Yesterday's hunt and some rambling about bluebills

Dwight Harley

Well-known member
We set up several dozen Canada floaters off a long sand bar on a large natural lake in eastern SD. Air temp was 18 with a NNE wind and big rollers on the lake made for a brisk 20 minute ride in the boat. I was the bow guy so I looked like Mr. Freeze when we got to the point. Saw thousands of mallards that have been here for weeks and they weren't buying what we were selling. The flocks looked like big swarms of blackbirds in the distance. Our mallards are acting like snows and sit on the big water in huge rafts, only moving out to eat in the fields. The size of these flocks make them almost impossible to decoy and shoot in the picked corn. We also saw several thousand honkers and a flock of snow geese that numbered about 5,000 birds that flew out to feed and then returned in one bunch about two hours later. I bet that bunch would be hard to fool in a field spread. We shot two Canadas that decoyed nicely but other than a lone spoonie and a few GEs, those were the only birds that we fooled with our spread. However, it was cool to see so many birds moving and we were the only boat on the lake.
I do a lot of diver hunting and the numbers of bluebills we saw this year was discouraging. We typically see lots of bills come through and stay until ice up but they were few in number around here this season. Our state waterfowl biologist says the lesser scaup situation is gloomy with climate changes in the boreal forest, decreased invertebrate availabilty on the spring migration (many of the sloughs and lakes that were full of scuds and traditionally fed lots of bills have been stocked with perch and fathead minnows) and increased contamniant loads in fatty tissues from eating Zebra mussels seen as suspected reasons for the scaup decline. I know some lakes where your decoy keels would be covered with scuds when you picked them up a few years ago. However, you would have to look hard to find a scud now since these lakes have been stocked with gamefish and fathead minnows have found their way into them.