Migration Alert: Winter Weather Should Improve Hunting across Much of Indiana

Dec. 30, 2021 – Indiana

© Michael Furtman

Hoosier State waterfowl hunters are sitting pretty as a significant winter storm coupled with frigid temperatures will slam into the Great Lakes region this weekend. Reports from the southern tier of Michigan indicate there are still large numbers of ducks and geese in some areas. Michigan’s two-day late season this weekend coupled with the ensuing storm should push ducks and geese southward into Indiana and Ohio.

Indiana’s recently recharged wetlands, moist-soil areas and pockets of sheet water are providing plentiful waterfowl with abundant food resources and loafing and roosting options. This will change drastically over the weekend when temperatures plunge, freezing water that is not flowing or kept open by wave action on large lakes.

Up to this point in the season, waterfowl hunting throughout much of the state has been productive, given the weather conditions. While unseasonable temperatures have often suppressed waterfowl activity, many Indiana waterfowlers have slogged it out and come home with some birds in the bag.

Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA) on the Illinois border in Northwest Indiana is a known migration hot spot and has provided some excellent hunting opportunities this season, with roughly 2,500 waterfowl harvested.

“We had one heck of a run over here. It’s been a very good season,” says property manager Mike Schoof, with the Indian Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

While some of the other northern Indiana fish and wildlife areas have been posting decent waterfowl harvest numbers, a notable exception has been one of the IDNR’s notoriously productive waterfowl hunting areas, Kankakee FWA. This is somewhat mystifying but is representative of a season that has often included highly variable reports within relatively small geographical areas.

As the end of the season approaches in the North Zone, many of these seemingly duckless areas are starting to stack up with good numbers of waterfowl, including what can only be described as an unprecedented number of pintails in recent weeks. Hunters from up and down the state are raving about the exceptional opportunity to harvest a mature bull sprig.

Canada goose numbers are near peak in some areas, while white-fronted and snow goose numbers continue to build. The Kankakee River watershed has been picking up very respectable numbers of white-fronted geese and some snow geese in recent weeks (including on Kankakee FWA), while down in the southwest corner of the state snow and white-fronted goose hot spots are starting to stack up with birds as well.

“Unseasonably mild weather and a good bit of rainfall over the past few days has resulted in an abundance of water available for waterfowl in southwest Indiana,” explains IDNR wildlife biologist Travis Stoelting. “The lower reaches of the West Fork White and Wabash Rivers are expected to have minor flooding over the weekend. Low areas in fields and sloughs in bottomland timber are holding slack water suitable for dabbling ducks.”

“All that said, duck numbers have been hit and miss. Goose numbers have been climbing in late December, with Canada, white-fronted, and snow geese showing up more consistently,” Stoelting adds.

In a nutshell, savvy waterfowlers should have their game plans set well in advance and prepare for this weekend as the upcoming weather scenario often delivers some of the most productive hunts of the season.