Migration Alert: Illinois Reports Impressive Duck Numbers, Tough Hunting Conditions 

Dec. 3, 2021 – Illinois

© Michael Furtman

As in many parts of the country, the Midwest has been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures, and Illinois is no exception. Despite the balmy weather, recent reports indicate that the west-central portion of the state is once again holding impressive numbers of ducks.

Based at Forbes Biological Station near Havana, Josh Osborn and station staff conduct weekly aerial surveys along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Earlier this week, an estimated 344,000 ducks were surveyed along the Illinois River, which is 45 percent above the 10-year average. An estimated 540,000 ducks were counted along the Mississippi River, which is closer to average for this period.

Osborn reports that mallard numbers increased this past week on his survey areas but remain significantly below the 10-year average. He also observed a big increase in canvasbacks.

“The King showed up on Pool 19 this week and added to the growing raft of divers near Montrose,” Osborn reports. “I estimated 51,000 canvasbacks in the raft of nearly 80,000 divers in this location.”

While those numbers are truly impressive, Osborn points out they don’t necessarily correspond to good hunting success. “There are a handful of refuges that are holding most of our birds, especially in the Illinois River Valley. Once the ducks get stale, they stay on these areas, and it’s pretty stale around here right now.” 

Goose hunting prospects are generally bright in the Land of Lincoln. “The 2021 goose season started with a bang and has continued to be good all the way through,” says Matt Porter, guide and owner of Porters Outdoors, based in McHenry County northwest of Chicago. “Farmers planted early this spring, and as a result most of the fields were harvested early. We are definitely holding big numbers of geese in northeastern Illinois.” 

While Canada goose numbers are paltry at best in the southern half of the state, snow and white-fronted goose numbers are beginning to add up. Typically, peak numbers occur later in the season, so there is still plenty of time for snows and specks to stack up and provide some opportunity for Illinois waterfowlers.