The abnormally warm weather continues as we move into the back half of February and the leading edge of the snow goose migration continues to be ahead of schedule. Geese have now crossed into South Dakota and with the forecast this weekend, they could very well wind up in south east North Dakota as the snow line continues to recede. What’s left of the snow goose migration from there trails all the way back into Arkansas still. Seems like this year, they are more spread out than ever.
Warm weather in the early part of this week pushed the snow line up through South Dakota and as always, the leading edge of adults was right there hugging it. Loess Bluffs reported 150,000+ as of Monday, but that number is much higher as of now. Numbers on back into north central Illinois remain strong, but have declined some since the beginning of the week. From there on south is where things get interesting. With the snow goose migration stretched out from South Dakota all the way to the Louisiana border, there are bound to be some thin spots. Reports from southern Illinois down to Arkansas seem to flip flop about everyday. One day numbers are slim, the next they’re great. There are peaks and valleys to the snow goose migration especially when you get to the back half of it. They come in waves and there are days where you get stuck between waves. These waves run from I70 down to the AR/LA border. That is the point of the migration that these areas are in. The good aspect of being stuck in a valley at this point is the few groups you might see could have a lot of gray in them. Would you rather be on the leading edge and see 500,000 geese and fire 3 shots or be on the back side see 10,000 geese and shoot 15 times?
A perfect example of a peak and valley is our Monday/Tuesday hunt with Willow Creek Waterfowl. Monday the sky was full and we ended the day with 80 geese. Tuesday was much slower and resulted in only a 16 bird shoot. Fast forward to Thursday and they shot 50. It’s up and down and this point and warm weather/south winds helps, but there are days the back half migrates when you least expect it.
You see lots of posts asking if the migration is ahead of schedule. Yes, parts of it is, but not all. The front half is dictated by the snow and ice line and those lines vary widely in any given year. The lack of snow and cold across the middle of the country has this part of the migration ahead of schedule. The back half of the snow goose migration has always seemed to be a little more calendar driven. They tend to be in the same locations year after year on certain dates. Experienced snow goose hunters and outfitters will know these dates and that’s why you see them stop hunting areas on certain dates and then some relocate further north.
The Week Ahead
Warm weather will rule the forecast the next week. Temperatures should approach 60+ degrees all the way into South Dakota. The snow line will get cut back in the eastern half of North Dakota and snow goose hunters will enjoy a stretch of non-February like weather. The unseasonable temperatures look to last for at least the next 7 days. This will keep the bulk of the snow goose migration ahead of schedule, but the waves of the back half will continue to trickle north not far from their normal time frame.
Be sure to check out the final episode from this season of Realtree’s “The X” as we kicked off our snow goose season with Willow Creek Waterfowl.