As we enter the tail end of the waterfowl migration, the weather continues to push birds into places unreached the past few years. The winter that keeps on giving has recently blanketed a large portion of the midwest in 6+ inches of snow and ducks and geese have been forced to migrate even further south that they already had. A coming moderation in temperatures coupled with weekend rains will lead to an expanse of resources and likely spread waterfowl over a much larger area than they are now.
When it gets to this point in the season, many ducks located north of I70 are pretty much locked in place. These tend to be older birds that are tough and will stick it out to the end. There are still many ducks located in these areas thanks to warm water lakes and deep strip pits that have open water. Even with snow cover, these birds are resourceful and find ways to survive through these harsh conditions. In areas to the south, waterfowl have made a move. Ice has been noted across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. This has pushed many ducks further south from these locations and concentrate what stayed. As open water decreases, birds move to look for more roosting areas. Those that remain are confined to river systems that have remained open. Field hunting has become the dominant tactic, but hunters show run ice eaters or break holes in small bodies of water are having success as well.
Canada geese made a migration south on Monday after the snow stopped. Large flocks of migrating honkers were reported across many areas of Missouri and Illinois. Some stopped in areas along the Missouri River in Missouri as well as south central Illinois, but many continued on to get below the deep snow pack. Canada Geese were even noted as far south as the bootheel of Missouri, Kentucky, and Reelfoot lake. Crab Orchard, in Illinois, picked up thousands of geese on Monday. While it’s not quite like it was back in the glory days, it way more geese than have been in southern Illinois in many years.
Snow Goose and Specklebelly Migration
A few light geese are still in Kansas, central Missouri, and central Illinois, but the vast majority have made their way to their wintering grounds in Texax, Arkansas, Louisianna, and Mississippi. What flocks were left to the north quickly made their way south riding the strong northwest wind on Monday.
Mississippi River Waterfowl Migration Survey – December 30th, 2013
Illinois River Waterfowl Migration Survey – December 30th, 2013
West-central Illinois Waterfowl Migration Survey – December 30th, 2013
Southern Illinois Waterfowl Migration Survey – December 30th, 2013
Missouri Waterfowl Migration Survey – December 31st, 2013
The Week Ahead
Temperatures through the rest of the week will moderate and and a rain system will help recede the snow line. With all of the rainfall and melting snow, available water sources will be vast. Instead of waterfowl being concentrated on areas of open water, they will spread out over the new resources just as they did a few weeks ago. This will make hunting much tougher as the ice melts. Couple this with the education they’ve received over the past 4 months, and late season hunting will be at it’s toughest as we enter the homestretch of the 2013-2014 waterfowl migration.