plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where most of this area's migrating ducks come from, improved conditions considerably.
Mallards will continue to be the primary target for local hunters, both because of their numbers and because of their larger size. Donovan said that the number of pintails is on a downward trend because of the overall loss of wetlands in Canada.
Larson and Donovan predict that the majority of ducks found early in the hunting season will be local birds that live in the county year around. More migrating birds will arrive later in the season when they are forced to land because of inclement weather. More ducks will enter the flyways earlier if Canada gets really cold, Donovan said.
Bieraugel said that there are three main flyways the waterfowl travel on a yearly basis. He said the birds either start from Alaska, Alberta/Saskatchewan or the Dakotas. Record numbers of waterfowl are finding their way to Ladd Marsh since that habitat restoration project was completed last fall, yet most of the birds continue to migrate south. Larson said that most of the migrating ducks go into California, with some ending up in either Arizona or New Mexico.