Migration Alert: Winter Weather Adds to Optimism for Wisconsin Waterfowlers

Oct. 31, 2019 – Mississippi Flyway – Wisconsin

© Michael Furtman

The migration is gaining momentum across the northern tier of the Mississippi Flyway, so Badger State waterfowlers would be advised to take a close look at their schedules over the next few weeks. Perhaps a sick day or two is in order? 

Just across the border, Minnesota hunters have enjoyed solid duck and goose numbers in recent weeks, while the majority of Wisconsin waterfowlers have been patiently waiting for new birds. Well, the wait just might be over. Peak numbers of waterfowl are now staging across southern Canada as freezing temperatures are rapidly locking up available wetland habitat. Reports indicate that many birds have a head start.

 “Right now, the migration is in full swing on the east and west sides of the state,” reports Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources biologist Taylor Finger. “We have seen snow in nearly every county, and I suspect we have seen the last of our teal. Hunters are still shooting wood ducks in the southern two thirds of the state, but an extended cold snap this week may push those birds out of the state as well.”

“Divers are showing up in good numbers on Green Bay, the Mississippi River and the Winnebago chain of lakes,” Finger continues. “With crops finally coming off in certain parts of the state, we are seeing more and more dabblers and geese hitting combined fields.” 

DU volunteer and guide Dave Heath has been on the water daily, smack dab in the middle of Lake Michigan’s diving duck migration corridor. “Redheads are just showing up in Door County and on Green Bay,” he reports. “They are behind schedule about two and a half weeks. Guys should definitely be seeing new birds.” 

“We have very high water—the second highest in history. Cold weather and north winds are forecasted for next week, and birds are on the move. We shot 10 different species the past few days, from white-winged scoters to teal,” Heath adds. 

In east-central Wisconsin, Mossy Oak Pro-Staffer Robin Strahl has been hunting inland public marshes. “We have decent numbers of gadwalls and mallards in the area, but they have become a bit stale. We also have plenty of geese feeding in recently harvested cornfields,” Strahl says. “Sheboygan Marsh has been good. There are a lot of divers, and last week was awesome. We are seeing a lot of ringnecks and a nice mix of other species.” 

Wisconsin boasts two Great Lakes coastlines and a western border defined by the mighty Mississippi River. The long rivers, lengthy shorelines, plentiful large inland lakes, vast marshes and exemplary conservation efforts support the state’s strong waterfowl hunting heritage. No doubt, the next couple weeks will be prime time for waterfowlers to take advantage of the wealth of hunting opportunities in the Badger State.