Waterfowl Migration – February 7, 2012

Waterfowl Migration

Mild weather across much of the Mississippi Flyway sent a waterfowl migration northward this past week.  The snow geese began their northward push to the Arctic Circle and many ducks started moving out of southern parts of the flyway as the temperatures warmed.  The mild weather is now gone and the northward waterfowl migration will likely halt for the time being.  The forecast calls for the cold to stick around for the coming days and there are even talks of snow in the next week.  This could send the snow geese back south if the snow falls in the correct location.  Duck season are closed across the country, but there are still a few late goose seasons that will end shortly. Our waterfowl reports will focus on snow geese for the rest of the season.


Snow Goose Migration

Many snow geese were reported to spend their winter in northern parts of Missouri and Illinois.  Luckily there are millions of them and a few hundred thousands that never made it down shouldn't hurt hunter success too much.  The birds that stayed north were likely mostly adults which are tough to kill any ways.  We've had large numbers of snows in central and south central Illinois through the month of January.  The largest concentration of snows began showing the past two weeks.  Many snow goose conservation seasons opened last week and it coincided well with a warm snap that got many snow geese headed north.  The snow goose migration will likely be spread out this year.  Large concentrations of adult birds will travel north as fast as they can until they reach the snow/ice line.



waterfowl migration

*Courtesy of Nation Snow Anlyses

The younger birds that typically bring up the rear of the migration will trickle north over the course of the next few weeks.  Reports of pockets of juvies are littered throughout Arkansas.  Hunters might not be seeing huge numbers of birds, but what they do see are workable and they're enjoying great success.  Further north, where flocks consist of mostly adult birds, success is sporadic. The snow goose hunting hot spot, Squaw Creek, in northwest Missouri was already holding nearly 400,000 snows at the end of January.

Squaw Creek Waterfowl Survey

*Courtesy of MDC

The Fowled Reality crew scouted central Illinois on January 31st and witnessed huge numbers of snow geese throughout many square miles.  We found the largest group on the ground and got permission for the field to open the conservation snow goose season.  Conditions were tough the first two days with a mix of little wind and foggy mornings.  When the sun shined and the wind blew, the birds worked the best.  We harvested 41 snow geese in three days to start the conservation season.



waterfowl migration

Time will tell if birds either get pushed back south due to snow and cold or we get enough birds bringing up the rear to warrant the hours of setting a 1000 decoy spread.  The numbers of geese we saw over the course of three days seemed to nearly cut in half each day.  Birds were active early and late in the day.  Through mid day, some large flocks of mile high birds were headed north.  In normal years we can hunt them through February and into early March.  With the weather conditions this year, it will likely be cut short barring a weather change.  If you're located in Missouri and Illinois, now is the time to assemble the spread and turn on the caller.  The migration is on!  And it might not last long.

waterfowl migration


Waterfowl Migration – January 19, 2011


Waterfowl Migration

The midwest is finally experiencing an extended bout of cold weather and with it has come a new waterfowl migration from the north along the Mississippi Flyway.  Unfortunately, for most of us, the new ducks that have arrived do nothing but dreams of next season.  We filmed a bunch of new ducks in central Illinois this past weekend battling blowing snow.  Our main objective up there was to find some of the first migrating Canada geese, but very, very few were to be seen.


Duck Migration

Large numbers of mallards were observed in many areas across the state and lucky for the boys in the south zone, they were able to capitalize on the new ducks.  Duck hunting continues to be good with a new waterfowl migration seemingly arriving every few days as each new cold front pushes south.  For those of us in the south central and central zones in Illinois, the ducks are nothing but a tease.  The push of big ducks we needed a month ago has now arrived.  During a typical winter, the north gets snow and we get an extended cold period in late December which would coincide nicely with the ending of those zones.  2011-2012 has been a different beast!



