If the December-January segment of West Virginia’s duck and goose season is like the November segment, waterfowl hunters should enjoy themselves.
Mike Peters, waterfowl project leader for the state Division of Natural Resources, said the variety of ducks that showed up during the November 11-16 segment was “fabulous.”
“We had all types of species in here,” he said. “Gadwall, wigeon, black ducks, you name it. There was an initial push of cold weather, it got some birds moving.”
Cold weather in the Great Lakes tends to push ducks and geese southward, where the weather is usually more hospitable. For that reason, Peters said hunters should keep an eye on national weather reports.
“You’re looking for freeze-ups and bad weather,” he said. “I love it when polar vortexes hit north of here; lakes and ponds freeze up, and that makes the Potomac and Ohio rivers look good to ducks because they stay open.”
Peters said ducks are considerably more sensitive to weather changes than geese are.
“When we get those really good cold snaps, we get everything in here,” he continued. “On our rivers, we get a lot of diving ducks coming down. On the Ohio River, we can get scaup, canvasbacks, and redheads.”
Even so, the lion’s share of those late migrants will consist of dabbling ducks — mallards, black ducks, ring-necked ducks and gadwall.
“The teal migrate early, and they’re generally out of here by the time the December-January segment comes around,” Peters said.
Recent weather trends have caused what Peters calls “the main part of the season” to come later and later.
“January is when things really get cranking,” he said. “We’ve had canvasbacks come in as late as early February. That’s why we stack as many days as we can toward the end of the season; we start at Jan. 31 and work backward. We do the same thing for geese.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows West Virginia to allocate more days for goose hunting than for duck hunting.
“That’s why the final segment of the goose season comes in a couple of weeks earlier than the final segment of the duck season,” Peters explained.
The goose season will resume on Dec. 9, the duck season on Dec. 23. Both hunts will end on Jan. 31.
Peters cautioned hunters to remember to purchase new state hunting licenses and obtain new Harvest Information Program permits by Jan. 1.
“It’s an easy detail to overlook,” he said. “I personally have walked out the door without a current hunting license.”
Hunters won’t have to renew their federal waterfowl stamps, which are good through the end of June.
Waterfowl bag limits vary by species. Hunters should consult the DNR’s website, www.wvdnr.gov, for details.