The early-season winter storm that blasted the northern plains prompted impressive numbers of waterfowl to jump the express to Minnesota, where waterfowl hunters were anxiously awaiting their arrival. The northern half of the state has been hosting impressive numbers of Canada geese for weeks, and much to the delight of waterfowlers, plenty of migrating ducks and geese have arrived as well.
“The goose migration is in full swing, and the recent weather pushed a bunch of new ducks into the area,” says Paul Johnson, owner of River Bend’s Resort and Walleye Inn on Lake of the Woods. “Fields in the area are holding plenty of birds. If you can secure permission on the private ground, the hunting has been outstanding. Lots of buffleheads and decent numbers of other species, including mallards, are congregating along the south shoreline of Lake of the Woods. Most of the big ducks are feeding in flooded fields and loafing along accessible sections of marshy lakeshore.”
Steve Cordts, waterfowl staff specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, has also been hearing positive reports. “The hunting seems to have been slightly better in the central and south zones than the north zone over the weekend,” Cordts says. “There’s a lot of water statewide, which has been logistically challenging for hunters. In general, hunting private land and flooded fields has been more productive this season than the traditional lake and marsh hot spots. Access is difficult, so scouting is very important.”
In west-central Minnesota, many hunters observed a noticeable influx of waterfowl over the weekend. “The blizzard certainly brought a lot more ducks into our region,” reports Mossy Oak pro-staffer Kim Olson. “We are seeing good numbers of ringnecks, redheads, canvasbacks, gadwalls, and wigeon. Canada goose and mallard numbers are also building up, and we still have a few wood ducks and blue-winged teal around.”
Farther south and in the interior of the state, reports are also encouraging. “The strong north winds really kicked the migration into gear. Large numbers of gadwalls have moved in, along with mallards and even a few pintails,” says Prairie Sportsman TV host and DU volunteer Bret Amundson. “Various species of divers have also arrived in good numbers.”
Migrating waterfowl appear to have pushed into southwestern Minnesota as well. “Here in the Rochester area, we have seen a decent migration,” explains Mossy Oak pro-staffer Adam Noble. “Canada geese and mallards arrived with the full moon, and hunting has been fair to good. We harvested a couple of birds with leg bands this past weekend.”
Johnson sums up the situation well for Minnesota sportsmen and women. “This is the time to take advantage of the bounty of birds we have, including excellent waterfowl and upland bird hunting on public land. It won’t be long before we’re drilling holes in the ice.”