Goose Migration

The first widespread snowfall across the midwest fell late last week.  Four to six inches of snow was reported across Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  This finally pushed the bulk of the geese out of Wisconsin and into the north zone in Illinois.  Some geese reportedly even made it as far as I-72.  Waterfowl hunters across the state have noticed an increase in the number of geese even in south parts of the state which is due to smaller waters finally freezing and staying frozen forcing the canada geese that call them home to join up with other concentration of geese on larger lakes with open water and power plant cooling lakes.  These conditions did force some geese into new areas where they didn't know the ins and outs only to fall victim to a decoy spread or two.  Now they've joined forces with the locals of these lakes and it'll be the same ol song and dance of flying over spreads and calling without even skipping a wing beat.  It was a sad late January day today when I drove the 30 miles to Cabelas only to see one flock of 10 geese.  This time last year, thousands filled the skies along that same route.


Snow Goose Migration

The time is near where we'll bust our the white spread, fight the mud, and blare the speakers!  This screwed up year has put some worry into our snow goose season.  There is said to be a large number of snow geese hanging in north central Illinois.  That means those of us to the south will miss out on hunting them in the spring unless we can get more cold and snow to get them south of here.  However; there are plenty in southern Illinois and on to the south.  The hatch is said to be the best in 5 years which is hard to believe after the number of juveniles witnessed last year.  I will say that when we've drove the refuge at the club, there does seem to be plenty of juveniles sitting in the lake or snacking on grass.  If you haven't checked it out, Blake and Chris have been busy little elves cutting snows and blues out of gas station signs for the reverse waterfowl migration of snows.  Production is almost complete!  Just a few more dozen to go.  Finally price is going to be around $7.50 a dozen!  Should have the finished product posted tomorrow.


The latest on the weather for the waterfowl migration.


Here to hoping for a last minute blizzard across the midwest that will get southern Illinois (south of I-80) into the waterfowl migration and big numbers of Canada geese to finish up the year!!!



Late Season Waterfowl Hunting

Late season waterfowl hunting can be tough. As we enter the homestretch of the duck and goose seasons across the US, the birds are educated!  Especially in our part of Illinois due to the lack of new birds in close to a month.  The few birds we do have around have seen every spread known to man and heard every note a duck call can produce.  They've been hunted hard since September in Canada.  Here are a few tricks that we've used over the past few years to entice leery late season waterfowl into our spread.  Hopefully this will improve our and your late season waterfowl hunting.


1. Concealment is key

It doesn't matter what your spread looks like or how great of a caller you are if you aren't hidden.  The birds have seen if all for four months. On opening day you can catch them by surprise. At this point in the season it's time to for extra
effort to get hidden.  Re-mud your layout blinds, add more grass, and spend extra time grabbing field litter from the location your hunting to make your blinds disappear.  We've also gone as far as digging holes to set blinds in if the ground is
suitable.  When birds appear, make sure everyone is fully inside their blinds no matter how tempting it is to peer out to find the birds.  Just like layout blinds, pits need re-worked too.  You've walked into and out of them dozens if not hundreds
of times so far this season.  The brush you had around your pit has been matted down and muddy ground has been exposed.  Gather some more stalks or stubble to sprinkle around the pit. Throw some extra decoys around the holes and wear a
facemask and gloves to stay hidden while waterfowl hunting.

waterfowl hunting











Extra stalks on the blind….

2. Change the decoy spread for better waterfowl hunting

On days we feel we will pick up migrating waterfowl, we will use every decoy we can find in order to work new birds to the area. We'll stick with that spread for a few days after the birds arrive, but after that we'll change it up to a smaller
spread, especially if other setup in the area continue to run large spreads.  The Fowled Reality crew likes to be different!  There are days where refuge spreads work awesome, other days it doesn't matter if you have 500 decoys out there.


3. Adapt to the conditions

Late season waterfowl hunting is usually characterized by cold weather…..except for this year. When the snow and ice is on, sleep shells are dynamite!  It's also beneficial to use shells or full bodies placed directly on the snow.  As soon as a bird lands, it'll lay down to melt the snow to gain access to food.  We'll mix in some full bodies on stands, but the majority of our decoys will be placed directly on the snow/ice.  We'll also kick the snow around the spread to make it appear as though birds have been moving around feeding in the field.  We'll try to disturb the field the most in the kill hole to trick the birds into thinking that is the best spot to feed.  During the coldest days, we'll pack the decoys tight, but on warmer days, we'll space them out more.

