This is the first of several columns containing 2019 hunting prospects.
Fish and Wildlife publishes an annual hunting prospects publication, which gives hunters information about what they can expect when going into the field.
Below, and in future columns, is a condensed version of this year’s prospects for Grant and Adams counties, also known as District 5 by Fish and Wildlife.
Remember, these are prospects, meaning the information presented is generally what hunters can expect.
Grant County is consistently Washington’s top duck-producing county. Last year, hunters harvested 68,092 ducks in Grant County. Adams County hunters added another 15,853 ducks for a district total of 83,945.
This is also Washington’s top goose-producing county in 2018. Hunters harvested 15,851 geese in Grant County and Adams County hunters added 3,384 for a district total of 19,235.
Early-season species that occur in abundance during opening weekend include mallard, gadwall, American wigeon, and American green-winged teal. Last year was the best spring breeding season in the last five years and 2019 was close.
Overall, the species estimates were pretty similar to 2018. Hunters looking for some early-season success should be able to find birds more effectively than the last few years. However, be sure to take some time to scout ahead of the season to increase your chances for success.
Waterfowl migration and concentration areas
Migration, which peaks in mid to late-November, will bring the best waterfowl hunting to the Columbia Basin. Large numbers of mallards, gadwalls, redheads, canvasbacks, wigeon, teal and scaup arrive from northern breeding grounds.
Until then, hunters mostly rely on locally produced birds and early season migrants, such as American wigeon and green-winged teal. December typically provides the peak of mallards, ringnecks and canvasbacks, while other dabbling and diving species continue south.
Goose hunting will typically improve in November, when early season migrant Canada geese (lesser and Taverner’s) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields within feeding distance of Moses Lake and the Columbia River. In average years, the best hunting occurs in December and January during warming periods after extended freeze ups.
Early and Late Season Goose Hunting
Hunters should continue to be excited about the goose bag limits being separated by species. The changes will not affect where to go, but goose hunters in mid-October could increase their focus on white-fronted geese around Moses Lake, Winchester Lake and along the Winchester Wasteway.
There are no guarantees for those birds to be around during hunting season, but, in typical years, there are 200-500 white-fronted geese for the first few weeks of the waterfowl season.
During the later parts of the waterfowl season, there have been increasing numbers of snow geese observed around Potholes Reservoir and even Moses Lake. Hunters pursuing those birds should focus efforts on the grain fields surrounding those reservoirs south of Interstate 90.
In 2017 and 2018, approximately 1,500 to 2,500 snow geese spent the winter on Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Those birds were frequently observed flying north towards agricultural fields surrounding Potholes Reservoir.