Hunt

Photo © Zach Dosch

Migration Reports

2020 Waterfowl Migration Update

Week 16 January 11-15

Pierre Area

GFP staff flew the Missouri River for the mid-winter waterfowl survey this week and the results were as follows:

  • Lake Oahe: 10209 Canada geese, 25121 ducks
  • Lake Sharpe: 3775 Canada geese, 2000 snow geese, 1863 ducks
  • Lake Francis Case: 7080 Canada geese, 18239 ducks
  • Lower Missouri: 775 Canada geese, 6445 ducks (Pickstown to Yankton). 
  • Lower Missouri:  15066 Canada geese, 4672 ducks (Yankton to Sioux City)

In general waterfowl numbers remain relatively low on the Missouri river due to below average snow cover and above average temperatures.

Week 15 January 4-8

Pierre Area

The Pierre area has continued to see very low numbers up and down the river.  

Downstream from Pierre reports are the same as above Pierre not much for waterfowl and hunting has been very tough.

There have been some hunters out giving it a try with most not harvesting a bird and several reporting that didn’t see anything even close to them.

With the low population the birds that are here they have been very hard to get a pattern on them making it very difficult to hunt. 

The high plains duck season will be ending on January 14 giving hunters a little more time, with the nice weather they have continued to remain on the water during shooting hours so opportunities for them on land has been very limited.  

The Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Registration trailer remains closed for drawings. 

For those interested in comparing weather conditions and migration, the Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Facebook page posted some comparisons in the weather for the 2019-2020 season compared to the 2020-21 season  for the Pierre area along with the Bismarck area.  It  contains some aerial photos of the river system comparing last year to this year so show the lack of ice and snow something that is needed to see the birds move south.  

Week 14 December 14- December 18

Northeast

Not a lot to report from the Northeast as duck season is closed but there are still opportunities for goose hunters.  Some decent flocks of snow geese are still present on a few of the large lakes and feeding in area cornfields.  Canada geese can be found as well on area lakes.  There is also opportunity for Canada geese around the Big Stone Power Plant.

The weather looks to be fairly mild until mid-week so the waterfowl that are present should stay with the minimal hunting pressure and access to food and water.

Southeast

Unseasonable warm and dry weather was observed continues for the last week of the Unit 1 Canada goose season (Season closes Dec. 20).  Some snow geese are still present on and around larger lakes.

Sioux Falls/Lower Missouri River Area

There has been an increase in duck and geese numbers in the low plains south. There is still access at the majority of boat ramps on the SD side.  Navigation is a challenge with low water conditions. 

Pierre Area

Not much to report on for changes in migration into the Pierre area again this week, a few small groups of geese moved into the Pierre area during the early part of the week but for the most part they stay in town and do not fly out of the city limits much.  

Reports coming in from downstream are about the same as last week very few birds and those that are there have continued to wait until close to sundown to leave the water.

The lower end of Lake Oahe has continued to see very few geese or ducks.  Ducks that are around have continued to be scattered out from Sutton Bay down towards Cow Creek with no big concentrations, Canada goose numbers have remained low up and down Lake Oahe.  There were a couple of reports that the northern Sully, southern Potter county areas had a few thousand geese that were on a large slough and going out to a couple of corn fields.  It is unknown if these birds were able to keep the water open when the cooler air moved in earlier this week.  

Another piece of hunting news that came out of the Pierre area is that the GFP staff made the decision to cancel the annual beginners hunt that was scheduled for January 8 and 9 2021.    Due to the lack of migration of waterfowl in the Lower Oahe and Pierre area the Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Registration Trailer remains closed.    

Western South Dakota

Little change from last report.  Some groups of mallards and Canada geese were observed on larger reservoirs and the Cheyenne River.

Week 13 December 7- December 11

Most of the ice cover remained this past week on area lakes making the last few days of duck season a struggle for most hunters.  Temperatures were mild and the ducks did not leave the lake to feed until the last half hour on most days.  There are still decent pockets of mallards on many large water bodies in the Northeast.  Duck season closed on December 8th so now waterfowl hunters will have to switch to geese or be willing to travel to an area of the state still open.

Snow goose numbers remain strong in the area and many lakes have impressive flocks using them.  Great opportunity exists for decoy hunters as well as pass shooters on the windy days.  Canada geese are also abundant on several lakes providing opportunity for both decoy hunters and pass shooters.  On most days, the geese are using corn fields to feed but some have been seen on the fallow ground during the last few warm days.  It appears like the snow geese have been flying farther from the roost to get to feed as the closer corn fields are likely void of grain from earlier feeds.

Weather looks to be more seasonable for the upcoming week with highs in the mid 30’s but little to no snow is in the forecast so the geese should hang tough for at least another week.

Southeast  

Unseasonable warm and dry weather was observed this week.

Most wetlands and lakes remain frozen with some open pockets being kept open by waterfowl. 

Light goose numbers remain high and are concentrated on larger lakes and surrounding fields.  

Duck seasons in the Low Plains North and Middle Zones closed on December 8. 

