West Virginia’s winter waterfowl season is shaping up to be a good one.
Cold temperatures in early December have already pushed ducks and geese south from the Great Lakes states into the Ohio River valley, something that usually doesn’t happen until late December or early January.
“It’s looking pretty good right now,” said Mike Peters, waterfowl project leader for the state Division of Natural Resources.
“I’ve been getting reports since Thanksgiving of redheads, scaup, canvasbacks and other diving birds showing up on the Ohio. What’s really neat is that the manager at the Pleasants Creek Wildlife Management Area said he’s been seeing a bunch of green-winged teal.”
The teal, which usually migrate through West Virginia in early October, apparently didn’t get the memo that they’re supposed to be in Georgia or Florida by now.
The winter season is a time of variety for Mountain State waterfowl enthusiasts. The state doesn’t usually see many migratory ducks or geese until bodies of water freeze over in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and southern Ontario.
Whenever that happens, hunters start seeing species other than the mallards and black ducks that call the state home. Long-tailed ducks, gadwalls, pintails and the aforementioned scaup, redheads and canvasbacks can show up, usually on navigable rivers where the water seldom freezes.
The final split of the state’s three-part duck season will begin on Dec. 23 and will end on Jan. 31.
Ducks won’t be the only game in town, though. Some hunters will be targeting geese, for which the final season segment is already underway. It will also end on Jan. 31.
Peters said most of the geese hunters will see are resident birds, but if areas north of the state get frozen over solidly, non-resident birds will start showing up.
“We’ll get geese from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, mainly, but sometimes we get some Canada geese that are truly Canadian,” Peters said. “We’ll occasionally get a few white-fronted geese, and they mainly show up on the Ohio.”
Peters expects most hunters to hunt in the classic style, i.e., over spreads of decoys.
“That’s what I usually do,” he said. “Sometimes I even break holes in the ice so I have a place to put the decoys. The birds like having some open water, so the tactic works.”
After Jan. 1, hunters will need to have hunting licenses valid for the 2021 season. Federal waterfowl stamps are good from July 1 to June 30 and do not have to be renewed in-season.