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Waterfowl Migration – February 7, 2012

Waterfowl Migration

Mild weather across much of the Mississippi Flyway sent a waterfowl migration northward this past week.  The snow geese began their northward push to the Arctic Circle and many ducks started moving out of southern parts of the flyway as the temperatures warmed.  The mild weather is now gone and the northward waterfowl migration will likely halt for the time being.  The forecast calls for the cold to stick around for the coming days and there are even talks of snow in the next week.  This could send the snow geese back south if the snow falls in the correct location.  Duck season are closed across the country, but there are still a few late goose seasons that will end shortly. Our waterfowl reports will focus on snow geese for the rest of the season.

 

Snow Goose Migration

Many snow geese were reported to spend their winter in northern parts of Missouri and Illinois.  Luckily there are millions of them and a few hundred thousands that never made it down shouldn't hurt hunter success too much.  The birds that stayed north were likely mostly adults which are tough to kill any ways.  We've had large numbers of snows in central and south central Illinois through the month of January.  The largest concentration of snows began showing the past two weeks.  Many snow goose conservation seasons opened last week and it coincided well with a warm snap that got many snow geese headed north.  The snow goose migration will likely be spread out this year.  Large concentrations of adult birds will travel north as fast as they can until they reach the snow/ice line.

 

 

waterfowl migration

*Courtesy of Nation Snow Anlyses

The younger birds that typically bring up the rear of the migration will trickle north over the course of the next few weeks.  Reports of pockets of juvies are littered throughout Arkansas.  Hunters might not be seeing huge numbers of birds, but what they do see are workable and they're enjoying great success.  Further north, where flocks consist of mostly adult birds, success is sporadic. The snow goose hunting hot spot, Squaw Creek, in northwest Missouri was already holding nearly 400,000 snows at the end of January.

Squaw Creek Waterfowl Survey

*Courtesy of MDC

The Fowled Reality crew scouted central Illinois on January 31st and witnessed huge numbers of snow geese throughout many square miles.  We found the largest group on the ground and got permission for the field to open the conservation snow goose season.  Conditions were tough the first two days with a mix of little wind and foggy mornings.  When the sun shined and the wind blew, the birds worked the best.  We harvested 41 snow geese in three days to start the conservation season.

 

 

waterfowl migration

Time will tell if birds either get pushed back south due to snow and cold or we get enough birds bringing up the rear to warrant the hours of setting a 1000 decoy spread.  The numbers of geese we saw over the course of three days seemed to nearly cut in half each day.  Birds were active early and late in the day.  Through mid day, some large flocks of mile high birds were headed north.  In normal years we can hunt them through February and into early March.  With the weather conditions this year, it will likely be cut short barring a weather change.  If you're located in Missouri and Illinois, now is the time to assemble the spread and turn on the caller.  The migration is on!  And it might not last long.

waterfowl migration

 

Waterfowl Migration – January 11, 2012

Cold and Snow to force waterfowl migration south

The forecast calls for a sharp drop in temperatures starting tonight and continuing through the next few days.  We are finally going to get the cold to link up with the moisture and produce snow to get the waterfowl migration in full swing!  Winter weather advisories and winter storm watches have been posted for for parts of Iowa, northern Illinois, and Wisconsin.  Three to eight inches of snow is on the way along with sub-freezing temperatures and 30-40 mph northwest winds.  Sounds like a good recipe for a waterfowl migration!  One to three inches of snow could fall as far south as I-70.

Duck Hunting

The close to the south central waterfowl hunting zone in Illinois passed quietly earlier this week.  It started off very well, but quickly went sour shortly into December.  There are lots of factors that went into it: spring flooding wiping out a lot of moist soil vegetation, lack of long lasting cold and arctic fronts during the season, and the continued shift west of the Mississippi Flyway.  Missouri is doing more for their ducks than Illinois.  Naturally they're figuring out where the most food is and that's where they are going.  With all that being said, all hope is not lost!  We can still hunt ducks in the south zone of Illinois.  An early morning report we received from some friends in southern Illinois is new ducks are already showing up ahead of the latest front.  They've already killed 18 birds by 9AM.  Expect more fresh ducks to continue to show the next few days with a hard freeze and snow coming!

waterfowl migration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goose Hunting

The Fowled Reality crew expects the goose hunting to finally pick up in the coming days.  The same front that has the ducks on the move should get the geese active as well!  There are hit and miss reports of good numbers from I-72 all the way to Illinois/Wisconsin border.  We expect the numbers to increase substantially as the remaining birds in Wisconsin finally get pushed south in the coming days.  The question is, just how far south with the go?  They need open water to roost and an uncovered food source. The forecast looks like they'll have to travel pretty far south to find an open food source and water should start locking up quickly starting tomorrow.

 

Waterfowl Migration

The snow combined with the wind will make scouting throughout the northern 2/3's of Illinois nearly impossible on Thursday, but come Friday it's time to hit the road and see just how far south the honkers are going to travel.  We'll be covering a large area from south of I-70 all the way to I-74 in hopes of finding geese.  With highs Friday in the low to mid 20's, waterfowl will have to be feeding on hot food rather than the subdivisions and lake grass they've been on so far this season.  Combine that with the full moon to look for afternoon feedings.  Water is going to lock up fast and should stay that way for the forseeable future!  Another system is in the cards early next week which should continue to send the waterfowl migratino southward across portions of the Mississippi Flyway.  Good luck this weekend!

 

For waterfowl migration reports from around the country.

