I might have entertained that idea before this year. Generally speaking over the past 20 years here things have been pretty consistent as far as timing most years, but so has our weather, until last season.
Usually we will get a run of about a week of ringers on my stretch of river, then it's hit and miss. That generally happened around thanksgiving. Generally speaking, most of the goldeneye showed up in force around the end of December. We usually worked over the wigeon pretty hard in a small spring fed slough starting around thanksgiving until we started seeing a few goldeneye, then we knew there would be decent number on the snake river and move over and start the diver hunting push for the remainder of the season. Things did seem consistent and unrelated to any weather that I was aware of.
This year was unusually warm, we never had any issues with ice which allowed mallards to be anywhere they wanted and not just concentrated on the clubs with flooded grain. We started seeing lots of goldeneye and bufflehead within the first two weeks of season and I thought we were going to be in for a bang up year on divers, but that was not the case. We finally saw our first ringers the 3rd week of January. We never saw any numbers of goldeneye, we usually see 3000-5000 a day flying the river, it's constant, this year a good day would be a few hundred. We actually targeted mallards, something I rarely do, my son limited over 50% of the hunts he went on with mallards. Mallards became the only game in town and they had been here for 60 days by the end of the season. They were in hidden pockets and when you found them, you found them all. The last day of season was the most curious thing we saw, from 300 mallards the week before, we suddenly had mallards by the thousands in our little spot and not only that, specks. We rarely get specklebellies until well after season is over an only on their return north. I'm just guessing the mallards we saw on that last day were returning north.
In january we were still seeing temps north of us in canada in the 40's and 50's. My conclusion is ice and snow still pushes the birds, not necessarily the cold, just the access to food. We virtually had no winter here this year. We are duck hunters and we just make the adjustments to hunt whatever we have available, even if it is mallards.