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Last week winter came in earnest to most northern states, clamping an icy lid on ponds and marshes, prodding laggard flocks of ducks and geese on their southward way and cheering the hearts of gunners shivering in ten thousand pits and blinds along the four major fly ways. For the epicures there were plump mallards and rice-fed "cans." At the bottom of the gourmet's list there were scaups and scoters and old squaws. There were pintails and baldpates, teals and buffleheads, blacks and ringnecks. And for a few fortunate waterfowlers there were geese: majestic honkers, garrulous cacklers, snows and blues and brants. Here's how it looked, along the flyways, to SI's crew of duck watchers:
British Columbia: Alternate floods and heavy freeze-up have made B.C.'s duck season chaotic to date, but birds are generally plentiful. Most hunting concentrated on flats at Fraser River mouth, flooded fields and swamps in lower valley. Snow geese numerous. Excellent mallard and goose shooting in Cariboo Highlands. Main Pacific flyway resting place, Tofino Inlet on West Coast, V.I., now crammed with lesser Canada geese in thousands, canvasbacks, mallards, pintails, teals, widgeons (baldpates) and most other species.
Heavy rains and floods following thaw should certainly produce season's peak shooting in next two or three weeks.
California: First half of split season ended November 18 with best hunting since opening due to large flight of pintails, scaups, widgeons and mallards in wake of heavy storms. Season is terrific even on public waters such as Big Bear Lake and Salton Sea. Early season hotspots are Tule Lake and Butte Sink, with pintails predominating but also good flights of mallards.
Second half of split season starts December 10, ends January 15. In Colorado River region season started October 28, ends January 15.
Idaho: Present hunting conditions excellent, will peak December 1 to 10. Goose hunting fair to good. Northern geese started to arrive November 15, and shooting should pick up from now on. Canadian honkers show greatest numbers, followed by brant and snow geese. Best hunting in Idaho for geese and ducks is from Weiser on Oregon line to approximately Twin Falls in Snake River Valley. Best shooting has been from opening time to about 9:30. Last year approximately 37,000 waterfowlers; this year about 40,000. Seventy-five percent of the birds going through are mallards; pintails, 10%; baldpates, 5%.
Oregon: Every creek, slough, pond and river is playing host to hunters who are out to enjoy one of the greatest flights of ducks and geese the Willamette Valley has had in years. Peak should be about Thanksgiving Day. Along Willamette River and in corn areas it is almost 100% mallards.
Large flights of western Canada honkers have arrived in the Corvallis and Monroe area and also in Rickreall area in central Willamette Valley Old-timers are anxiously awaiting opening of jack-snipe season November 27. Eastern and central Oregon is poor on waterfowl.
Washington: Western Washington waterfowl gunners are having a banner year. More ducks have come in and they are staying. During cold spell some gunners set decoys right on the ice and made limit bags; others used laundry bluing spread on ice to simulate open water.