Tuesday, October 27, 2015

El Niño 2015

The warm and dry conditions continued this year on the opening of the Pheasant season in the northern states. This has been the second consecutive year that the waterfowl migration has not started as of mid October in the Prairie Pothole Region. We made the best of the shirt sleeve weather during the opener and enjoyed some fine wing shooting, but I personally find more enjoyment in hunting without competition from other hunters than putting lots of birds in the bag. Obviously, hunting during the opener on public access areas is not the best strategy, and I am thinking we will revisit our road trip schedule in coming years. My observation is that the water table on the far Northern Prairies in select areas where we hunt is falling and suitable upland bird cover is declining vs last year's conditions. Many small coverts that previously held birds were empty and the cover was sparse. In some of the more touted areas hunter numbers are way up as well. Many of the last bastions of CRP are disappearing, and the USDA Drought monitor shows much of the prime habitat in the High Plains and Western regions as "abnormally dry" or in "moderate drought". I am keeping my fingers crossed for a return to more normal conditions in the months to come. It seems to me that one of the side effects of shrinking habitat is a concentration of hunting pressure in the remaining suitable habitat. Moving away from the higher bird density areas may ultimately pay off with better hunting and less pressured birds, but we may have to work a little harder to find them.

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