By all indications, Michigan has been a standout this year in terms of waterfowl numbers and hunting success. With the exception of the Upper Peninsula, where hunters have reported limited success, harvest rates appear to have been surprisingly good in the Wolverine State this fall.
With a complex weather system moving into the region that is being compared to the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald 46 years ago this week, savvy waterfowlers know good things are to come.
The most recent harvest numbers in eastern Michigan, including those at Fish Point State Wildlife Area (SWA), Shiawassee River State Game Area (SGA), and the Harsens Island Unit at St Clair Flats SWA, are hovering between 3,500 and over 4,500 ducks each. Goose harvest numbers are impressive as well.
Michigan DNR wildlife technician John Darling reports that hunting success has been excellent at Harsens Island, with a harvest of over 1,200 ducks last week alone. Overall, hunters have taken over 4,500 ducks on the unit this season. “I expect the end of this week will be really, really good given the forecast,” Darling says.
Reports from the Great Lakes and other big water bodies suggest large numbers of diving ducks have stacked up in recent weeks. A diversity of species can be found offshore, including bluebills, redheads, and canvasbacks as well as buffleheads, goldeneyes, and a smattering of scoters and long-tailed ducks.
“We’ve picked up some new birds the past few days on the north winds,” says MI Guide Service owner and guide Jeremy Ullman, who focuses his efforts on Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron. “We’ve had fairly normal numbers of birds, but many days they stay far offshore and don’t move much. The wind coming in this week should really get them bouncing around.”
On the other side of the mitten, Allegan SGA in the southwest portion of the state has also been providing good hunting opportunities this fall.
“Despite warm weather during the first half of duck season, our numbers are looking good, and there are actually more birds on the Fennville Farm Unit than we had at this time last year, with over 2,000 ducks currently using the area,” says Michigan DNR wildlife technician Mike Richardson. “Goose numbers are also looking good, with around 3,000 geese currently using the area.”
Richardson is optimistic about the next week’s prospects. “The incoming weather system should really ramp things up for both duck and goose hunters. There are plenty of fresh birds, and some really good hunts could be had over the next few days and through the weekend,” he adds.
Michigan waterfowl hunters may be poised for the best hunting of the season over the next five to 10 days but are reminded to use extreme caution on the water as high winds can create hazardous boating conditions, especially on big water. Be safe and enjoy the migration.
For more information and current manager reports for state and federal waterfowl hunting areas, go to the Michigan DNR Waterfowl Count Dashboard.