While several Great Lakes states’ South Zones are still open for ducks, savvy waterfowlers may want to consider focusing on geese, as their numbers remain strong throughout the region. Goose seasons extend into January in Illinois and into the first weekend of February in Indiana and Ohio. Michigan also offers a late goose season in early February, while Wisconsin’s final goose season closed this weekend.
“Canada goose numbers in the North Zone seem to be average or better despite fairly mild conditions, and hunters have found success in various areas,” says Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wetland Wildlife Program Manager Randy Smith. “Specklebellies seem to have moved back into parts of the Central Zone in good numbers recently and goose hunters appear to be targeting them successfully. Canada geese are concentrated in a few areas but relatively sparse in others as most migrant Canada geese remain north of the Central Zone.”
Recent unseasonably warm weather in the central part of the country has prompted birds that were driven south earlier this season to migrate back north. In Indiana, good numbers of mallards as well as Canadas and white-fronted geese appeared virtually overnight in the North Zone as the warm weather arrived. Some light geese have pushed into Illinois and Indiana from the south as well.
Hoosier State hunters reported good-to-excellent success during the final week of the North Zone duck season and the adjacent Central Zone, with pockets of mallards and black ducks in some areas providing fast action.
The hot hunting came to a grinding halt in many areas last weekend, however, when south winds prevailed and temperatures broke the 60-degree mark, sending large concentrations of birds packing. Some Michigan hunters were able to capitalize on this good fortune during the late, two-day split season, as migrants pushed northward.
In Indiana’s Southern Zone, hunters are reporting difficult conditions and very few birds. Weekly counts for key properties indicate unusually low bird numbers overall.
“Over the past few weeks, waterfowl counts at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA) have been all over the board,” says Indiana DNR property manager Travis Stoelting. “Early to mid-December yielded solid numbers of dabbling ducks on the property. However, the recent warm front followed by significant rains has caused birds to spread out considerably for the past two weeks. Despite this, hunter success has been good and hunter turnout has been high. Goose traffic continues to be very good on the property and in the surrounding area. Hunters visiting Goose Pond FWA can expect to see steady flights of greater white-fronted geese and snow geese daily, with small groups of Canada geese using the marsh as well.”
The long-range forecast indicates temperatures well above freezing and the potential for more rain in the southern portions of Indiana and Illinois. As more birds work their way up the large river systems of both states, they will find ample food and water in the bottoms. In addition, marshes, ponds, and lakes will remain open.
“Illinois’s South Central Zone hunters may pick up ducks from the south prior to the season closing on January 7,” adds Smith. “Large concentrations of snow geese and specks have staged around some of the large reservoirs. South Zone hunters are about midway through their duck season (which closes January 26). With some decent duck numbers reported in a few locations, there is plenty of time for new arrivals prior to the end of the season.”