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Waterfowl Wonderlands

Experienced Kentucky waterfowl hunters are just as interested in the weather reports from Indiana and Illinois as they are in their home state. This is because snow and freezing temperatures play a pivotal role in how many ducks and geese migrate through the state on the way to their wintering areas.

Rocky Pritchert, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, says the weather helps determine the overall success of waterfowl hunters in the state.

“Snow is primarily a factor with geese,” Pritchert says. “If snow covers their food sources, then the birds migrate until they find clear fields. Weather is definitely a factor. If there’s little snow to the north, the birds will stay north.”

Ducks are more water-dependent. They need open water to feed, loaf, and seek sanctuary. Without it, ducks will continue south until they can find what they need. Uncertainty over the weather makes it difficult to predict how good a season Kentucky’s 20,000-plus waterfowl hunters will enjoy this year. However, Pritchert says ducks had a successful breeding season to the north this spring. Projections place the number of ducks in North America around 100 million this fall.

Pritchert says millions of ducks and geese typically come through Kentucky, with the highest numbers in the western end of the state. Some will winter in Kentucky.

More hunters are discovering they don’t have to travel to the west—opportunities are available elsewhere.

“You can find good duck hunting throughout the state, it’s just a matter of going out there and looking for it,” Pritchert says.

Waterfowl hunters typically key in on big lakes and rivers. Pritchert says hunters should not overlook farm ponds and backwater areas. Whether you hunt waterfowl or just like to watch them, scouting is essential. Look for open water and watch bird movement at daybreak through a set of good binoculars. Birds follow the same daily pattern unless the weather changes or they’re disturbed.

Waterfowl season is now in full swing. Be sure to read your Kentucky hunting guide for information about regulations before going afield.

Kentucky now offers a free junior hunting weekend. Hunters under the age of 16 can hunt deer or small game for free on the first weekend after Christmas. This year it’s December 27-28. Check the hunting guide for more information and safety requirements.

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