Minnesota waterfowl hunters are reporting an increase in bird movement and good success across much of the state as a strong cold front has pushed through the Upper Plains and Prairie Canada into the Great Lakes Region. While low hunting pressure in Canada, coupled with warm weather has stalled migration progress in recent weeks, this timely cold snap and favorable winds has flipped the migration switch on.
“We are finally getting some cold, windy days to push new birds south out of Canada. It has been weird up to this point. There hasn’t been much pressure in Canada this season, so I’m hearing there are still a lot of birds up there,” explains avid waterfowler Dylan Reed, who hunts the front line of the U.S. portion of the Mississippi Flyway in the Lake of the Woods area. “I haven’t been on the lake in a few days, but I’m hearing the bluebills have rolled in, which is right on schedule. Lots of new geese and ducks have showed up late this week too.”
This week’s report from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) indicates good numbers of ring-necked ducks in the northern part of the state where vast stands of Minnesota’s famed wild rice attract incredible numbers of diving ducks. The report also cites the diversity of species present throughout the state, including increasing numbers of white-fronted geese.
“Earlier this week we got into specks and even saw some snows here in the western part of the state. Specks were rolling hard through the night on their quick trip south,” says Bret Amundson, DU volunteer and Prairie Sportsman TV host. “The migration started up again Thursday after a few days of high winds. We’re expecting a big push Friday.”
Like many areas in the Great Lakes Region, crops were harvested earlier than usual this year, so geese and mallards are finding plenty of food when they arrive and join local birds on their feeding forays to dry ground. Water conditions are variable around the North Star State, with some areas very dry.
“It’s bone dry, so ducks are very concentrated when you find them here in the west-central part of the state,” explains Will Harvey, Banded/Avery Pro-Staffer. “Last weekend was good though. We shot our ducks both days and it was a nice mix of everything. The calendar birds are definitely on the move. Last full moon brought a few geese, but it still has a way to go toward getting better.”
Below average temperatures are forecasted for the next 10 days for Minnesota, with snow and ice in the north. There has been much discussion as to whether a lack of hunting pressure from non-residents in Canada due to border restrictions has allowed waterfowl to stay put longer than typical. That said, abundant lakes and marshes, as well as ample harvested crops have likely played a major role in the lack of bird movement, and fair weather alone has heavily impacted the number of birds migrating so far.
Rest assured, the migration clock is catching up as calendar ducks and anxious holdouts decide to push stateside. Hunters getting revved-up for prime time are now sitting pretty with a fresh batch of birds from the north and more to come in the near future.