waterfowl hunting






Shell and sleeper shell decoys on snow

4. Use different calling

Waterfowl hunting this late in the season the birds have heard it all.  Give them something you think they might not have heard yet.  This might mean giving them nothing at all.  We like to let the birds approach and see how they react.  If they start working
the decoy spread on their own, then we'll let them do their thing.  If they fly by without looking, then we'll start calling to them.  If you're lucky enough to get them turned, pay attention to what note they turned on and keep hitting them with it.
If you call at them upon first seeing them, keep it subtle.  So many hunters throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.  From high balls, to comeback calls and spit notes. These birds are used to it all.  Throw a single quack or goosey cluck
at them and see how hey react.  If they turn, stay on them what you've been doing.  Pay close attention to the birds and read them.  Now is the most important time of year to pay attention to what they're doing.  The ducks and geese will tell you
what they want to hear or if they want nothing.

5. Scout

Try like heck to find where birds are feeding and not being pressured.  Spend the drive time looking for out of the way places where birds have got comfortable. You're kind of looking for a needle in a haystack at this point in the year, but
it can always be done.  If you find a spot like this and gain access, make sure to go the extra mile to get concealed.  You know they birds are coming and you have to make it look like no one is there waiting on them.  If we're lucky enough to find a spot
like this, we'll go with a small, realistic spread of fully flocked decoys to help conceal the blinds, spend and extra hour brushing blinds, and call sparingly. Make it look like a few early arrivers are already in the field and let the rest of them
drop in.  If you can't get access, but have found a good number of birds, find the flight line they're using, get hidden and show them everything.  They're used to feeding somewhere else, but your trying to get them to go elsewhere.  If your on
the flight line, they'll at least fly over so you have to get them to stop.


For more waterfowl hunting tips check out our other posts.



Waterfowl Hunting Continues to be Tough

The arctic front that we hopes would improve our waterfowl hunting luck didn’t bring much more than snow geese with it.  The Fowled Reality crew had hoped the latest cold snap would freeze small waters up north and send some mallards packing south, but we witnessed nothing more than a handfull of flocks riding the 30 mph northwest winds on Monday.  What we did witness was a massive increase in snow geese in parts of central and south central Illinois.  The snow geese begin pouring in from the north on Saturday and they continued through Monday.  It’s hard to believe there were that many still north of us, but with the lack of ice and snow, I’m sure there are still tons up there.  On Monday afternoon we saw a steady stream of snows pouring off the lake for the last hour and a half of the day.  They all came out north and filled the sky as far as you could see.


We did have a little success while grinding out an all day hunt Monday with a random Canada goose that came off the refuge mid morning, never made a sound, and glided in to 15 yards.  It was great to finally get our first dark goose of the year on the ground!  At this point last year, we were loaded with them!  This year, we’ve seen nothing more than a handful of birds that aren’t residents.  We also had a good group of specks working our spread only to have another pit on the club bust into them and ruin what could have been several limits of birds in one volley.  Just goes to show you the issues of public land hunting are still problems on private ground and clubs.



waterfowl huntingThe cold weather didn’t do much for improving waterfowl hunting conditions in south central Illinois, but it has help further north in the central zone.  Scott spotted an increase in Canada goose numbers in an area we hunt in central Illinois, so we traveled north Friday evening to take a look and see if we could get a hunt on them.  Tons of waterfowl poured off the local holes and all dropped into a mine owned field just across from the roost.  At dark, there was at least 1000 ducks, canadas, and specks in a cut corn field.  It was impressive to say the least, but upon making a phone call, we were turned away because it is law that anyone stepping foot on mine property must have ATF and FBI clearance.  Those birds are sage for now, but in short time, the field will be void of food and they’ll start looking elsewhere to feed.  Hopefully in the coming days, the corn will be gone, more birds will continue to show, and we’ll be able to get on them.


The forecast for the next week looks horrible as has been the case all season.  We get a cold snap for a couple days then it becomes unseasonably warm for 5-7 days.  The cycle has yet to be broken, but there are signs and talk of the pattern breaking down mid month. That would leave us two weeks for chasing Canada geese.