Canada goose numbers continue to be strong with little hunting pressure observed.  Warm weather has allowed most goose feeding activity to be near or after sunset.  Hopefully some cooler weather will force geese to feed during daylight hours soon.

Sioux Falls/Lower Missouri River area

Sounding like a broken record here but the weather has been detrimental to waterfowl hunting the last two weeks.  Birds are not feeding in the mornings unless have cloud cover, and in the evenings, they have been flying after sunset still.  

Lake County still has some birds still on big water.  For the most part all the water bodies are froze, except large bodies.  Sioux Falls goose numbers are increasing slowly. 

We worked the Springfield marsh last Thursday and seen the fewest ducks we have seen all year.  Hunters are averaging 5 birds per group I would say, for most of the day.  It has been tough hunting out there.  Minimal reports coming in from the lower Missouri as well.  Clay County has some birds on the river, but not large numbers.

Pierre Area

Not much to report on migrations into the Pierre area.

Reports from downstream are the same as last week very few birds and those that are there have continued to wait until close to sundown to leave the water.

The lower end of Lake Oahe has not seen any changes from last week, ducks are scattered out from Sutton Bay down towards Cow Creek with no big concentrations, canada goose numbers remain low up and down Lake Oahe.

The only news coming from the Pierre area that has changed from last week is.  The South Dakota Youth Goose Hunt board had to make the hardest decision they have ever had to make for the hunt.  Due to COVID concerns the board made the decision to cancel the 31st annual hunt that was scheduled for January 15-17 2021.  The board wanted to make sure everyone knows they will be working on plans for the 2022 hunt and are looking forward to being able to get out to hunt with the kids.  

Western South Dakota

Little change from last report.  Some groups of mallards and Canada geese were observed on larger reservoirs and the Cheyenne River.

Week 12 November 30- December 4

Northeast

Well Sunday night saw temperatures dive into the single digits with calm conditions so that froze over most all the water in the Northeast.  With that being said, duck and goose numbers remain about the same as they have been only now are concentrated in open pockets on the lakes.  Some lakes have thawed more than others but still have significant ice cover.  Above normal temperatures are forecasted for the upcoming week so more melting will take place and the birds should hold on.  

It appears like we may have lost some ducks over the past week with the cold temperatures we had a couple nights.  Decent mallard numbers remain on the larger lakes and hunting now will be finding the right field they decide to feed in.   Many days the ducks have not been coming off the water until the last half hour of shooting light.  Some other ducks also remain like goldeneyes, buffleheads, scaup, shovelers and green-winged teal but are sitting in the open pockets on the lakes so will tough to get at right now.

Snow goose numbers remain strong although some have migrated south.  Large concentrations remain on most larger bodies of water and feeding in area cornfields.  Canada geese are also present in good numbers so great opportunity exists for goose hunters.

It remains to be seen if the lakes will open back up with a good wind or if enough ice is present to start the base for the winter.  Regardless, most hunting will be taking place in the fields now.

Southeast   

Stable, moderate, dry weather was again observed this week.

Most wetlands and lakes froze over late last weekend and continue to be locked up. Light goose numbers remain high and are concentrated on larger lakes and surrounding fields.  A near constant migration of light geese was observed over the weekend.

Mallard numbers seem similar to last week with birds mainly field feeding in late afternoon. 

Canada goose numbers are strong with little hunting pressure observed.  

Reminder that the low plains north and middle zones last day is December 8.

Sioux Falls/Lower Missouri River area

For the most part all of the small bodies of water are frozen up as of today.  There are a few larger bodies/lakes that have birds keeping them open but few and far between in the SE.  The rivers are the best option for hunters to find birds currently.  The numbers of birds are still lower than average down here.  Sioux Falls has a fair amount of geese and ducks but not near peak numbers yet.  

Big Sioux water levels are extremely low and starting to see ice chunks/freeze up on portions of it already.

Pierre Area

With the continued warmer than normal temperatures the migration of waterfowl down Lake Oahe is minimal.

The Pierre area has continued to see a trickle of birds moving into town.  

A couple hundred of these birds have been flying out west of town to feed with most not leaving the city limits.

There are a few thousand geese sitting in northern Sully County on a lake bed but have not been flying far to feed.

Over the weekend there were some big flocks of ducks from Sutton Bay south towards Little Bend area but have been flying before or after shooting hours.

There have been several hundred geese downstream of Pierre towards the DeGrey area, however there are no reports from any hunters. 

As the small lakes continue to freeze the birds using them should start to move onto Lakes Oahe and Sharpe improving the hunting opportunities.

Western South Dakota

No change from last report.

Week 11 November 23- November 27

Northeast

Things this week are similar to last week again with moderate weather and not a lot to push any birds in or out.  Temperatures are running around average or slightly above for the week and look to be about the same for next week so the birds that are around should stay in the area.  Some icing is occurring on the smaller to mid-size waters but usually melting during the day and the big water has remained ice free.

