The start of the 2017 snow goose migration feels like groundhog’s day. The “January Thaw” has snow geese headed north ahead of the opening of Conservation Season across the country just as it has the past few years. Abundant above normal temperatures the past 10+ days has led to a big northward jump, but if the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that it doesn’t take much to send them back to their normal wintering areas as we head into February.
This may be the furthest north the migration has been as we’ve entered February. The leading edge of the snow goose migration stretches from northern Kansas to northwest Missouri on across to north central Illinois. Lesser amounts extend from there back to the south with sporadic reports coming from as far south as southern Arkansas. Hunters scheduled to start the season in Arkansas might not see the number of geese they’re accustom to, but what they do see should be the younger age classes of birds that are more than willing to work. The back half of the migration typically offers the best opportunity for consistent hunts, but with the higher than average number of young geese due to a great hatch, there are plenty of young birds mixed in on the leading edge.
As stated above, it doesn’t take much to send birds back south this early in the season. The cold front that pushed through Wednesday sent a good number of snow geese back south Wednesday afternoon and Thursday. They’ll continue to see-saw back and forth as the weather changes. The past few years, there has been a good snow fall across much of Missouri and Illinois which sent the vast majority packing back south. Will it happen again this year? That’s anyones guess, but if the past has taught us anything, it’s that February is as much if not more wintery than any other month across the middle of the country.
An aspect of the migration that continues to build year after year is their appearance in places not seen before. Every year, there are reports further east and north than normal across the Midwest. Snow geese are being seen as far east as central Indiana and further north into northern Illinois instead of making their cut west across southern Iowa and northern Missouri. As their numbers continue to expand, so will the corridors they use to return to their breeding grounds.
The Week Ahead
The only hurdle left between now and February is a brief warmup on Tuesday. Temperatures could push 50 degrees as far north as I70. After that temperatures will be likely be near normal through the end of next week. With this forecast in mind, the majority of snow geese should hold in their locations after a migration on Tuesday. A solid snow pack across the northern half of Nebraska and Iowa should setup a solid block for the time being on any further northward push of the snow goose migration.