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Waterfowl Migration Update – December 31, 2014

We’re now entering 2015 and a lot of waterfowl hunters are glad to see December of 2014 in the rearview mirror. After a month of little to no waterfowl migration, arctic air has finally come back into the midwest and central United States and waterfowl are back on the move. How long the cold will last is anyones guess, but it’s best to take advantage of it now while we have it and the waterfowl migration is back in swing.

Duck Migration

Normal to above normal temperatures and little in the way of winter weather had the duck migration virtually stalled for the better part of 7 week. Locations that picked up ducks back in the first half of November still had the same ducks up until the past few days. Hunting success had been poor at best in most places from Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Many season are now closed and more will in the coming week. Luckily, for the homestretch of a lot of ducks hunting seasons, fresh birds made a move the past few days with the cold front. New migrations of mallards have been spotted from northern Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. There has also been an influx of new ducks into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Locations in Arkansas remain dry, but where there is water, there are ducks. A new weather system looks to effect areas along and south of I70 at the end of the week and into the weekend. Rainfall amounts across much of Arkansas could exceed an inch and will be welcome by duck hunters. Further north, there should be a swath of snow by the weekend from central Kansas into northern Illinois. The precipitation could further push ducks into southern Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, while the rainfall across Arkansas could lead to fresh food sources and thinning out the concentrations of ducks where there is currently water.

Canada Goose Migration

Just as the duck migration has been on hold, so has the Canada goose migration. Areas that were having great hunts this time last year, have yet to see much if any northern Canada geese migrate in. Good numbers of geese have remained across the Dakotas, northern Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. While the fresh cold could push some south, the lack of snowfall in these areas will likely lead the geese to stay put for now.

Snow Goose Migration

The snow goose migration has been in full swing with the mild temperatures over the past 10 days. Large concentrations of snows moved north last week and made it all the way into the Illinois River Valley and locations around Squaw Creek. The snow goose migration last week resembled something seen in mid February! Luckily, the new cold snap should force quite a few of them back south closer to their wintering grounds. Even without snow cover north of I70, many of the snow geese will make a move back south to get away from the cold. Their not as hardly as the northern mallards and Canada geese, but all it will take a a brief warmup for them to move back north.

The Week Ahead

The weather in the coming week looks to stay around normal or slightly below. The weekend system should lay a narrow band of snow down, but a lack of snow cover will remain in certain locations all the way into the Dakotas and Minnesota. The cold weather should continue to create more and more ice on large bodies of water and a trickle of migrating waterfowl could continue into next week.

Starting The Season In North Dakota

The waterfowl surveys that took place during the summer left everyone with high hopes for the 2013-2014 waterfowl migration. We were no different, as we made the 1000 mile trek to the Prairie Pothole Region last week. Mother nature quickly reminded us she is in control, but with hard work, a ton of miles, and a some luck, we were able to pull off a great week of waterfowl hunting.

North Dakota Waterfowl HuntingIt quickly became apparent, upon first arriving in North Dakota, the number of waterfowl in the area was down and the number of hunters was up compared to our trip last year. The first afternoon of scouting led us to a lake with a good concentration of ducks and geese, but the activity of birds dropping into the lake led numerous other hunters to the area as well. Some had the courtesy of not watching the same field as us, while another simply pulled up beside us and said they were headed in to setup right beside our truck. After driving in circles for three hours inside the same 10 square miles, we knew the week was going to be an uphill climb.

The lack of waterfowl in the area was only one of many limiting factors. The weather in our location was great with lows below freezing and highs around 40, but the temperatures further north into Saskatchewan were warmer than what we were experiencing. Waterfowl hunters know to be more concerned about the forecast north of them more so than at their location. Another detrimental element was the lack of cut corn. When we first arrived, there was virtually 0 acres of cut corn in an hour any direction of where we were hunting. This left cut soybean and wheat fields as hunting locations. The short stubble in these fields made concealment a huge issue. As the week progressed and a few corn fields began to get cut, the hunting improved.

We learned last year that Mallards in North Dakota love a fresh cut corn field. This led us to search for combines and corn while scouting rather than ducks. If we found a combine running in a corn field, chances were ducks would be in it within Scouting Ducks24 hours. Scouting ducks in North Dakota is tough because of the mass number of potholes that are secluded. Sure you can drive the roads and look at water that is within site, but chances are the number of ducks on those bodies of water is not a true representation of the number of ducks in the area. Scouting for ducks during the day was virtually a waste of time. The best time was the last two hours of the day. The morning flight during the week seemed to be limited, but if there were ducks in the area, you could be they would be in the air just before and at sunset. This left us with a short window of time to plan for the next day’s hunt. To put all these pieces to the puzzle together took a ton of effort from all of us.