Duck numbers have not changed a lot with the majority of the ducks being mallards.  I would not say we have any abundance of mallards around but there are some pockets here and there.  Other puddle duck numbers remain low with some pintail, shovelers and green-winged teal.  Diving duck numbers are also on the lower end but the big water is holding some.

Snow geese remain in large concentrations and ample opportunity remains for both decoy and pass shooting.  Canada goose numbers are also high and good opportunity exists to pursue them as well.  Few whitefronts are left in the Northeast.

Swans remain low in the area as most have migrated out.  

Southeast   

Stable, moderate, dry weather was the norm for this week.

 Some light icing on small wetlands was observed but all larger wetlands and lakes are completely open. Light goose numbers remain high and are concentrated on larger lakes and surrounding fields.

Mallard numbers seem steady, not great but huntable numbers in most areas. 

 Divers can still be found in pockets using larger lakes and wetlands.  Rafts of shovelers continue to use larger bodies of water but will likely be continuing south soon.  Take a few moments to watch them cooperatively feed in a pinwheel fashion. Groups of shovelers will create a vortex by all turning in the same direction, concentrating food for the group.

Few swans have been observed in the region and most have likely migrated east towards wintering grounds.

Sioux Falls/Lower Missouri River area

No Report

Pierre Area

No report

Western South Dakota

Made a loop up by Shadehill to Camp Crook and back to Sturgis.

A few thousand mallards and about 1000 Canadas at Shadehill Dam in Perkins County.  Less than 40 ducks the entire rest of the trip.

Most all of the stock dams are mostly frozen

Week 10 November 16- November 20

Northeast 

In the Northeast, not a lot has really changed over the past week with the stable weather pattern.  We did see a cold night or two where most waters froze except for the big stuff but nothing to really push anything out.  The forecast looks to be favorable the next week so I don’t expect to see any major push in or out of the area.  The whole Northeast area is snow free and most waters are ice free with most of the fields available as well.

Duck numbers are fair to good depending of which part of the Northeast you are at.  Decent pockets of mallards are around and field hunting as well as water hunting has been producing.  Sounds like the northern counties are a little light and waiting on a push from ND.  Other dabbling ducks are scarce in the area but some pintail, green-winged teal, wigeon and shovelers can be found.  Diving duck numbers are low to fair depending on the water body.  Most divers can be found on the big water as the freeze/thaw of the small to medium waters has moved them to the large lakes.

Snow goose numbers remain very strong with impressive numbers throughout the area.  Great opportunity for decoy hunting exists as well as pass shooting on windy days.  Canada goose numbers are also in abundance with little hunting pressure on the dark geese.  Some small Canadas are in the area too but few whitefronts remain.

Very few swans have been observed lately but that doesn’t mean you cannot find a pocket of them here and there.  The northern tier of counties likely are holding the most swans right now.

Most of the crop harvest has been completed with a few cornfields to go.

Southeast   

Warming weather, windy, and dry conditions were seen across the region this week.

 All water bodies are ice free or nearly so after mild weather this week. Light goose number are likely at or near peak and are concentrated on larger lakes and surrounding fields.

Mallard numbers are steady, but birds are generally bunched up on larger water bodies.  Warm conditions make field feeding inconsistent.

Small pockets of divers are still using larger lakes and wetlands and will provide big water hunters some opportunity.  Rafts of shovelers continue to use larger bodies of water but will likely be continuing south soon.

Few swans have been observed in the region and most have likely migrated east towards wintering grounds.

Sioux Falls/Lower Missouri River area

Warm weather has slowed the migration still in the far Southeast.  Birds have been fairly stale and feeding inconsistently with the warm weather.  

Good number of snow geese in the area but the mallard and Canada goose migration is still slow to arrive.  A few mallards have just started showing up in the last day or two. 

 Lots of scouting is required to find the pockets of ducks, but there is some around.  Hunting has been slow on the Missouri river as well. 

 Sioux Falls city area has some Canada geese, but not nearly the late season numbers yet.

Pierre Area

Spent a few hours this week on the east and west side of Lake Oahe checking out areas for waterfowl.

There are a few thousand ducks sitting on Oahe from Sutton Bay down towards Mail Shack Creek.  The ducks in the area are waiting until after shooting ours to leave the water to feed and returning to the water before shooting time in the mornings. 

 I have not heard any reports from any duck hunters on water or land on success.  The Canada goose migration in the area has seen some geese trickling in, the birds that have stopped are mainly coming into town to sit on Capitol Lake or below the dam.  

A few of the geese sitting on the river have been flying  west of Ft. Pierre to feed.  Reports from a couple of hunters on the waterfowl access lands west of Ft. Pierre are that some of these birds have landed in the field, however getting any type of pattern on them has been difficult.

No reports this week from down stream of Pierre so assume it remains the same as last week with very few geese there too.   

Western South Dakota

No report

Week 9 November 9- November 13

Northeast

The weather this past week has been a mix of warm days and those closer to normal with some icing of the small waters.  Overall, nothing to move out many ducks and we did seem to gain some mallards in the area.  The extended forecast looks to be favorable for keeping the birds around and no major snowstorms predicted so hunting should be good for the next week.

