Friday, 13 January 2012
Got Winter? Not on the Prairies…Yet!
A miraculous thing happened the other day in Bismarck—it snowed. A light skiff of snow finally put a white frosting on a brown landscape in the Dakotas. Duck hunters everywhere have been waiting endlessly for a cold front and some snow “Up North” to dislodge the ducks and reenergize the migration. Up here, our sleds haven’t left the shed, our winter boots are still in the closet and a brown Christmas was had by nearly all.
I haven’t had to spend time on my 4-wheeler plowing the driveway or shoveling, and while that has been a nice reprieve, it certainly ruined my treasured late-season pheasant hunting. In fact, my buddies who chase deer with a bow feel a little cheated too.
What is extraordinary is how quickly weather changes. Just mere months ago, flooding across the prairies made big headlines; crops couldn’t be planted due to flooded fields, and everyone was just flat-out soaked. Virtually every nook and cranny of the prairies was wetter than heck and set the table for nesting ducks.
But Mother Nature has flipped the switch. Areas of prairie Canada were drying as fast as they flooded this late summer and fall, and the Dakotas started to lose moisture almost as quickly. A wise man once said there is no average on the prairies, and we are certainly living proof of that right now. Now monitoring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates a short-term drought, as do similar reports from Canada.
It’s going to be an interesting spring. Based on last year’s moisture, larger permanent and semi-permanent wetlands will be full to overflowing and it’s possible that some larger seasonal wetlands will have water as well. It’s my guess that the small seasonal and temporary basins (which are the most important to breeding ducks) will be dried out by the time the ducks come back if (and this is still a big if) we don’t receive significant moisture in the next couple of months.
So hunters everywhere say a prayer for cold and snow “Up North.” Do it for two reasons: To spill ducks southward for the last duck seasons…and to set up the prairies for the next breeding season.