Migration Alert: Winter Weather Improves Outlook for Spring Snows

Jan. 28, 2019 – Central and Mississippi Flyways

By John Pollmann, WF360 Central Flyway Migration Editor

While plummeting temperatures and heavy snowfall in northern and mid-latitude portions of the Central and Mississippi Flyways may have come too late to help many duck hunters, the timely winter weather could benefit hunters participating in the Light Goose Conservation Order by pushing large numbers of lesser snow and Ross’s geese south, at least in the short term.

Reports from South Dakota and Nebraska indicate that waterfowl populations in both states were impacted by a winter storm that dumped a foot or more of snow in some places and brought strong northwest winds and bitter cold to the region.

Andy Raedeke with the Missouri Department of Conservation reports that the state lost a large number of waterfowl last week. “We had a fairly substantial amount of open water in central and north-central Missouri, but by Sunday and Monday of last week, the colder temperatures had most shallow water locked up,” he says.

Raedeke’s report lines up well with the observations of hunters in portions of Arkansas, where large numbers of mallards finally appeared on the backside of the winter weather to the north.

Light geese are now present in large concentrations on their wintering grounds.

According to Tom Bidrowski with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, a mid-winter survey indicated that there were close to one million light geese in the state, but Bidrowski believes that number has decreased in recent days.

“The geese seem to bounce around between here, Arkansas, Missouri and up into Nebraska based on changes in the weather,” Bidrowski says. “In terms of the spring migration and hunting opportunities down south, the snow and ice that the north received is good news.”

Mark Vrtiska, waterfowl program manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, agrees, adding that hunters should watch the weather forecast in the coming weeks.

“It seems that when we get a bit of a warming trend and a south wind, those geese get excited and want to start pushing north,” Vrtiska says. “The birds are so adaptable in terms of what they will use for roosting and water, but snow cover in the fields, which limits their access to food, seems to be the big factor in slowing their movement north.”

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 2018-2019 waterfowl season.