Mallards in the area are building and should continue to do so as they trickle down from the north.   The heavy snowfall that fell on the Canadian prairies seemed to have pushed some birds into the Northeast part of SD.  Diving duck numbers are fair and those wishing to pursue divers should concentrate on the bigger lakes.  Other dabbling duck numbers like gadwall, wigeon and shovelers remain low with some decent pockets of green winged teal around.  

Snow goose numbers remain very strong in the Northeast and abundant opportunities exist for both decoy hunting as well as pass shooting on the windy days.  Canada goose numbers are also strong in the area.  Most white-fronted geese have moved south but some remain.

Swan numbers remain on the lower side, but some pockets of birds can be found in the northern counties.  I’m still hearing about swans in North Dakota so hunters can still fill that tag as the birds migrate through.

Most of the crop harvest is complete with the remaining fields being taken out as they can get to them.  

Southeast

Cooler temperatures and a mid-week snowstorm dominated the weather for SE South Dakota this week. 

 Most large bodies of water remain open with some icing on smaller wetlands. 3-6 inches of snow feel from Yankton north to highway 14 and east to the Minnesota border creating sloppy field conditions.  Light goose number are continue to be high and are concentrated on larger lakes and surrounding fields.

Mallard number have been steady to increasing and should continue to build as rough weather in southern Canada pushes birds out.  

 Field feeding mallards, Canada geese, and light geese are using cropped fields with cooler temperatures increasing field usage.

 Good numbers of divers are still using larger lakes and wetlands and will provide big water hunters some good opportunity.  I have also observed decent pocket of shovelers on some larger lakes.

Harvest is for all intents and purposes complete in the region. 

Sioux Falls area

No report

Lower Missouri River

Bird numbers in the low plains south seem to be holding steady.  

Hunters are waiting for another push of waterfowl to make their way south to the Missouri River. 

 Water levels on Lewis and Clark Lake remain constant and navigation is ok.  

Pierre area

The Pierre area gained a few geese since last week’s report.

Tuesday morning there were several flocks of geese migrating through the area with a few birds stopping on Oahe and the Pierre area.

Most of the birds below the dam that moved into Pierre have continued to stay in town with only a few leaving the area to feed.  

Reports from downstream towards DeGrey are of a few birds in the area, with no new reports from the area this week.

No reports on the migration of ducks into the area.

Harvest has continued throughout the area.  

The Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Trailer remains closed at this time.

Western South Dakota

No report

Week 8 November 2-6

Northeast

I would not say a lot has changed from the previous week for new birds in the area as the weather was unseasonably warm with record temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s.  I’m sure some new birds have trickled in but nothing very noticeable.  

Ducks remain scattered around the region and some concentrations can be found if you put on the miles.  There are some ducks that went back to the smaller and mid-size waters as the warm weather opened everything up again.  Mallard numbers are still a little on the lower side but there are decent pockets throughout the Northeast.  Field feeding was curtailed with the warm and calm weather we experienced but expected to pick up again with the winds and cooler weather in the forecast.  Diving duck numbers are pretty good on the bigger waters and most species are still around.

Snow goose numbers are strong and there are some large concentrations using area cornfields.  Again, with the warm temperatures, not a lot of feeding activity was observed the last few days with more flocks seen using black fields to loaf.  Still very strong Canada goose numbers and huntable numbers of white fronted geese can be found yet.

Swan numbers remain low around the area but more can be found in the northern portion of the state.  

Overall, a trickle migration in the area with the warm weather but things will change again with the cooler weather and winds in the forecast.  Crop harvest is in full swing again on the remaining fields.

Southeast

The temperature roller coaster continues across South Dakota with record and near record high temperatures were observed over the week. 

 While all lakes and wetlands have re-opened many wetlands, dependent ducks appear to have either left or bunched up on larger waters.  I am hopeful that the strong cold front expected to arrive Sunday and Monday will bring down some new birds. 

 Field feeding mallards, Canada geese, and light geese are using cropped fields, but warm temperatures make patterning birds challenging.  Good numbers of divers are still using larger lakes and wetlands and will provide big water hunters some good opportunity.  

Sioux Falls area

The warm weather has mostly halted the migration in this area.  Most of the smaller puddle and dabbling ducks (gadwall, teal, shoveler) were pushed out of the area with the last cold snap.  Most all of the water that was frozen has opened back up again with the warm temperatures.  The mallards and Canada geese using fields to feed have been difficult to pattern and are flying outside of shooting times with the temps and full moon.  This has made hunting difficult for hunters this week.  

Numbers are significantly down from during the cold snap.  Some pockets of snow geese still around but the mallards and Canada geese numbers are low.  With the cold front coming again early next week, things should get back on track and we should hopefully see a push of new birds.

Lower Missouri River

Waterfowl numbers have remained steady in the Low Plains South.  Warm weather conditions are impacting flight times for feeding waterfowl.  We continue to see more Canada goose movement. Remember Unit 2 is now open for goose hunting in the region.

Pierre Area

There hasn’t been much of a migration into the Pierre area especially on Lake Oahe.  

