By John Pollmann
The leading edge of the light goose migration has moved into Missouri, where hunters taking part in the Light Goose Conservation Order are meeting the challenges of decoying mature, adult birds.
Light goose numbers throughout Missouri have been constantly fluctuating since the first migrating birds arrived earlier this month, and official reports from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) show that variable weather conditions continue to contribute to shifting concentrations of geese.
This includes Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Area in the extreme northwest corner of the state, where limited open water can be found, in spite of recent spells of warm temperatures. Refuge officials note that several thousand light geese can be found at any one time on the refuge, but they believe that it may be a week or more before any significant number of birds arrive at this historical stopping point for migrating waterfowl.
Some of the more consistent numbers in the state are coming out of Fountain Grove Conservation Area in north-central Missouri, where MDC resource technician Rick Falconer says light geese began arriving in significant numbers last Thursday.
“Since then we’ve had a fairly good influx of light geese, as well as swans, mallards, pintails, and other waterfowl,” says Falconer. “Everything is just starting to show up.”
Falconer says that it has been hard to get an accurate count of light geese, as their numbers shift daily with new birds from the south replacing those that have moved further up the flyway. Cold temperatures, snow and ice currently impacting areas further to the north could mean that the birds currently using Fountain Grove and the surrounding area may slow their migration activities.
“Our pools are 95- to 98-percent open and we still have food, which will help the geese stick it out around here before moving on,” says Falconer. “We really are just at the beginning of the migration. Things are only going to get better from here.”
Falconer adds that the hunting pressure around Fountain Grove has subsided in recent days, though he expects the activity to pick up again as more birds move into the area.
“Those hunters that are out there are having some success, too,” he says.
Tony Vandemore, guide and co-owner of Habitat Flats near Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge agrees that the light goose migration through Missouri is still in its beginning stages, as adult geese have been making up the overwhelming majority of the birds in hunters’ bags so far.
“Overall, it’s a good start to things here in Missouri,” says Vandemore. “The rain, snow mix we’ve gotten recently has made field conditions a little messy, but nothing like what we had to battle in Arkansas earlier this month.
“It’s a good time to remember to be patient through this early part of the migration dealing with these adult birds. Things can get frustrating now, but the best hunting is still to come.”