We don’t look for much of a southward push of the remaining 300,000+ waterfowl sitting on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to our north.  Duck numbers are way above their averages and goose numbers are lacking.  With just one week remaining in the south central zone, our hopes of killing many more ducks here are bleak.  We have to hope for a strong push of birds into the southern zone within the next three weeks to have hope of dropping more ducks in Illinois.

Mississippi River Aerial Waterfowl Survey:

Illinois River Aerial Waterfowl Survey:

Southern Illinois Aerial Waterfowl Survey:

Arctic front to help improve waterfowl hunting?

The weather man last night said the magic words, ARCTIC FRONT!  The said front is scheduled to make its arrival Sunday and bring with it strong NW winds that will hopefully bring some new birds south.  The sticking point with the front will be the lack of precip.  We have to hope the drastic drop in temperatures and strong winds will get the birds moving south out of the central and northern parts of Illinois and Missouri.  There should be a bunch of water locking up in ice starting Sunday night, but the fields will stay open due to no snow with the front.  I wouldn’t classify this as a banner arctic front, but a 20 degree drop in temps is pretty substantial and hopefully help the duck hunting, especially this year.

Forecast for Quincy, IL  Saturday 55/36    Sunday 42/24     Monday 32/18

Peoria, IL    Saturday  51/37    Sunday 41/24       Monday 28/16

The surveys for Illinois late last week showed what we all knew, plenty of birds still hanging to our north along the Mississippi Flyway.  With the northern and central zones closed in Illinois and now the northern zone in Missouri complete, the birds are loving life with no hunting pressure, open water, and plenty of food in these areas.  Over 200,000 mallards are sitting on refuges and survey locations along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.  Over 300,000 total ducks still in these areas.  The numbers have decreased some over the past couple weeks due to a few birds continuing their trip south, but numbers are well above their 10 year average due to the unseasonably warm temps we’ve been experiencing.  Due to this, Canada goose numbers are awful! We traveled to West Central Illinois on Monday in search of the elusive honker.  Very few birds were spotted.  Most of what we did see were still residents with a few northern birds mixed in.  It sounds like bigger numbers of Canada geese are around the I-80 corridor and on north.  With the frozen tundra of Green Bay only receiving 4 inches of snow so far this year along with many other locations throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, there is no reason for the big birds to make their trip south.

Illinois River Waterfowl Survey: 

Mississippi River Waterfowl Survey:

**Surveys courtesy of the Illinois National Historical Survey

We did get a little late Christmas treat on Tuesday with a half inch of snow at the club.  The white stuff had the birds on the move early, but it melted off by 8 and everything stopped flying.  We were able to take a Mallard and a couple Gadwall early.  One thing that was strange, was the lack of snow geese.  The lake is usually covered with them by this point, but there was none to be found.  Only some specklebellies, the resident geese, and small group of new lessors were around.  Unfortunately, the lessors only flew circles over the lake and never came out.


waterfowl hunting







The Fowled Reality crew will be scouting in search of birds tomorrow to hopefully line up a Saturday hunt somewhere.  Then on Sunday and Monday we’ll make a trip south to Pyramid State Park where they’ve been killing a few birds and hopefully this “Arctic” front will bring in some new ones!

Waterfowl hunters across Missouri and Illinois are accustomed to having huntable goose numbers by this point in the season, but this year we are stuck with hunting resident geese so far.  There are signs of changes coming.  Big changes!  Unfortunately, it’s not right around the corner, but it appears winter will finally make an appearance by mid month.  When it does finally arrive it looks to lock in for a while.  One index meteorologist use is the NAO index.  To keep it simple, when this index goes negative, the midwest experiences cold temperatures.  With the cold comes snow.  When it snows, and sticks around, we kill geese!  This index is forecasted to finally go negative somewhere around the 10-13th of January!  Let’s hope the forecast holds true! If it does, these parts of the Mississippi Flyway will hopefully experience good goose hunting the final two weeks of the season!

NAO Index:

***Courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center

Fowled Reality is working hard at finding partners to work together to promote products and waterfowl hunting as well as help spread the Fowled Reality name.

Take a look at our Partners page to see our current partners and keep checking as we will be adding more in the coming weeks.

Happy New Year to all and let’s hope the arrival of the New Year brings fresh birds from the north!