There are a few hundred Canada geese scattered out on Lake Oahe, ducks on Oahe are scattered out in small bunches up and down the lake.  

Capitol Lake picked up a couple hundred geese this past week, but they have been staying in town and not flying out into the country to feed. 

There have been a couple of reports of decent numbers of ducks and Canada geese downstream from Pierre, reports from the weekend of some successful hunters with a mixed bag of ducks and geese. 

Areas that had frozen over a couple of weeks ago are now open again waiting on the next migration of birds.   

The Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Decoy-Only registration trailer has not opened for drawings at this time.  As soon as there are some birds that move into the area it will be opening for daily drawings that will be taking place one hour before sunrise.   Hunters interested in this area can watch the Lower Oahe Facebook page or the Pierre area migration report for updates on when it will be opening along with some new drawing guidelines they will be following.  

Western South Dakota

Made a big loop up from Sturgis to Shadehill over to Camp Crook and down to Belle Fourche yesterday.  Everything is opened back up.  However, I only saw a small handful of ducks on the entire trip.  Appears that most ducks left when the cold snap froze everything.  Geese were spotty over the survey area. Goose numbers are building in Rapid City

Week 7 October 26- October 30

Northeast

Well as the Arctic front has moved out of the state, conditions have definitely changed and not all for the bad.  Warm temperatures are here now and the snow is melting.  Most all the snow cover should be gone by this weekend.  Small to large wetlands remain ice covered but with wind and the warm temperatures in the forecast, some of these will open back up.  The large lakes remained open throughout the cold snap.

As for the duck migration, most of the gadwall, green-winged teal and shovelers that were using the wetlands have migrated out while some have moved to the bigger water that remained open.  Decent to good numbers of divers are using the big water.  Scaup, redheads, canvasbacks and buffleheads have been seen in good numbers.  Mallard numbers have increased in the area as well and are staging up on the big waters while feeding in area corn fields.

Snow goose numbers have also increased in the Northeast with solid numbers across the region.   Many snow goose feeds have been observed in the last few days so great opportunity exists for anyone wanting to set the white spread.  Canada geese remain strong in the area.  Fewer numbers of white-fronted geese remain but there are still opportunities for harvest.

Swan numbers typically peak in the Northeast about this time of year but with the recent cold snap, numbers are low right now.  A few flocks have been observed but not like a normal year.  We will have to wait to see if more are coming down or if they blew through with the weather.  Many of the wetlands containing their preferred food are currently ice covered.

The combines were starting to roll again this week so the harvest is starting again and should continue as the forecast calls for sun and temperatures in the 50-mid 60’s by next week.

Overall, we lost a lot of waterfowl with the cold weather and icy conditions but there are still some good pockets of ducks and geese to pursue. 

Southeast

A gradual warming trend this week has reduced snow cover and should begin to re-open wetlands that froze over the last week.  Hunters should concentrate on larger bodies of water and nearby fields for scouting.  Many wetland dependent, non-field feeding ducks like divers, gadwall, and shovelers have either grouped up on large water or migrated further south.  

We should still have good numbers of mallards in the area and reports from North Dakota and southern Canada indicate additional birds will still be migrating south.  The key will be if November temperatures moderate, we should still hold large numbers of ducks later into the season.  Goose abundance remains good, with most birds holding on large, ice free lakes.  Swan migration was likely accelerated by the recent cold snap as they are dependent on ice free wetland for feeding.  

Hunters may still find some swans on larger lakes or ice-free wetlands as they open back up.  Remember the Canada goose Unit 2 opens this Monday, November 2 for the area around Sioux Falls and along the Missouri River.  Good luck and think warm thoughts for November, next week look for highs in the 50’s and 60’s.

Lower Missouri River

Duck numbers in the Low Plains South have increased greatly.  Success on the Missouri River both above and below Gavins Point Dam has been good.  

Hunters can expect to see a variety of species.  The ponds and potholes in other counties in the southeast corner of the state are froze shut as this is being written, but they are expected to open back up with the warmer temperatures predicted.

  Goose hunters are reminded that Unit 2 does not open until November 2 and to know where the unit boundaries are located.

Pierre Area

No report

Western South Dakota

No report

Week 6 October 19- October 23

Northeast

Things have definitely changed across the landscape within the last week.  Cold temperatures and snow have blanketed the Northeast.  The Watertown area received around 5” of snow and more in the forecast.  The real factor will be the single digit lows coming up this weekend and into early next week.  I think most marginal waters will lock up tight for awhile and will take some extended warm up to thaw them out again.  It may not happen.

As for the migration, both ducks and geese are moving through the area in decent numbers right now. Diving duck numbers are also building on the bigger water and decent concentrations of most species are showing up.  

With the recent snow, harvest has all but stopped in the area and with more precipitation in the forecast, it will likely be a week or more before most guys can get back in the fields.  With that being said, a good percentage of the harvest has already been completed.

