A series of sharp cold fronts over the past 10 days pushed some of the waterfowl migration further south as water began to freeze up across areas of the upper midwest and central plains. The colder weather and north winds have brought good success to hunters across much of the country, but temperatures look to rebound slightly as we move through the weekend.
After above normal temperatures a week ago, the first in a pair of arctic cold fronts swept across the country from Canada starting last Thursday. Temperatures dropped 20-40 degrees in most locations and a strong north/northwest wind accompanied the front. Water sources began freezing quickly across the Dakota’s, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska. As the front continued south, small bodies of water locked up across Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. Early migrators such as teal, pintails, and gadwall have made their way into southern Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, southern Missouri, and Arkansas. The leading edge of the large numbers of mallards have migrated into Nebraska, Missouri, and northern Illinois. Over 1 millions ducks have been surveyed across the managed areas in Missouri with 3/4th’s of them being mallards. In Illinois, the waterfowl migration seems to be sticking close to the rivers thus limiting the number of waterfowl surveyed across areas such and Rend Lake and Carlyle Lake. Their numbers have been dramatically lower compared to past years while the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have been above average. Will those trends change is the question as we enter the heart of the waterfowl migration.
You hear waterfowl hunters talk about the stages of the migration. There are calendar, ice, and snow line waves. The calendar birds have migrated their way into southern parts of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and into Arkansas. The ice line mallards are stacked across northern Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas, but then there is a large gap until you get to the snow birds. Snow cover is limited in most areas all the way into North Dakota. Even though small bodies of water are frozen solid across the Dakotas, the Missouri River remains open. The latest survey from South Dakota hasn’t been release yet, but the number of mallards on the river will be staggering. They will continue to ride out the winter there until the river freezes or snow covers the abundant food sources along the river.
Canada geese have been migrating in daily in areas of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and northern Illinois. The sub-freezing weather has many of them on the move even with the lack of snow cover in many places to the north. This year, we’ve seen the furthest southward push this early in a number of years. While the amount of snow cover isn’t abundant, dark geese still seem to be on the move. Hopefully this is a sign they know what winter has in store and they will continue to migrate south.
Snow Goose/Specklebelly Migration
Snow geese continue to be spread across much of the country all the way from the Dakotas to Arkansas. There are pockets of larger concentration all throughout the migration while specks have been noted across Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. This past weekend, southern Illinois and southeast Missouri picked up a large influx of migrating specklebellies.
The Week Ahead
The temperatures look to moderate over the next 7 days as the weather pattern reloads. Look for some frozen water to thaw by the middle of next week and waterfowl may scatter as new resources become available. The next weather system appears to start effecting the central plains by next Tuesday. As always, the weather will warm ahead of the system, then a sharp cool down as the low pressure moves through. For waterfowl hunters across the central part of the US, the amount of snow accompanying the system will determine how many waterfowl will migrate.