Adam Benenati


While duck seasons are starting to wrap up in the northern tier of the Midwest, Canada goose seasons remain largely open, and most states have seasons that extend well into January and February (check regulations for split closures). 

Overall, Canada goose numbers have remained below average in much of the Midwest due to ongoing mild weather, but hunting has been productive when the conditions are right. Daily scouting has been the difference maker between success and failure. As one Indiana veteran goose hunter put it this week, make no assumptions. 

"This area is still holding a decent number of geese, and hunting has been good," says Ducan Abrams of Pit Properties. Abrams hunts western Minnesota in the heart of some of the best Canada goose hunting anywhere in the nation. 

"The unseasonably warm weather this past week has had somewhat of an impact on hunting, but it's been good overall," Abrams says. "We've had slow hunts of course, but we've also had some great ones." 

Abrams expects more birds are yet to come as many large lakes to the north remain open and continue to hold geese. "We are waiting for a cold snap to freeze those birds out," he notes.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are bellwethers for many significant goose hunting areas to the south, including Missouri and Illinois. While most hunters in these states are still focused on ducks, the action has been heating up for plentiful white-fronted and snow geese. 

Tony Vandemore of Habitat Flats describes the situation succinctly, "We have lots of specks and snows around, but very few honkers. This has been a really mild fall."

While Illinois has also picked up some new ducks and geese recently, most of the state is still far behind the norm when it comes to Canada goose numbers. The exception is in the northern counties, and the northeast in particular. 

"Goose numbers remain good in northern Illinois, and we are due for a big push from the north and west when the next winter storm arrives," explains Matt Porter of Porter's Outdoors. 

While one recurring theme has been a general lack of new mallards across the Midwest, Porter says numbers have increased "exponentially" over the past couple weeks in northern Illinois, and mixed bags of ducks over field spreads have been reported. 

According to Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Technician Mike Richardson, Allegan Goose Management Unit in southwest Michigan is holding approximately 5,000 Canada geese, which is below average for that area this time of year. 

"Goose numbers are decent but without much weather, aside from a recent short freeze, any migration has essentially stalled," Richardson explains. 

Across the state in east-central Michigan, Patrick Hunt Cummings of In the Face Outdoors says the region has had below-average waterfowl numbers and more hunting pressure than he has seen in previous years. "We had decent numbers in November, and before we switched to ducks, harvested about 700 birds. But, that is about half of what we normally tally," Cummings says. 

Straight south in Lake Erie's Western Basin, hunters have been dealing with lower waterfowl numbers and the same mundane weather reported by just about everybody in the Midwest this season. "Our numbers on Sandusky Bay in Ohio are lower than average, but better than last year at this time," says avid goose hunter Shane Bilger. "We did have a small push last week. The weather has been very mild the past few years, which makes it tough because it doesn't drive geese to eat corn." 

Northern Indiana hunters have slipped under the radar when it comes to waterfowl woes this season. While the same weather issues apply to the Hoosier State, besides the typical mid-season lull, enough ducks and geese have settled in to produce consistent, successful hunts.

Canada goose numbers remain well below average for early December throughout much of the state, but most crews are making the best of it. Hunters in the northwestern corner of the Hoosier State have added specks and the occasional snow goose to their bags.

Bottom line, scout religiously, and hunt when the conditions are ideal. 

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