We arrived at one of the first cut corn fields we found one afternoon and just so happened to see a small flock of ducks emerge from standing corn a couple hours before dark. The half of the field near the road was harvested, but the interior half was still standing. We pulled in the lane nearby and crossed our fingers. As the afternoon progressed, bigger and bigger flocks emerged from the corn, would fly around, and drop back into where they came from. Through the use of aerial maps, we were able to see there was a small pothole a half mile back from the road. As the sun fell lower into the sky, the flocks, which were now 30-50 birds large, started to pile into the cut portion of the field. Instantly we began brainstorming on where to hide and how to access it. As darkness fell over 1000 mallards has given us the “X” for the next day. The corn stubble offered easy concealment, we deployed our 7 dozen full body Hard Core Mallards, and had an awesome hunt that afternoon!

The rest of the week was spent searching for harvested corn and we were lucky enough to find it. We were led away from the large concentration of waterfowl which cut down on hunting competition. Sure, we didn’t see as many waterfowl as we would of had we stayed in the area we started in, but we’ll take smaller numbers of unpressured ducks versus larger numbers that see decoy spreads in every field.  The ducks we were lucky enough to locate seemed to be locals that had not moved out yet. They knew where to hide and where they were safe, but they couldn’t resist leaving that safety for a belly full of corn.  The whole freelance hunting experience is something that every waterfowl hunter should try. It takes a ton of planning, hard work, and little sleep, but the reward you get when the stars align provides a feeling unmatched in any other hunt. We can’t wait to share our story from North Dakota this coming spring when we unveil Fowled Reality Season 3.

Duck Hunting Hevi-Metal

2013 Waterfowl Forecast

The 2013 waterfowl forecast has a drastically different look than last year. The weather conditions across much of the country have been a total reversal from last year. Rather than hot and dry, the conditions in 2013 have been below normal temperatures and normal to above normal rainfall in most of the plains and midwest. There are areas that have really dried out recently, but the wet start to the year has kept ponds and lakes still with plenty of water. Bag limits and possession limits have also been increased in many locations. Couple this with the 2nd highest duck survey on record and the ingredients are in place for a great season, but the 2013 waterfowl forecast is most dependent on one thing: the weather.

Food Sources

Food Sources WaterfowlMany of the crops across the plains and midwest were planted late or not at all due to the wet spring. Thousands of bottom land acres had initial plantings flooded out. The fields that have been planted will be harvested later than normal. Soybean and corn fields could still be standing as seasons begin to open. If winter starts early, some crops may not even get harvested. This will not only effect locations hunters have to hunt, but also available food sources for migrating waterfowl. If a limited number of fields have been cut, they could be loaded with waterfowl, but large numbers will likely exhaust the food source quickly.

The wet spring and early summer has also limited the moist soil vegetation bloom in flooded impoundments and banks of water sources. Unlike last year, when water levels recceeded quickly in the spring to allow moist soil vegetation to germinate, weekly rains kept water levels high and never exposed the soil this summer. This could also contribute to a lack of food sources for migrating waterfowl, but birds are resourceful and will find areas to feed in. Find the food and you will find ducks and geese.

Rainfall and Water Levels

Another contributing factor to the 2013 waterfowl forecast is the availability of water. Without water, ducks and geese have nowhere to roost and loaf. Water levels in most areas across the middle of the country have greatly improved after the 2013 Waterfowl Forecastwidespread drought of last year. In our trips to North Dakota and Sasketchewan last year we noticed numerous pot holes and ponds completely void of water. This is not the case this year! While not all locations have received above average rainfall, most have at least been near normal allowing water sources to recover. Where there’s water, there will be waterfowl and unlike last year, places that typically hold water should have it for this year’s migration.

The Forecast

After back-to-back warmer than average winters, one would have to think this year we will get one back from mother nature. It would be great to have a true to form winter that starts in December and eases up leading into February. Many of the long range forecasts are calling for an average winter. If this is the case, instead of large numbers of ducks and geese staging in areas as the season closes, they will be forced to follow the advancing ice and snow lines further south. The last two years, large numbers and Mallards and Canada Geese were left in the North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as their seasons closed. Hunters in these areas were tortured with the site of thousands of birds in fields and a closed season while hunters to the south only heard stories of large numbers of birds. The seasons are set based off of long term reports and weather conditions. Throw a couple odd years of weather in the mix and the uproar over season dates begins. We can’t control the weather and the weather plays the biggest role in the waterfowl migration.

