Minnesotans reveling in the unseasonable fall weather we've experienced of late aren't the only ones enjoying the inordinately high temperatures and blue skies.
Wood ducks are, too.
Typically fairly thinned out this far north by mid-October — or nearly mid-October — wood ducks this fall have hung around in pretty good numbers. And why not? South winds that have prevailed much of this month have discouraged migration, and there's plenty of food to enjoy hereabouts, with no need to buck headwinds flying toward Iowa and beyond.
Saturday morning, my son, Cole, and I hunted a lake near the outer ring of the Twin Cities that can be pretty good about this time of year, depending on weather. Saturday, of course, broke warm — even hot — and sunny, with a south wind, so our expectations weren't high. Also, this is a pretty heavily used public lake, and competition for the relatively few spots that are good in a south wind began hours before shooting time.
Cole and I fired no shots.
Sunday morning, we shifted gears and tried a completely different spot. Cole had scouted it Saturday night and reported seeing a couple of good flocks of woodies hanging out in a shadowy hole of a large body of water. It wouldn't be an easy spot to get to, but enough birds were there to offer encouragement.
A half-hour before sunrise Sunday looked a lot like the same time a day earlier: clear and star-filled.
The first bird arrowed over our decoys in the half-light, a drake woodie that Cole's shot sent wheeling into the dark water.
Later we added another woodie to our bag, a hen — good enough with the drake for dinner that night, but not representative of the relative abundance of wood ducks we saw in the sky Sunday morning.
Mallards, by contrast, were all but no-shows: We saw only four, and they were sky-high, far from harm's way. A few honkers were around, but none offered shots.
A look at the long-term forecast suggests more birds will be moving into the state in the next week. Though no big weather systems are predicted, winds are expected to shift around to the north. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, for instance, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, northerly winds are expected for the next week.
Similarly, winds in Williston, N.D., Aberdeen, S.D., and the Twin Cities are predicted to shift soon from their predominantly southerly flow, to the north. Temperatures also are expected to drop: Highs at this time next week are expected to be only in the low to mid-40s in Winnipeg, with lows in the mid- to high 20s, again with north winds.
It's unlikely these relatively seasonal conditions will push many mallards into the state. But divers, which tend to migrate more according to the calendar, should begin showing up in better numbers by this weekend.
Meanwhile, Minnesota waterfowlers looking for ducks while uplanders are chasing pheasants on the season's first day Saturday can hunt until sunset. The 4 p.m. daily hunting closure ended last Saturday.