The first winter storm moved across a good chunk of the Central and Mississippi Flyways late last week and finally sent a good waterfowl migration to the south. Cold air filtering in behind the snow only helped to push many ducks and geese further south toward their wintering grounds and hunting success responded nicely as the system dropped up to 18 inches of snow. Temperatures look to rebound during the first half of this week, but a couple new systems look to move across the country as we enter next weekend.
Snow fell across South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois this past Wednesday through Saturday. While there was no snow across most of Canada and North Dakota, many ducks and geese were forced to head south thanks to single digit lows and sub freezing high temperatures in these areas. Many bodies of water are now frozen solid with only small portions of large lakes and rivers remaining open. This was the first large push of birds in North Dakota this season. Hunting success had been sporadic up until the point, but now, peak numbers are located in many areas. In South Dakota, not only did temperatures plummet, but snow covered up many food sources for waterfowl. The same goes for Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois. Waterfowl in these areas were forced to head south as roost sources locked up and food was blanketed with as much as 18 inches of snow. Locations across Nebraska and Missouri saw a good push of waterfowl on Thursday and Friday. There were reports of just as many geese heading south as there were ducks. As the front finally moved through the Midwest on Saturday, flights of migrating waterfowl were reported across Illinois and hunting success was high for those that braved the wind and rain. The large storm system prevented many states from doing their weekly waterfowl surveys, but had they been able to do it, they would have noted increasing numbers of birds and for areas north of I70, mallard numbers are on the incline while many other species numbers will be headed down as the temperatures drop.
With that system now gone, we’re left with a good number of birds blocked in North Dakota thanks to the extensive snow pack that sits south of them. What’s left of the open water continues to freeze so finding birds might be a challenge, but any open water a hunter can find, will likely have birds on it. Look for large lakes and rivers when it gets this cold and you’ll likely have success in locating waterfowl. In these conditions, find fields they are feeding in and don’t push them off of what little available open water they have. With rebounding temperatures across much of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, birds should remain in place through the weekend. The next system is set to start on Thanksgiving Day and continue into the weekend. There doesn’t appear to be a large push of cold air behind this front, but a chance of snow still exists on the backside of the system. Two or more inches of rain looks likely in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. This will likely flood new areas and scatter birds out as new resources become available. We’ll also be dealing with a full moon this week. Combined with the warming temperatures, hunting success could drop compared to last week, but you never know what will happen unless you’re out there. Good luck this week!