Most of the country is in far better shape than last year at this time. Areas that have food and water are in great shape leading into the 2013 waterfowl season. Most locations should have both, but the wild card is the crops being harvested. Early in the season food sources may be limited, but as the season progresses, more and more should come available. An early snow storm could leave a lot of crops standing in location across the northern part of the US, but would also get the migration started quickly. The unknown of the weather is what makes the 2013 waterfowl forecast difficult. It is the most important aspect of the migration and is the one that is the most uncontrollable for a waterfowl hunter.

 

 

 

2012-2013 Waterfowl Migration

The Upcoming Waterfowl Season

The 2012-2013 waterfowl migration is shaping up to be one to remember. Record numbers of ducks have been surveyed across the Prairie Pothole Region and Canada. Summer is giving way to fall and wrapped up low pressure systems are 2012-2013 Waterfowl Migrationsweeping the country bringing with it gusty north winds and cold air. Rains are falling across drought stricken areas and the waterfowl season will soon be here. Hopefully the end result of this year will be better than last year which was characterized by a lack of snowfall, warm weather, and ducks and geese wintering further north than ever before. You have to think mother nature will make up for the warm weather last year with much cooler temperatures this year leading to a more normal 2012-2013 waterfowl migration.

Stay Updated on the 2012-2013 Waterfowl Migration

Just as we did last year, Fowled Reality will bring you weekly migration updates from areas across the Mississippi Flyway. To better reach our audience, we will also be expanding our areas. We have trips planned for North Dakota, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, and at home in Illinois. Each week we’ll bring you 2012-2013 waterfowl migration updates from wherever we are hunting and also included in our updates will be KES Waterfowlers prostaff Justin Tackett from the Atlantic Flyway and C&L Outdoors owner Levi Daniels from the Central Flyway. These updates will be posted here on the website, Facebook, and Twitter. New this year will be our video migration updates. These videos will give you the information you need on the 2012-2013 waterfowl migration, a forecast for the week ahead, and also include some kill footage from the past weekend. In order to receive these updates, fill out the “Subscribe” form on the right sidebar of the website.  We’ll send you the text based and video migration updates straight to you inbox to keep you up to date this season.

Good luck this season and do a cold weather dance!

Snow Goose Migration – March 13, 2012

Snow Goose Migration

 

We are going to go ahead and post the latest snow goose migration update even though new surveys aren't available yet.  The incredibly warm weather has the birds in the express lane north.  Birds have now crossed into areas of North Dakota and are moving north in a hurry.  South Dakota has large numbers of snow geese all across the state as well, and some guys even starting to kill some juvenile birds.  If you plan on going there to hunt, you better leave now because it's not going to last long. The forecast for Pierre, SD the next 7 days calls for highs ranging from 65-77.  That's unheard of for mid March!  Take a look at the snow cover data from the past two years:

2011

snow goose migration

 

2012

snow goose migration

Major differences and this explains why the birds are in areas 1-2 weeks earlier than normal.  It started all the way back in January when many of the snow geese spent their winter in areas of Illinois and Missouri instead of Arkansas and Louisiana. They had a head start returning north to their summer grounds and now with no snow cover on into Canada, they'll continue their push north in a hurry!  If you're planning a trip to the Dakotas I hope it's soon because they'll move through in a hurry with this weather.

Further south, a decent number of birds remains near Squaw Creek.  There aren't as many as there has been, but hunters are still enjoying some success.  There are even huntable numbers remaining in areas of central and west central Illinois.  The predictions of a spread out migration seem to be ringing true.  The main masses of birds are long since through these parts of Illinois, but the concentrations of birds remain in select areas.  It requires lots of driving to find the birds and you have to go in with the mindset that you will not see a ton, but with limited competition from feeding flocks on the ground you should have some success.  One thing that continues to be noted both from reports and what we've been seeing is the lack of large groups of juvenile birds.  They are just aren't there this year.  The juvies remained mixed in the with the adults birds over the course of the winter and are making their move north with them as well.

Don't forget to check out new episodes of Fowled Reality every Monday right here on our site, Vimeo, or YouTube.

Here is some snow goose hunting action from opening day of the conservation order season in Illinois.