 

 

 

 

Late Season Waterfowl Hunting

Late season waterfowl hunting can be tough. As we enter the homestretch of the duck and goose seasons across the US, the birds are educated!  Especially in our part of Illinois due to the lack of new birds in close to a month.  The few birds we do have around have seen every spread known to man and heard every note a duck call can produce.  They've been hunted hard since September in Canada.  Here are a few tricks that we've used over the past few years to entice leery late season waterfowl into our spread.  Hopefully this will improve our and your late season waterfowl hunting.

 

1. Concealment is key

It doesn't matter what your spread looks like or how great of a caller you are if you aren't hidden.  The birds have seen if all for four months. On opening day you can catch them by surprise. At this point in the season it's time to for extra
effort to get hidden.  Re-mud your layout blinds, add more grass, and spend extra time grabbing field litter from the location your hunting to make your blinds disappear.  We've also gone as far as digging holes to set blinds in if the ground is
suitable.  When birds appear, make sure everyone is fully inside their blinds no matter how tempting it is to peer out to find the birds.  Just like layout blinds, pits need re-worked too.  You've walked into and out of them dozens if not hundreds
of times so far this season.  The brush you had around your pit has been matted down and muddy ground has been exposed.  Gather some more stalks or stubble to sprinkle around the pit. Throw some extra decoys around the holes and wear a
facemask and gloves to stay hidden while waterfowl hunting.

waterfowl hunting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra stalks on the blind….

2. Change the decoy spread for better waterfowl hunting

On days we feel we will pick up migrating waterfowl, we will use every decoy we can find in order to work new birds to the area. We'll stick with that spread for a few days after the birds arrive, but after that we'll change it up to a smaller
spread, especially if other setup in the area continue to run large spreads.  The Fowled Reality crew likes to be different!  There are days where refuge spreads work awesome, other days it doesn't matter if you have 500 decoys out there.

 

3. Adapt to the conditions

Late season waterfowl hunting is usually characterized by cold weather…..except for this year. When the snow and ice is on, sleep shells are dynamite!  It's also beneficial to use shells or full bodies placed directly on the snow.  As soon as a bird lands, it'll lay down to melt the snow to gain access to food.  We'll mix in some full bodies on stands, but the majority of our decoys will be placed directly on the snow/ice.  We'll also kick the snow around the spread to make it appear as though birds have been moving around feeding in the field.  We'll try to disturb the field the most in the kill hole to trick the birds into thinking that is the best spot to feed.  During the coldest days, we'll pack the decoys tight, but on warmer days, we'll space them out more.

waterfowl hunting

 

 

 

 

 

 
Shell and sleeper shell decoys on snow

4. Use different calling

Waterfowl hunting this late in the season the birds have heard it all.  Give them something you think they might not have heard yet.  This might mean giving them nothing at all.  We like to let the birds approach and see how they react.  If they start working
the decoy spread on their own, then we'll let them do their thing.  If they fly by without looking, then we'll start calling to them.  If you're lucky enough to get them turned, pay attention to what note they turned on and keep hitting them with it.
If you call at them upon first seeing them, keep it subtle.  So many hunters throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.  From high balls, to comeback calls and spit notes. These birds are used to it all.  Throw a single quack or goosey cluck
at them and see how hey react.  If they turn, stay on them what you've been doing.  Pay close attention to the birds and read them.  Now is the most important time of year to pay attention to what they're doing.  The ducks and geese will tell you
what they want to hear or if they want nothing.

5. Scout

Try like heck to find where birds are feeding and not being pressured.  Spend the drive time looking for out of the way places where birds have got comfortable. You're kind of looking for a needle in a haystack at this point in the year, but
it can always be done.  If you find a spot like this and gain access, make sure to go the extra mile to get concealed.  You know they birds are coming and you have to make it look like no one is there waiting on them.  If we're lucky enough to find a spot
like this, we'll go with a small, realistic spread of fully flocked decoys to help conceal the blinds, spend and extra hour brushing blinds, and call sparingly. Make it look like a few early arrivers are already in the field and let the rest of them
drop in.  If you can't get access, but have found a good number of birds, find the flight line they're using, get hidden and show them everything.  They're used to feeding somewhere else, but your trying to get them to go elsewhere.  If your on
the flight line, they'll at least fly over so you have to get them to stop.

 

For more waterfowl hunting tips check out our other posts.

 

 

Ducks aren’t just “Ducks”

In my years of duck hunting, I've quickly learned that that the given name for a particular duck is often not the name it's called by.  As with anything language, slang becomes common and waterfowl hunting is no different.  From smileys to jacks and zipper heads to sky carp, ducks are not just ducks.  Here is a list of some of the nicknames I've heard for the variety of ducks we hunt. I'm sure there are lots of others so let's hear what you've got!

Mallard- Greenheads/Drakes, Suzy/Hen

Pintail- Pinny, Sprig

Teal- Missles, Mosquitos, Rockets

Widgeon- Cotton head

Wood Duck- Woodys, Woodrow

Shoveler- Hollywood, Smileys, Spoons, Spoonies, Boot lip

Gadwall- Grays, Gad, Gaddys, Jagwalls, Jaegers

Canvasback- Can

Ringneck- Ringbill, Black Jack, Jack, Ringer

Bluebill- Bill, Billy, Uncle Bill, Hillbilly

Buffleheads-Buffy

Mergansers-Sawbill, Zippers, Zipper heads, Hoodie

Snow Geese- SOB's, Baldy, Sky Carp

Canada Geese- Blacks, Darks, B-52's, Honker, Honky bird

Specklebelly Geese- Bar belly

Duck Band Facts that Might Surprise You

 

Here are some cool facts regarding waterfowl banding.  Definitely eye opening on some parts and maybe it’s time to start shooting more Ruddy ducks in hopes of landing the elusive band!

Duck Band Facts that Might Surprise You.