From the Great Lakes to legendary Horicon Marsh to the Mighty Mississippi River, Wisconsin waterfowl hunters are blessed with an abundance of places to hunt. But overall, with the exception of early migrants such as wood ducks and teal, waterfowl have been conspicuous in their absence in many areas of the Badger State. Thankfully, a series of recent cold fronts with pronounced north winds have provided a much-needed influx of fresh birds, especially diving ducks, into Wisconsin.
“We are beginning to see good number of divers showing up on both sides of the state. Scaup are here in good numbers on Green Bay, and canvasbacks have started showing up on the Mississippi River over the last week or so,” says Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Game Bird Ecologist Taylor Finger. “In the rest of the state, over the last seven to 10 days we have seen a good push of new birds, including ringnecks, redheads, gadwalls, wigeon, and pintails.”
Wisconsin waterfowlers are heading into the prime part of the season and heavy rain over the past week has helped recharge smaller wetlands in some locales. Though big pushes of northern mallards have not bolstered local flocks thus far, according to Finger, wood ducks and green-winged teal remain in decent numbers. Crop harvests are now kicking into high gear, which will provide plenty of food for geese and mallards working through the state from the north.
Dave Heath of Heath Outdoors operates his guide service on the northwest corner of Lake Michigan, which is one of the most prolific redhead migration corridors in the Mississippi Flyway. “We had cold temperatures and extremely high winds when the Open Water Zone opened on October 15, and redheads were really on the move,” explains Heath. “Last week we warmed back up over 50 degrees and had south winds, which slowed things down. We are still seeing some small groups of redheads, but no buffleheads or goldeneyes yet.”
In the south, hunting has been slow but reports indicate increasing numbers of mid-season “calendar” migrants are arriving in the area. “We don’t have a ton of ducks but lots of geese, and new birds are starting to come down like they always do,” says Pat Kalmerton of Wolf Pack Adventures. “I’m sure there are plenty more yet to come. It’s that time of year when it starts to get really fun.”
Wisconsin is known for outstanding Canada goose hunting, but this season has presented some challenges, with fewer birds in traditional strongholds and a change in agricultural practices making logistics very challenging.
“Near Horicon Marsh, goose numbers seemed significantly lower than previous years, but duck numbers have been pretty solid,” says northern Indiana DU Regional Director Josh Hall, who has been hunting near Horicon.
“A lack of freshly harvested fields and an increase in freshly planted winter wheat throughout the area have made most fields inaccessible. That, coupled with unseasonably warm weather, had made for subpar goose hunting the past week or so. On the upside, duck hunting has been decent in small sloughs and early morning dry-field sets,” Hall adds.
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