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Area waterfowl hunters have hard time finding ducks in mild weather

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WILLMAR -- Work commitments kept Joe Schlagel from waterfowl hunting as much as he wanted this last season, but he got out early and found the action "slow.''

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The West Central Ducks Unlimited chapter member from Clara City said that other waterfowl hunters told him things never really did improve much.

And in fact, the waterfowl season that ended Tuesday will probably go down as one of the worst in recent memory, said Jeff Miller, assistant wildlife director for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in New London.

"Disappointing,'' is how he and others called the season.

We have been seeing a trend towards a larger waterfowl migration to the west, and that was some of the problem this year. Wet conditions in the Dakotas provided ideal conditions and attracted lots of migrating waterfowl to the Dakotas this season.

But this year was probably an anomaly in that weather conditions also conspired against waterfowl hunters, noted Miller. November proved to be one of the warmest on record. Absent the major cold fronts that usually push the birds, the big migration just didn't seem to happen.

The best hunting was enjoyed in this area shortly before the deer firearms season. Miller said he knows of some waterfowl hunters who enjoyed successful outings on Mud Lake and other waterfowl waters.

He is not aware of any scientific data that would allow a year-by-year comparison of the waterfowl migration, but said there is plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that this was a poor season across the entire state.

There are estimates of the geese migration kept at the Lac qui Parle wildlife refuge, and they clearly show a late migration. The number of birds in the refuge through the latter part of the season held in the 40,000-plus range, as compared to 100,000 usually seen at the migration's peak.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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