 Snow geese and whitefronted geese are starting to stage up on some waters and feeding in area corn fields.  The snow geese are really just started to come into the area within the last week.  Canada goose numbers remain strong.  Many wetlands have been holding good numbers of gadwall, shovelers and green-winged teal but I fear this will not last long with the upcoming cold to hit.  Mallard numbers have started to build in some areas with new birds arriving daily.  I would predict the main duck/goose concentrations will be on the big water by early next week.  All depending on the forecast as to if and when they may disperse out again.  Points south of here should start to see significant movements of ducks within the next week as the wetlands freeze in the Northeast.

Some swans have been coming through as well so hunters with a swan tag should get out soon as things freeze up.  Of course scouting is still the key to finding the birds so get out and enjoy the migration.  Let’s hope this is a short lived cold snap!

Southeast 

A series of strong cold fronts and snowfall events are causing large shifts in waterfowl distribution and migration.  Record and near record lows are in the forecast and a strong winter like storm is expected to impact much of SD this weekend.  Many small wetlands and shallow lakes are beginning to freeze and with single digit lows on in the forecast for early next week will likely be frozen. Those wanting to pursue puddle ducks on small wetlands should try and get out over the next few days as many of these ducks will be forced to stage on large water or continue migrating.  Large numbers of waterfowl of all species are in the process of migrating through eastern South Dakota.  

Canada goose abundance remains high with lots of available fields to set up in. Good number of white fronts have been seen migrating over eastern SD.  Snow goose abundance continues to increase and will only continue to grow as water freezes farther north.

Harvest has been halted by recent snows but had been progressing rapidly.

Tundra swans will try and stay ahead of the freeze line due to their preferred food source of submerged aquatic plants.  Hunters who have swan tags should get out and try and fill their tag before lockup.

Lower Missouri River

The low plains south zone will open this weekend.  Hunters should expect to find good numbers of ducks and whitefronts.  The water levels on the Missouri River in Bon Homme Co. have been consistent and navigation has been good.

Please note that water levels vary greatly and can change in a short time.  There are still decent numbers of ducks and geese in the units north of the low plains south.

Temperatures in the SE part of the state do not appear to be is cold as the rest of the state and these potholes are anticipated to remain open.  

Pierre Area

I have heard reports of pintails, mallards, whitefronts along with some Canada geese moving through during the evening hours.

There are no confirmed reports of any significant numbers staying in the Pierre area.  

A couple of hunters have been out hunting an area and reported seeing more mallards the last few days.

Yesterday they had a mixed bag of teal and mallards and did report seeing a small flock of cranes in a field adjacent to where they were hunting.

With the predicted cold moving in this weekend a lot of our smaller shallow water will freeze up, will see where the birds that are on these areas go to.

Western South Dakota

No report

Week 5 October 12- October 16

Northeast

Wetland conditions have remained about the same since last week. No rain has fallen in the area, so drawdown continues.  There has been some movement of both ducks and geese into the area. Several flocks of snow geese have been observed along with a good flight of white fronts.  A few flocks of small Canada geese are also showing up.  Some good concentrations of gadwall and widgeon are in the area with bigger water starting to hold good numbers of divers.  Canvasback and scaup are becoming abundant on some waters.  Looks like some movement of mallards this week cold temperatures in Canada should move some ducks down and I have heard reports in northern SD of a decent push of birds. 

Local goose numbers remain strong with birds hitting recently combined corn.  Harvest has been going full throttle with the dry conditions so new opportunities are presented daily.

A few swans are in the northeast, hunters with tags should expect the main migration in about 2 weeks.

Southeast   

Good numbers of gadwall and wigeon are being seen on many shallow wetlands.  The colder weather at the end of this week should move some birds around and hopefully bring in some new ducks and increase mallard abundance.

Diving diving duck abundance continues to increase on larger wetlands and lakes.  Scaup, bufflehead, ring neck, redhead, and canvasback have been seen in growing numbers.

No measurable rain fell across most of the region this week.  Without some fall rains wetlands conditions will continue to dry. 

Canada goose abundance remains high with lots of available fields to set up in. Good number of white fronts have been seen migrating over eastern SD.

Harvest is in full swing with bean harvest nearly complete and corn harvest well ahead of average. Scouting fields will be key as new fields are opening daily. 

There are reports of swans starting to show up in ND and extreme northern SD.

Lower Missouri River

Waterfowl numbers in the SE corner of the state continue to hold steady.  We have had very little moisture since the opener and wetlands are continuing to decrease in size and may actually dry up completely.  Scouting is a must and those hunters willing to put some miles on should be rewarded.  Still one week away from the Low Plains South unit opening.

Pierre Area

Not much to report about in the Pierre area. Heard some flocks of cranes the last couple of days but with the high winds I assume they have continued south. Expect the cold front moving in to make some changes in the area will see what happens. 

