Michael Furtman.jpg

Michael Furtman


Snow geese have a way of fulfilling our wildest dreams and dashing our hopes in equal measure, and the 2024 Light Goose Conservation Order hasn’t been an exception. The weather and consequently the hunting have been up and down this season.

Such has been the case this week with record-breaking high temperatures impacting a big swath of the central US before reverting to frigid cold that in some areas included blizzard conditions. Warmth will return later this week, so the overall impact of the system will likely be short lived.

Many predicted Arkansas would be wrapping the light goose season up about 10 days ago, but the geese ignored that memo apparently, and there are still legitimate pockets of birds in northeast Arkansas, according to recent reports. The past few days, crews have been exploiting the final push of juvenile snows and Ross’s geese, which have a habit of decoying with abandon. Nobody has a clue as to how long the gunning will last though. As one guide put it Tuesday: “It’s day-to-day but we’re really on them right now, and I have no idea what to expect tomorrow.”

Given the current forecast, it’s likely the tail-end of the migration will be moving across the Arkansas-Missouri state line very soon. Most outfits have already made the decision to move to greener pastures to the north or pack it in entirely.

The same sentiment applies to southeast Missouri and southern Illinois, where impressive numbers of light geese have been camped out for weeks. Despite good numbers, hunting has been inconsistent, confounding some pretty savvy snow goose specialists.

“I think we’re starting to see the end trickle through. There are a bunch of geese playing follow the leader,” explains Matt Alber, Willow Creek Waterfowl owner and guide. “We seem to have the same old birds that have been here all season. Thankfully, we’ve been able to shuffle some migrators into the spread and been doing pretty darn good overall.”

Hunters further north in Illinois and Missouri are also chipping away with a fair amount of success. While not setting any records, it is a rare day freezer space isn’t required for the day’s results.

“We are still holding decent numbers considering this crazy weather, but the bulk of the migration has pushed through,” says Austin Matheny, who hunts a permanent spread nearly every day of the season in the heart of the Illinois River Valley. “We’re seeing a fair amount of high migrators. I’d guess we have about 10 days left.”

Josh Osborn with the Forbes Biological Station in Havanna concurs: “It looks like we are well past the peak of spring snow goose migration through the IRV and the central MRV.”

As of now, north-central and northwest Missouri are still producing good hunts, but the question remains how many geese have yet to travel through and how many will pause before moving into Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

“We are still taking some, but the vast majority are past us,” says Tony Vandemore of Habitat Flats. “I’ve heard that there have been huge pushes of light geese moving into the Dakotas this week. Years with no snow on the prairies are tough for a lot of different reasons. Better hope we get some precipitation in the Dakotas and Canada real soon.”

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