The march toward the breeding grounds continues for light geese moving through the northern reaches of the Central Flyway, aided by an abundance of open water and the complete absence of snow to slow down their migration.
Light goose numbers at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in northeastern South Dakota have decreased dramatically over the course of the past several days, but Eric Hoggarth, a federal game warden based out of Sand Lake, says that Edmunds and McPherson Counties, south and west of the refuge, are areas that have been holding birds this week.
“If hunters asked me where they’d stand the best chance to find a snow goose in South Dakota right now, that’s the direction I would point them,” Hoggarth says. “There has been pretty heavy hunting pressure over there, but those groups that I have checked in those counties, even as recently as last weekend, have been having decent success.”
Hoggarth says that warmer temperatures and big south winds have had light geese on the move in recent days. On a work trip to Valley City, North Dakota, earlier in the week he saw large groups of snow geese in flight or feeding in fields in the James River Valley, from the state border almost all the way to Interstate 94.
North Dakota Game and Fish Department waterfowl biologist Mike Szymanski doesn’t think there is anything to slow the birds down as they push north toward their tundra breeding grounds.
“We are seeing good numbers right now, but this will not last much longer now that we’ve lost our ice, and there is open water everywhere,” Szymanski says. “With conditions like these, the geese tend to move quickly.”
This prediction is lining up fairly well with what Paul Halko is seeing at Arrowwood NWR north of Jamestown.
“We haven’t had a lot of snow geese on the refuge yet this year, at least compared to what we’ve seen in recent years, but the birds that have been using the area have not been hanging around for very long,” Halko says. “In fact, I recently saw a fairly large feed, enough to cover half square mile of ground, and those birds were here one day and gone the next. Flocks are moving pretty fast.”