Western South Dakota

No change from last report

Week Four October 5- October 9

Northeast 

Not a lot of change has occurred in the last week in the Northeast part of the state.  I have observed more gadwall and wigeon showing up on area wetlands along with some divers on the bigger water.  Diving duck hunters should start to see some action as flocks of canvasbacks, redhead, scaup and ringnecks appear to be congregation on the lakes.  Smaller number of buffleheads are showing up as well.  Mallard numbers remain low in the area and I don’t see any large influx for a while yet.  Northern shovelers and green-winged teal have been observed more lately too so hunters will continue to harvest of mixed bag when going out.  Most of the blue-winged teal have left but there are still huntable numbers around yet if you can find them.  Once again, scouting is key to finding the right wetland.

Canada goose numbers remain strong and there are good opportunities for hunting them.  The crop harvest is going strong and opening up more fields daily, so the geese have been bouncing around depending on their appetite for the day.

Some swans are just starting to show up in the northern reaches of the state as well.

Southeast 

Early migrants like American wigeon, green winged teal, northern shoveler, and gadwall continue to slowly build.  This is typically a slower time for duck abundance in eastern SD and it will take a little weather up north to start brining fresh birds down.  

Some diving ducks have started moving into the state with ringnecks, redhead, and canvasback observed.  Duck numbers still appear to be higher west of Highway 81 throughout the SE.  

Wetland conditions continue to draw down with exposed mudflats becoming the norm in the region.  Without some fall rains wetlands conditions will continue to dry. 

Canada goose abundance remains high with lots of available fields to set up in. 

Harvest is in full swing with corn harvest well ahead of average.

There are reports of swans starting to show up in ND and extreme northern SD.

Lower Missouri River

No Report

Pierre Area

Not a lot to report from the Pierre area.

Most of the places I checked this week have plenty of ducks on them. 

The biggest change is it appears that there are less teal around than the past couple of weeks.

Harvest is in full swing and a few of the hunters are getting out into the freshly harvested fields and having a little success on ducks and geese in eastern Potter and Sully County. 

Reminder the high plains duck season opens this weekend October 10.

Western South Dakota

No change from last report

Week three September 28-October 2

Northeast

Not a lot has changed in the Northeast part of the state over the last week.  The western reaches of the area are seeing a lot more ducks on the wetlands compared to the eastern side.  Most of these ducks are comprised of gadwall and wigeon with some teal, pintail and mallards in the mix.  Scouting is key to finding the wetlands holding birds and especially in the eastern side of the state where many wetlands remain void of ‘fowl.  Some concentrations of gadwall and wigeon are starting to show up in the area along with some divers making a presence.  Blue-winged teal are being replaced by green-wings and shovelers.

Wetland conditions remain constant from the previous weeks with water levels ranging from full to low with a lot of mud flats exposed.  Little to no rain has fallen in the last few weeks adding to the drawdown of the wetlands.  Harvest is in full swing with many bean fields done and some corn being combined along with some more sileage, so opportunities continue to open for field hunting.

Canada goose numbers remain strong and good opportunity exists to harvest geese.  Geese have been observed in wheat, bean and corn fields across the region along with some fallow fields.  A few reports of whitefronts flying over as well so some migration is taking place.

Overall, opportunity exists for good hunting if you can find the right situation, but the eastern part of the area is lacking in ducks right now.  It would be a great time to concentrate on the geese as they are abundant, and you could pick up a few ducks as well.

Southeast

Little change in duck numbers has been observed since last week except that most blue winged teal have migrated out of the area. Some early migrants like American wigeon, green winged teal, northern shoveler, and gadwall have been observed.  Duck numbers appear to be higher west of Highway 81 throughout the SE.  

Wetland conditions continue to draw down with exposed mudflats becoming the norm in the region.  Without some fall rains wetlands conditions will continue to dry.

Bean harvest is still occurring, and some corn harvest has begun opening additional fields for birds to feed in.

Tundra swan season begins on Saturday but no swans have yet been observed in the region.

Lower Missouri River

Opening day success was fairly high in the SE corner of the state.  Some of the dry conditions have congregated the birds to the larger bodies of water.  Going into the second weekend hunters should expect to see a few less ducks on their favorite ponds.  Canada Goose concentrations continue to be high and a little scouting can go a long way to having a successful hunt.

Pierre Area

Reports east of HWY 83 indicate that plenty of ducks are around yet and were some groups were able to harvest limits.  Canada on the other hand are getting stale and becoming difficult to pattern.   

Reports from the Jones County area are that the number of geese are still good but as more fields get harvested it is also giving the birds more options on places to go.   Next week October 10 high plains duck will open which will give the hunters a little more hunting opportunities closer to Pierre.

On another note I did see my first flock of sandhill cranes on the ground this fall this morning in western Sully county, only a couple hundred but won’t be surprised to see more around before the weekend is over.   

