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.
*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.
*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.
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.