Spring in February anyone? That’s exactly what it feels like over a huge part of the country, including the light goose migration corridor extending from Arkansas northward. Temperatures that are 20 to 30 degrees above normal have triggered a significant waterfowl migration, including millions of light geese.
Arkansas has become the light goose mecca, and despite challenging conditions that included spreads shellacked with ice during the opening of the spring Light Goose Conservation Order (LGCO), hunter success has been high. This may be due in part to the high ratio of juvenile snows to adults being reported, which is indicative of good brood survival and recruitment for the mid-continent snow goose population on the tundra last summer.
Billy Rogers of Rogers Goosedown Outfitters has been hunting Arkansas with great success. “The juvie numbers are just insane. We’ve had 50-bird mornings and 90-bird all-day hunts, and only five percent or so are adults. It reminds me a lot of the 2018 season,” he explains.
He and the Goosedown crew have set four spreads around southeast Missouri—two to the east of Crowley’s Ridge and two to the west. Rogers says traffic has been heavier on the west side of the ridge the past few days.
“We just set two more spreads over near Otter Slough to get under that flight line. I have a buddy in Mississippi who is still in the double digits daily, so I’m confident we’ll have plenty more birds pushing through this region,” Rogers adds.
Reports this week indicate snow geese probing as far north as Chicago, northwest Indiana, and Iowa. Hunters along the Illinois River Valley are just ramping up their snow goose game but are already reporting successful outings.
In Missouri, it has been business as usual in the heart of the mid-continent snow goose migration corridor.
“Overall, here in Missouri we have been mild since the New Year. We have had some snows around this area the majority of the winter,” says Tony Vandemore, co-owner of Habitat Flats, located in north-central Missouri.
Vandemore has been hunting the spring conservation order season since it began in the late ’90s. His measured take on this unusually warm February weather is standard operating procedure for the veteran snow goose hunters of the Midwest.
“This time of year, it seems like the ones wanting to push the line don’t go too far north or south, but they will bounce back and forth based on little cold snaps and warmups,” Vandemore explains.
“There has definitely been a little migration taking place, and some early ones have pushed through. We have a decent number here now, but nothing drastic—definitely far from where we will be at peak numbers. It’s still pretty early to be full on spring. I doubt we have seen the last of the winter weather or the geese that have already gone through here,” he adds.
Goose numbers in general have been building in the southern two-thirds of Indiana and Illinois and in much of Missouri. As dark geese continue to move northward, light geese should take their place in traditional stronghold areas.
While the LGCO season opened on February 1 in many states, other states wait for late dark goose seasons to close before instituting LGCO regulations.
“Despite a dip in numbers last week, we are back up between 30,000 and 40,000 snow geese using Goose Pond,” says Indiana Department of Natural Resources Property Manager Kalli Dunn. “We also have good numbers of specks and Canadas. Hunting success has been great during goose season this year, and as we approach the final weekend of dark season there should be some good opportunities.”
The bottom line: it’s time to block out of a few days to get underneath one of the most incredible waterfowl migration spectacles in North America.