By Jay Anglin, WF360 Great Lakes Region Migration Editor
While many hunters have hung up their shotguns for the season, avid goose hunters are basking in the glow of what has been nothing short of a remarkable late season throughout the lower Great Lakes states. Near record-breaking winter low temperatures and wind chills have encumbered the region over the past week, but the number of Canada geese that have amassed in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio is nothing short of spectacular.
Three states offer goose hunting opportunities that extend into February. Indiana’s goose season runs through February 10 statewide, and while the Michigan goose season closes February 11 in the South Zone, the Allegan Goose Management Unit extends to February 14. Ohio’s season runs through February 9 statewide. These states now run their light and dark goose seasons concurrently, offering hunters the opportunity to harvest Canada, white-fronted, snow, and Ross’s geese as well as brant. See state regulations regarding bag and possession limits.
“Wow is all I have to say!” says veteran waterfowler Colin Clark, who hunts several counties in southern Michigan and northern Indiana. “We wait all year for this, and the past few weeks did not disappoint. My phone has been on fire the past 24 hours trying to coordinate hunts the next few days. This weather has thrown us a monkey wrench, but these birds are still doing their thing. Putting good hunts together shouldn’t be too difficult for the rest of the season.”
Hunters have reported impressive numbers of birds, and limits of honkers have been the rule, not the exception. A surprising number of hunters have also been enjoying success on the ever-increasing numbers of white-fronted geese that have been making their way further east in recent years.
Snow blankets much of the landscape now, but with unseasonably warm temperatures in the forecast, much of the snow cover is expected to melt, assuring sheet water will be present in the fields.
“Late-season hunting has been good where pockets of geese can be found. Cold temperatures have concentrated birds where open water is available,” explains DU volunteer Ryan Christner. “We have had success in dry snow-covered fields as well as loafing areas with open water. The coming warm-up should provide some good opportunities on sheet-water spots as well.”
Temperatures through next week are predicted to be spring-like in states to the south and should prompt white-fronted and light geese staging farther down the Mississippi Flyway to fly north in a hurry. These species are becoming an increasingly important part of the harvest for goose hunters in the Midwest, most notably in Illinois and Indiana, both of which often hold hundreds of thousands of snow, Ross’s, and white-fronted geese during January and February.
Keep in mind, once the regular seasons close, the Light Goose Conservation Order season opens. Many goose hunters to the south are reporting a lack of juvenile birds in light goose flocks, which is making these extremely wary birds even more challenging to hunt. That’s another reason why hunters should get out and make the most of the final days of the general goose season.
Jay Anglin is an avid hunter, fisherman, and guide from LaPorte, Indiana. A veteran writer, Anglin, holds a biology degree from Northern Michigan University. He will be providing migration updates from the Great Lakes Region throughout the 2018-2019 waterfowl season.