Western South Dakota

No change from last report

Week two September 21-25

Northeast
Habitat conditions have not changed much over the last couple weeks with many wetlands drawing down which is exposing some mud flats.  Depending on where you are hunting, some wetlands look to be full while others are dry to drying up so scouting again will be key to finding a suitable spot.  
As far as ducks go, a large percentage of blue-winged teal have left the state.  Reports in Texas indicate large numbers of teal so many have moved on.  There are decent to good numbers of ducks on area wetlands in the Northeast part of the state, but scouting is necessary to locate the ducks.  Not all wetlands seem to have ducks like a couple of weeks ago.  Hunters should expect a good opening weekend with a mixed bag to be the norm.  Some field feeding is happening in sileage and some wheat yet with mostly mallards, pintail and wood ducks hitting the fields.
There are still strong numbers of local Canada geese to be had.  Hunting pressure has lessened some and geese are using a variety of fields to feed in.  Sileage, wheat and fallow fields are seeing goose traffic right now.  Some bean harvest is occurring, and the geese are also starting to find these spots as well.
Good luck out there and be respectful of each other and the land you’re hunting on.  Please pack out what you bring in, so you leave the area clean
Southeast
The cold snap in early September pushed out many of the blue winged teal, however some blue wings will still be available for the opener.  Remember that hunters can harvest an additional 2 blue winged teal for the first 16 days of the regular (bonus blue winged teal). 
Wetland conditions continue to draw down with exposed mudflats becoming the norm in the region.  This will concentrate ducks, but hunters should make sure to check out their hunting spots to make sure vegetation isn’t too far away from the water.   
Ducks have begun to move around the landscape and some field feeding in silage fields has been observed.  A variety of locally produced ducks should be available in shallow marshes across the southeast part of the state.
As always scouting will be key but with observed duck production I would expect a decent opening weekend.  A strong cold front early next week may cause some movement and provide additional birds for the second weekend.
Canada goose numbers remain strong with most birds feeding in silage fields.  Soybean harvest is in full swing in the southeast.
Lower Missouri River
No report
Pierre Area
According to reports areas east of HWY 83 in Sully and Potter counties have plenty of duck hunting opportunities for anyone wanting go out hunting waterfowl in that area which opens this weekend for ducks. 
No reports of any white fronts moving into central South Dakota. 
 Reports from the unit 1 area indicate that hunters are doing well hunting Canada geese. 
All in all, plenty of public and private ponds small lakes and sloughs in the area holding good numbers of waterfowl. 
Western South Dakota
No change from last report

Week one September 7-11

Welcome to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, 2021 waterfowl migration and habitat condition update.  Each week field staff strategically positioned across the state will provide and update on regional migration, habitat, and hunting conditions.  

Northeast 

Hunters in the Northeast part of the state should expect to see abundant waterfowl of most all species using the wetlands.  Blue-wing teal numbers remain strong but some migration has occurred as numbers are being reported in Kansas along with other southern states.  Regardless of this, hunters should see good numbers for the youth season.  Other species such as mallards, shovelers, gadwall, and pintail are also around in good numbers.  Canada geese are very abundant as there was great reproduction this spring and the population is high.  
Wetland conditions are generally good with some drawdown taking place the latter part of the summer.  Depending on where you are, some wetlands have the water meeting the shoreline cover while others have a mudflat in between.   As always, scouting is key to both finding waterfowl and checking out your favorite hunting spot.  Some ducks have been observed starting to field feed in both wheat fields as well as sileage so this can be another opportunity which can also be tied in with some goose action.
The main migration right now would be the blue-winged teal as they generally start to head south in late August and continue through September.  Some movement of pintails has also been observed but this generally is not a major migration yet.  Regardless, what a great opportunity for the youth to take advantage of with the amount of ducks on the landscape right now.  Good Luck!

Southeast   

Excellent wetland conditions in spring and early summer resulted in great breeding conditions and high numbers of locally produced ducks.  Currently blue winged teal have begun to migrate and are staging in large numbers across eastern South Dakota.  Blue winged teal should still be available in large numbers for the youth duck opener on September 12 providing a great opportunity to give young hunters ample action.  A dry late summer and early fall have led to falling wetland conditions, but this should concentrate birds leading to good hunting conditions in sloughs.  Canada goose reproduction and numbers are high, providing good opportunities for early fall goose hunting.  

Lower Missouri River

Waterfowl numbers are looking good in the SE corner of the state although there are some concerns of low water levels due to very dry conditions over the month of August.  A little scouting is encouraged to make sure your favorite pond has water yet.  Blue wing teal, gadwall, mallards and wood ducks have been seen in abundance.  Canada goose numbers in southern tier counties are fantastic. 

Pierre Area

Central South Dakota has good numbers of ducks on the larger ponds going out to feed in the harvested wheat fields.  Smaller bodies of water have really decreased the past couple of weeks due to dry conditions.  Anyone wanting to get young hunters out this weekend should be able to find plenty of places to go and be successful. 
Increased numbers of resident Canada geese in the Stanley, Sully and Hughes County area have been noted the past few weeks. These geese are roosting on some of the larger ponds and feeding in the harvested and freshly planted wheat fields. 

Western South Dakota

Local production of geese was good with scattered concentrations of Canada geese providing good early season opportunity.  We produced quite a few ducks in Western South Dakota this year as there was pretty good remnant nesting cover from last year and plenty of water.  Conditions are definitely drying out now, but birds are still around. Stock ponds and small impoundments should provide good opportunities for this year’s youth season September 12-13.