Duck hunters should have little to complain about, as harsh weather conditions to the north have caused a massive migration of ducks into South Carolina, both puddle ducks and divers. And the upper end of Santee Cooper’s Lake Marion is literally covered up with enough feathered migrants to make Phil Robertson’s crew blush and lose their balance in the duck blind.

That should come as no surprise, as the Santee Cooper system provides ideal conditions for ducks during their fall and winter migration. It’s been a major stop in their travel corridor for more than 75 years.

“The migration is in full swing, to say the least. We have witnessed a record number of puddle ducks on our property,” said Del Avins of River Oaks Waterfowl in Rimini. “We are seeing mostly teal and gadwall, but also amazing numbers of widgeon and pintail.”

But it is not just the puddle ducks making a good showing; large groups of dive-bombing divers are piling in too.

“We are seeing new waves of ringnecks and scaup buzzing across our blinds on a regular basis, and we cannot ignore the healthy numbers of redheads and canvasbacks out there also,” said Avins (803-460-9822), who manages 300 acres of flooded fields for waterfowl hunting.

According to Avins, ducks are trading between his impoundments and the upper end of Lake Marion, providing his hunters and hunters out of Pack’s Landing good shooting opportunities.

The continued wave of cold weather is one of the major contributors, and the upcoming weather that is forecast for the region should help maintain these spectacular conditions.

“Some more good cold fronts between now and the middle of January should push down more divers and probably a more puddle ducks over the next couple of weeks,” Avins said.

The Santee Cooper lakes spans five counties and have provided migrating waterfowl with more than 177,000 acres of flooded habitat since 1939. Every year, migrating flocks take advantage of the shallow, open waters for resting and feeding. The upper end of Lake Marion and its margins are prime places for hunters to encounter plenty of ducks.

Also, beyond the lakes’ actual boundaries is a massive swamp system that adds thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat, plus thousands of acres of managed waterfowl impoundments. Rimini, on the northern bank of Lake Marion, is practically the epicenter of managed areas.