The goose migration is highly weather dependent. In most cases snow geese and specklebellies lead the goose migration south and the Canada geese stick it out up north as long as possible. The colder it gets, the further south the dark geese move.
As was the case last year, winter has finally decided to visit now that a lot of duck seasons are closed and we’re in the home stretch of the season. The past week, winter like temperatures have gripped much of the country and finally sent some of the waterfowl migration south to where it should be. There are still plenty of ducks and geese in northern areas where the seasons are closed, but this latest cold shot has sent some birds to their typical wintering grounds. The weather the next week should continue to force some birds south, but being this late in the year, waterfowl will be reluctant to leave their current locations.
With so much of the country having their duck seasons closed, ducks are enjoying the lack of hunting pressure and are resourceful enough to find limited open water on rivers, power plants, and other ponds. There comes a point in late December where, regardless of cold and snow cover, many will stay put and that is what has happened the past 10 days. Some ducks have pushed into their typical wintering grounds in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, but numbers are still behind their averages. In the northern fringes of these areas, much of the water is frozen and has ducks concentrated on rivers, power plants, and small pockets of water that they are keeping open themselves. It’s an important reminder with this weather to not hunt the roost areas. Not only are you going to displace the concentration of waterfowl you could be hunting elsewhere, but you’re also pushing birds that could be hard pressed to find other open water. These cold temperatures will have birds hitting fields. Find the fields they are using and let them have the water.
Canada Goose Migration
An influx of Canada geese has pushed into northern Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. The cold weather has them hitting the fields
and with a little homework, hunters can figure out the pattern to capitalize. This is the first stretch of weather we’ve had this year where prolonged cold has stuck around more than a few days. Birds should be feeding heavily to get through the cold weather and to begin gearing up for the return trip.
Snow Goose Migration
As we approach the end of duck and dark goose season, it’s time to start gearing up for the spring snow goose migration. This latest cold snap and snow in the forecast this week should have a good portion of snow geese in their typical wintering locations. A winter system looks to lay snow down across the Missouri Arkansas border late this week. A lot of snow geese should be stacked up just under that snow line. This should coincide nicely with the opening few days of conservation season in Arkansas next week and give guys further north a chance to finish out their duck and dark goose seasons before the snow geese start heading north.
Be sure to watch the latest episode of Hard Core Waterfowl TV from The Badlands of Montana! Tons of honkers and a beautiful back drop!
Much above normal temperatures have covered much of the country east of the Rocky Mountains this week, but this hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing for duck hunters. After a brief cold snap 10 days ago, many ducks and geese headed south. With the now warming temperatures, some are bouncing back north which has lead to some renewed hunting success as fresh birds have been moving into new areas. This trend looks to continue through the weekend, but should slow as temperatures move towards more seasonable next week.
As we entered this week, Large concentrations of mallards were as far south as the central Mississippi River, Missouri, and Kansas. These birds moved in just before Thanksgiving as the last of a series of cold shots pushed in. Many of the ducks had cleared out of South Dakota and Iowa thanks to a deep blanket of snow. Times have changed in the 10 days since then. Temperatures have drastically moderated and in many locations have been running 5-25 degree above normal. The snow is now gone and many of the ducks that had entered these southern locations have retreated back north. An aerial survey on a refuge on the central Mississippi River went from well over 100,000 mallards on Tuesday down to just under 20,000 on Wednesday. Pretty much all of the ice and snow is gone and these ducks have bounced back. Reverse migrating ducks and geese have been noted across many locations of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. The snow line is now non existent all the way to Canada and there is plenty of open water just about anywhere along that path.
The Week Ahead
With many ducks now retreating back to the north, the question is will they come back. There always seems to be a point in the season that if we haven’t had sustained cold, many of them will ride out the harsh conditions into Spring. Hopefully, this year that isn’t the case, but with seasons in the northern states now beginning to close, a lack of pressure being put on the ducks will make it tough to get them to move south. The weather in the near future doesn’t look to help southern hunters causes either. A pair of storm systems in the next 7 days should usher in more seasonable temperatures and the second system could lay a new pack of snow down across the Dakotas. Until then, look for birds to continue to bounce back north in the next couple days. It’ll be early season weather, but decent hunting can still be had if fresh birds move into areas looking for water to rest.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of Hard Core Waterfowl TV where we filmed a 10 man limit of mallards from a late season corn field before the warm weather hit!