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!
Our latest waterfowl migration update has ducks and geese on the move south as cold and snow continues to effect a portion of the country. A swath of snow is currently falling across South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota which should continue to push birds south out of these areas, but unseasonably warm temperatures are on the horizon which could slow things up.
The weather system last weekend sent some new ducks south across portions of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. Snow fell over a large portion of Iowa and Illinois and a strong North and Northwest wind followed behind. Many new ducks arrived in portions of Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. Temperatures rebounded through last week and melted a large portion of the snow, but with a new system currently effecting some of these same areas, more ducks have been reportedly migrating into Kansas, Missouri, and Northern Illinois the past couple days. Large amount of precipitation has fallen south of the center of the low pressure systems and new food sources have opened up. Duck have scattered from their previous location, but hunters have reported some good success where they have been able to access these fresh resources. The continued weather that has included good winds and cooler than average temperatures the past few days has kept ducks active and success has been above average despite the full moon. The block of ice and snow in areas of South Dakota and Nebraska has continued to hold up the remaining mallards in North Dakota. Peak number continue to be reported there, but the season will soon be closing.
Large concentrations of geese are located across northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. These flocks are in areas they normally are this time of year. Some of the leading edge has pushed further south after the system last weekend, but with the weather upcoming, most should hold in the coming week.
The weather in the next seven days looks to moderate as we move toward the weekend. An abnormally warm pattern looks to emerge as we enter the first week of December. El Nino will continue to establish itself and warmer than normal temperatures will spread over a large portion of the country. This could have two effects: one being birds will bounce back north or they will hold with it being so early in the season. It’s hard to say exactly what will happen, but the only way to find out is to be out there to see.
The first winter storm moved across a good chunk of the Central and Mississippi Flyways late last week and finally sent a good waterfowl migration to the south. Cold air filtering in behind the snow only helped to push many ducks and geese further south toward their wintering grounds and hunting success responded nicely as the system dropped up to 18 inches of snow. Temperatures look to rebound during the first half of this week, but a couple new systems look to move across the country as we enter next weekend.
Snow fell across South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois this past Wednesday through Saturday. While there was no snow across most of Canada and North Dakota, many ducks and geese were forced to head south thanks to single digit lows and sub freezing high temperatures in these areas. Many bodies of water are now frozen solid with only small portions of large lakes and rivers remaining open. This was the first large push of birds in North Dakota this season. Hunting success had been sporadic up until the point, but now, peak numbers are located in many areas. In South Dakota, not only did temperatures plummet, but snow covered up many food sources for waterfowl. The same goes for Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois. Waterfowl in these areas were forced to head south as roost sources locked up and food was blanketed with as much as 18 inches of snow. Locations across Nebraska and Missouri saw a good push of waterfowl on Thursday and Friday. There were reports of just as many geese heading south as there were ducks. As the front finally moved through the Midwest on Saturday, flights of migrating waterfowl were reported across Illinois and hunting success was high for those that braved the wind and rain. The large storm system prevented many states from doing their weekly waterfowl surveys, but had they been able to do it, they would have noted increasing numbers of birds and for areas north of I70, mallard numbers are on the incline while many other species numbers will be headed down as the temperatures drop.
With that system now gone, we’re left with a good number of birds blocked in North Dakota thanks to the extensive snow pack that sits south of them. What’s left of the open water continues to freeze so finding birds might be a challenge, but any open water a hunter can find, will likely have birds on it. Look for large lakes and rivers when it gets this cold and you’ll likely have success in locating waterfowl. In these conditions, find fields they are feeding in and don’t push them off of what little available open water they have. With rebounding temperatures across much of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, birds should remain in place through the weekend. The next system is set to start on Thanksgiving Day and continue into the weekend. There doesn’t appear to be a large push of cold air behind this front, but a chance of snow still exists on the backside of the system. Two or more inches of rain looks likely in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. This will likely flood new areas and scatter birds out as new resources become available. We’ll also be dealing with a full moon this week. Combined with the warming temperatures, hunting success could drop compared to last week, but you never know what will happen unless you’re out there. Good luck this week!