Tuesday, January 24, 2012

North Carolina Migration End of Season Update

It's the end of the season, which means birds, on an average year will begin to hover our decoys much more frequently. Word on the street is that it will snow in the week leading up to Youth Day. Anyway, here's what I've heard and what I know:

Redheads - They're present in the low end of the average count in most traditional coastal places. Ocracoke and downeast have less redheads than normal, while Croatan Sound areas seem to have redheads. Pamlico and Beaufort counties are sporting some reds, but they're leaving out early morning for rafting purposes on Lake Mattamuskeet. Some opportunities for a trophy redhead can be found at all points in between within the Northern Pamlico.

Bluebills are beginning to settle into average numbers in their typical northern tier strongholds. The bluebills I have encountered are throughout the Northern Pamlico and are also available on the Croatan and Roanoke Sound areas, as well as Currituck. As of now, bluebills are also thick locally downeast. They are decoying friendly for me!

Swans, while here in good numbers earlier, seem to be a bit more inland than typical for this year. Most swans are congregating around Pantego and other Hyde/Washington/Beaufort fields. Birds are also present in Currituck in good numbers, while Bodie Island has some around. Pea Island also holds many swans, but they're off limits. Tyrrell County swan counts are below average, and many believe the swans are still not down in traditional numbers.

Wigeons are not here in strong numbers whatsoever. In fact, they've barely presented themselves in most public areas. Still, they are an early season bird as far as I am concerned. Excellent impoundments featured good wigeon counts, as well as Gadwall, in early parts of this abnormally warm winter. Wigeons are considered at this point to be in localized pockets throughout the beaches. Few have been noticed on Lake Mattamuskeet. Pamlico Point, near Hobucken, is also low on traditional wigeon numbers.

Pintails are beginning to arrive in fair numbers. Pintails were harvested in early October on state-managed impoundments, but that turned out to be a false positive. Open water shoals featuring grass may hold pintails at anytime. Pamlico Point has had some wigeons killed, with my reports suggesting that what enforcement officials have counted adds up to about .1 pintails per permitted hunter within the state impoundments. Generally, that number is as high as .75 in that location. J Morgan Futch pintail counts are lower than in December, but have increased consistently over the past two weeks.

Mergansers are here in good numbers and can be seen stretching the limits of Raleigh Riff Raff shotgun chokes. With these birds come the larger divers. Cans and bluebills are in average numbers.

Scoters are in good numbers within the sea duck zone areas. They will continue to build through the end of the traditional sea duck season. Huntable numbers exist within 1000 yards of shore in and around southern Hyde and Beaufort counties.

Hopefully, this year will go down as the worst year in quite some time. Interestingly enough, it comes on the heels of some of the best years in recent memory. I'm working on a streak of about 50 consecutive kills - my shotgunning has been very good, but it has needed to be if I wanted to add heft to the game bag. Ducks that I don't normally count in scouting, such as teal, are here in above average numbers. There are also a lot of mature birds of all species, making hunting them all a fun challenge.

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