By John Pollmann, WF360 Central Flyway Migration Editor
A winter weather system currently impacting the northern reaches of the Central and Mississippi Flyway has hunters to the south hopeful that another round of cold and snow will bring the gift of migrating waterfowl for the holiday season.
The accumulation of snow, strong winds and dramatic drop in temperatures should be enough to spur a movement of ducks and geese, especially those hardy birds still remaining in South Dakota.
The most recent aerial survey conducted by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks found just over 154,000 Canada geese and about 370,000 mallards along the Missouri River. While impressive, those numbers are not particularly surprising, given that the river corridor has remained relatively free of snow, allowing waterfowl to access waste grain in surrounding fields.
Still, with a weather system that is set to dump several inches of snow on portions of South Dakota and send temperatures plummeting into the single digits, hunters to the south are likely to see a migration of waterfowl.
That would be good news for hunters in Nebraska, where the duck season is entering its final weeks. Strong mallard numbers are being reported along the North Platte River in the western part of the state, while hunters west of Lincoln report that Canada geese were migrating in from the north in the days ahead of this latest winter weather system.
Kansas hunters would also welcome an influx of new birds.
“We’ve had good mallard numbers down here since before Thanksgiving, but the weather has moderated, and these birds are getting tough to hunt,” reports Karl Karrow, manager of the Marias des Cygne Wildlife Area near Pleasanton.
With cold temperatures expected in the region for an extended period of time, Karrow believes that any push of mallards through eastern Kansas this holiday season may be coming a little too late.
“I don’t believe that our water will survive this stretch of cold, and everything is going to lock up around here for a while,” Karrow says. “It’s not the best scenario for us, but it could help hunters south of here.”
Find and submit migration reports the DU Migration Map.
John Pollmann is a freelance writer from Dell Rapids, South Dakota, who is an avid waterfowler and conservationist. Pollmann will provide hunting and habitat reports for the Central and Mississippi Flyways throughout the 2017-2018 waterfowl season.