Migration Alert: Incoming Weather Has Michigan Hunters Optimstic

Nov. 8, 2022 – Mississippi Flyway – Michigan

© Michael Furtman

Michigan waterfowlers are reporting fair success after a recent stretch of summerlike weather kept bird movements to a minimum.

Waterfowlers in the eastern half of the state have been chalking up plenty of successful hunts, including field hunting for Canada geese and mallards as well as marsh hunting for a variety of puddle ducks.

Diving duck hunting has been outstanding on the open water of the Great Lakes, Saginaw Bay, Lake St. Clair, and Michigan’s large inland lakes, though warm weather coupled with no wind has plagued a few hunts.  

“It’s rough when it’s warm and there’s no wind, but besides that it’s been good,” says Captain Jeremy Ullmann of Mi Guide Service based in southeast Michigan. “I’ve been switching things up a bit and targeted longtails the other day but ended up seeing way more bluebills and buffleheads. The next day, I moved to another area, and we really got into the redheads and cans. We have some fresh birds in the area with the full moon. Divers are usually pushed around by recreational boaters and anglers during summerlike weather and end up in Canada. A friend over there told me they are holding between 400,000 to 500,000 birds just in one area of the lake. So yeah, we have lots of birds on Lake St. Clair.”

In full agreement with Ullmann, Michigan DNR wildlife technician John Darling notes the impact of recreational boaters and fishermen during warm weather spells. “I expect diver numbers will continue to build over the next couple of weeks, but one of the biggest factors for diver hunting success on the US side is how much boating and fishing traffic there is. If the weather remains boater friendly, a lot of ducks will remain relatively safe on the Canadian side then come across at night to feed,” Darling explains.

“We have seen a slow and steady increase in bird numbers on the Harsens Island refuge over the last week. Mallards, gadwalls, and green-winged teal have been increasing, but mallards, pintails, and black duck numbers remain less than expected for this time of year. I expect we’ll see a good push of birds this week with the full moon and cooler temperatures in the forecast,” Darling notes.

In the southwest corner of Michigan, Canada goose hunting opportunities far-outweigh the potential for hunting ducks, as mild weather conditions and relatively low duck numbers have beset the region since the opener.

“Geese are still plentiful in the area with some new birds coming in and local birds still hanging around,” says MDNR wildlife technician Mike Richardson. “Ducks have been slow since the initial push around the season opener, but we’ve seen a decent number of gadwalls and some mallards recently.”

“We still have a lot of local mallards and wood ducks in the area as well as decent numbers of blue- and green-winged teal. This week’s weather with northerly winds and a cold front toward the end of the week should make for our next big push and provide some good hunting for waterfowlers in southwest Michigan,” Richardson adds.

To the north, Upper Peninsula hunters have been plagued by a lack of birds in many areas that traditionally provide great opportunities. This has been the case since the opener in late September, and many veteran waterfowl hunters are perplexed by the general lack of ducks in the UP. The exception has been diver hunting on open water with specialized equipment. Ducky weather last weekend offered some relief. Given the long-range forecast, Michigan waterfowlers should be poised for some excellent outings in the coming weeks.

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