A key component of waterfowl hunting and the migration is the availability of food sources. Last year was characterized by a an early onset to spring/summer weather followed by a historic drought across much of the country. This weather led to a prolific bloom of moist soil plants such as smartweed, barnyard grass, and many others. It also left many farmers and waterfowl managers with corn crops that failed. Fast-forward one year and the exact opposite conditions have prevailed across most of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. Many acres of corn have either been flooded out or left untouched because of all of the rainfall. So where does that leave us for the quickly approaching waterfowl season of 2013-2014?

Flooding of 2013

The weather the last two years has left many hunters questioning their planting of corn. Because of its carbohydrate content, corn is a food source best utilized by waterfowl during cold weather. Last year, the cold weather didn’t arrive in most places until the very end of the season or even after it was closed. Good hunts were had over both flooded corn and fields, but it wasn’t as good as prior years. Many of last year’s corn acres will be forced to be planted in another crop this year or worse yet, left unplanted because of the flooding spring rains. Many moist soil impoundments that typically get drained by now are still holding water, which will limit the germination of beneficial plants for waterfowl when/if things do dry out.

Food sources for 2013-2014

For waterfowl managers who are able to get their land dried out and ready to plant, the question is what waterfowl hunting food sources they should choose. They’re going to need a plant that matures quickly with the limited growing season left. Many areas along the flood plains of larger rivers could possibly not dry out at all. This will leave much of the bottom lands void of any food sources for waterfowl hunting. Areas just above the lowlands will offer the first opportunity for waterfowl looking to feed. Any corn planted on this higher ground could be dynamite if the weather cooperates and forces waterfowl to seek out high carbohydrate food to get through the cold winter months, but if the weather follows the past two years, the usage of corn fields will be minimal in the southern parts of the flyways.

Flooding and nesting waterfowl

The one positive side of all the rainfall is the abundant water now present for nesting waterfowl across much of the prairie pot hole region. Most areas in the Dakotas have received anywhere from the average to four times the amount of normal rainfall. The nesting reports out of these areas for waterfowl is very promising for the coming season. Baring a sudden reversal of weather, there should be ample water sources for staging and migrating waterfowl. Waterfowl hunters rarely go a day with day dreaming of locked wings sailing towards them. Now is a great time to add fuel to those day dreams by checking out the properties you hunt. Conditions the waterfowl hunting food sources are experiencing now will impact your hunting this fall regardless of if you plant crops for waterfowl or just have permission to hunt the farmers field.

Images courtesy Fowled Reality

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