The snow goose migration is one of the longest migrations in terms of distance and time. There are millions of snow geese and they travel in huge flocks making for tough hunting.
Much of the leading edge of the snow goose migration has crossed into Canada, but good numbers of geese remain in North Dakota and hunt able numbers remain on south in South Dakota. Pockets of young geese still remain all the way back into southern Illinois as the season nears it’s end.
Geese took advantage of the warmth last weekend and pushed north in big numbers. Many smaller bodies of water began to thaw and the huge concentrations that could be found in the Dakotas thinned out. Some pushed into Canada, while others just found new available open water. There are still big concentrations of geese in the northern part of North Dakota and respectable numbers on south to the South Dakota border. As you move south from there, more road time will be required to find good numbers, but it’s well worth the effort. From Nebraska on back into Illinois, smaller numbers of snow geese still exist. Good hunting can be had if you can find them, but setting up a traffic spread in hopes of getting under a good push of geese would require a bunch of luck!
The Week Ahead
Just when you thought spring was here, Mother Nature changes her mind. A winter like pattern is already asserting itself in the Dakotas today. It will spread east and leave below normal temperatures in it’s wake. By the middle of next week southern Saskatchewan and Alberta could have a decent snow pack. While it might not be enough to send many geese back south into North Dakota, it could definitely send a few and prevent much of a push north this week.
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Last weekend’s warmup arrived as advertised and the snow goose migration made a big jump north. Continued warmth into this past week has only further lead to more snow geese heading north as some of the leading edge of adult snow geese has crossed the border into Canada on their return trip north. Highs well above normal across the Dakotas will continued to push geese further north as we move into next week.
Last week at this time, the bulk of the snow goose migration was sitting in Nebraska, Iowa, and northwest Missouri. The warm and sunny weekend weather made for a mass migration north leaving these areas with only sparse pockets of snow geese now. Squaw Creek went from over a million to just 17,000 geese being reported this week. Hunters in the Dakotas have seen huge flights of birds the past few days, but their numbers will likely be on the decline this weekend as the leading edge continues it’s push north. It seems to be the norm now to have birds stage in the Squaw Creek area with snow and ice to the north, then a big warmup comes and snow geese move through the Dakotas quickly because of the way the weather works out. For now, this seems to be the case again in 2016.
There are still pockets of birds as far south as southern Illinois. Numbers from Squaw Creek over to Illinois are thin so running traffic on birds will be tough, but if you hit the road and locate geese for a hunt, you could have a great shoot. Many are still waiting and wondering on the bigger flocks of juvenile geese. While there has been some sporadic pushes of juvenile snow geese, their numbers haven’t been nearly the same as past years. Were they predominantly mixed in with the adult masses? Have they somehow skirted everyone and there is a motherload sitting somewhere no one has found? Or was it just “one of those years” that snow goose hunters haven’t experienced in some time? We think it’s the last one. There were mixed reports last fall on the 2015 snow goose hatch. A few said success was high, while most painted a much more negative picture. Here’s is one report, “An estimated 3.3 million Mid-continent light geese were observed on the 2015 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey, a nationwide waterfowl survey conducted by each state which occurs each year in early January. This estimate is 14% less than the number observed in 2014, approximately 6% higher than the most recent 10-year average of 3.1 million, and about 57% above the long-term (1970-2014) average of 2.1 million. In 2015, spring was late in the eastern arctic and a period of cool rainy weather hit the central arctic shortly after most snow goose nests began to hatch. Indirect effects of the late spring and inclement weather resulted in very poor production on most major nesting areas and a fall flight containing a below-average proportion of young is expected.” Snow goose production has been prolific the past few years and while their numbers are still well above long-term average, they didn’t increase nearly as much this year as last year. So for those waiting on “the juvies”, don’t expect the same numbers as in past years.
The Week Ahead
Temperatures well into the 60’s and above are in the weekend forecast all the way to the US/Canada border. The weather is prime for birds to continue to push quickly to the north. If you’re headed to the Dakotas to hunt, you better get there quick because geese are in the express lane to Canada.
We kicked off Season 5 of Fowled Reality this week with a traffic duck hunt from the grain fields of Canada. Be sure to check it out and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get notifications for new episodes which will be released every week!