Returned from a week of hunting near the Rugby/Balta area. Great hunting throughout the week for 3 hunters. Here were my observations:
Monday, 10/22: Cool, overcast skies. Thousands of snows, blues and cackling geese in area; locals report they just arrived following the brutal winds from the week before. Mallards seem to be where the geese are and in numbers MUCH larger than we saw at the same date a year ago in this area. Birds are very concentrated, not a lot of smaller groups we experienced the year before, but the water levels are down significantly. Birds did not cooperate (what's new when it comes to snow geese), but a stalk and jump-shoot of a mid-size farm led to 9 ducks.
Tuesday, 10/23: Steady rain and NW winds in the 10-20 mph range. Birds were flying, but not going very far from roosting sites. Big water holds the majority of ducks. Over .50 inches of rain have turned fields into muddy messes.
Wednesday, 10/24: Overcast, cold and 10-15 mph W winds. Bust day as hunters in field we scouted arrived before we did, then forced us to a Plan B that produced only a couple of ducks.
Thursday, 10/25: Overcast and very windy (20-30 mph sustained, with 40 mph gusts). Best day of week with limit of mallards, widgeon, gadwall, bufflehead and blue bills that worked three ponds separated by 10 yard levees. Mallards in full plumage, but not in big numbers. LARGE flocks of mallards can be found on big water and with the geese.
Friday, 10/25: Sunny and very windy (25-35 mph winds). Got half the limit among the three of us from the same bodies of water from the day before, and again a "mixed bag" of ducks. Scouted cut cornfield where some of the largest flocks of snows, blues and other geese ever witnessed fed, along with hundreds of mallards. Find geese and you'll find mallards. Shorelines froze from overnight temps in the low 20s.
Saturday, 10/26: Set up on cornfield we scouted the night before, and while there were MORE birds on the water than we "put to bed" the night before, the hunt was a bust as they decided to hit a field just to the south of us. All the water was frozen after a second night of cold temps (15 degrees overnight). A dozen ducks froze on ice, some becoming meal for family of 3 bald eagles, and crows. Hunted same area Saturday afternoon and limited on geese, including a half-dozen mature snows. Geese were resting on frozen pond, but by nightfall they were all gone. At midnight as we packed to leave to head home, the clear skies, nearly full moon-lit night, we heard constant geese flying overhead.
Great week of hunting, but required a fair amount of work (e.g. scouting) to determine best chances of success.