Hunt

Photo © Zach Dosch

Migration Reports

2021 Waterfowl Report

Week of October 11-15

Northeast

The migration has started to slowly materialize in the Northeast.  More ducks have been observed this past week moving into the area.  Gadwall, wigeon and northern shovelers have been increasing in numbers along with some pockets of divers on the larger waters.  Redheads, canvasbacks and buffleheads are showing up.  Some good pockets of mallards and pintails can be found as well on the wetlands along with the agricultural fields.  Some field feeding activity has been observed but overall with the nicer weather we have had, most of the action is over water.

Goose hunting remains steady in the area with strong populations of Canada geese.  Patterning these geese can be a little hit and miss as they have many options for food right now and may not be hitting the same fields every day.  White-fronted geese have been showing up as well and providing some action.  It appears the whitefronts have just started coming in this past week so hopefully more will be showing up shortly.

Temperatures this past week have been closer to seasonal and we have received a couple of good shots of rain.  Last Saturday’s storm dumped anywhere from 1-4”+ throughout the Northeast portion of the state.  Another rain took place mid-week so things are wet right now and the wetlands are filling up again.  Ducks have been observed using these newly flooded spots to take advantage of the food source provided.  Crop harvest has basically stopped this week due to the wet conditions.  Please be mindful of these conditions and be respectful of the land you are hunting on.

East Central

A series of storm fronts over the past week have started getting birds on the move.  Good numbers of gadwall, wigeon, green wing teal, and northern shovelers were seen. I also saw decent pockets of both mallards and northern pintail throughout the region.  Some lesser scaup, redheads, buffleheads, and ringnecks were seen indicating that divers have started to migrate.  

 Northern shovelers get a bad rap but are very closely related to blue winged and cinnamon teal.  Few ducks can match the beauty of a fully decked out drake shoveler.  They are abundant, decoy readily and are good table fare on the northern plains.  Also, try to watch them feeding collectively spinning in circles creating a vortex in the water which is thought to concentrate food.   

Canada goose numbers in this area continue to be strong, with groups of whitefronts and a few snow geese observed.  Corn harvest is at a bit of a standstill with recent rains across the area, harvested fields look pretty wet.  No tundra swans were seen but should be filtering down soon.

Wetlands appear to be up some from last week with some ducks utilizing new water.

Weather conditions over the next 10 days indicate relatively stable, warm weather with no danger of icing over wetlands.

Southeast

We have seen some whitefronts down here as well. Not much for new ducks that I have seen though yet. 

I think a good chunk of the local Canada geese here moved south because we are pretty stale. 

Lower River

Groups of Sandhill cranes and white fronts have been observed.  Its calendar duck season with wigeon, gadwall, and shovelers building in numbers.

Pierre Area

For the most part things have remained similar to last week. We saw flocks of white fronts and cranes migrating for a few days but haven’t heard of anything on the ground here. No solid report from Hyde and Hand Counties but know they were seeing migrating birds early this week too. 

Heard of some smaller flocks of snows and white fronts between Selby and Ipswich area on some sloughs. 

West River

No change from last report

Week of October 4-8

Northeast

Similar to a broken record, it’s the same thing over and over again in regard to waterfowl movement.  Warm weather with southernly winds has not helped in building up any duck numbers in the area.  We are in a stagnant pattern right now with most of the ducks bunching up on places with minimal hunting pressure and not a lot of movement with the 80 degree/sunny temperatures this past week.  Hunters are still shooting a mixed bag of species on area wetlands and some are getting some action in harvested fields as well.  The one thing that did change some is the movement of blue-winged teal out the area.

Goose hunting is still providing good opportunity as numbers remain strong in the Northeast.  We have seen some difficult hunting conditions this past week with the warm weather and the geese have not always left the water to go feed.

Wetland conditions are decent in the eastern portion of the region with the late summer/early fall rains we have had.  Some temporary wetlands have appeared again, and the ducks are utilizing this food source.

With this kind of weather, the crop harvest is pushing forward at an accelerated pace so more and more field hunting opportunities are becoming available.

East Central

Little has changed since last week with regards to waterfowl migration and numbers.  We continue to lose of blue winged teal in the area with very few observed in recent days.  The above normal, stable weather pattern is creating stale duck conditions with very little movement.  As always scouting is key with better success in less disturbed areas.  Look for a push of ducks ahead of the next large cold front.  

Canada goose numbers in this area continue to be good, corn harvest is progressing and seems ahead of schedule providing good field hunting opportunities for both ducks and geese. 

Southeast

No change

Lower River

No change from last report

indication in their profile that they have purchased the stamp and can begin hunting as soon as it is purchased.  The actual stamp will be mailed to them.

Pierre area

We have continued to see decent numbers of ducks on several of the Game Production Areas in the Low Plains units. 

The goose numbers on the public waters I visited this week were low but they could have been out to feed or sitting where I could not see them. 

The High Plains duck unit opens October 9 so a lot of the GPA’s throughout Region 2 will be busy between waterfowl hunters and pheasant hunters out for the resident pheasant season.

Not much to report for ducks in the High Plains unit around Pierre and I have not had any reports from north or south here.

West River

No change from last report

Week of September 27-Oct 1

Northeast

Things have not changed much over the week other than the birds have moved off of much of the public water and concentrated on waters not being hunted.  There are still good numbers of ducks in the Northeast part of the state with a mixture of species.

Goose numbers remain strong and there are great opportunities across the region to harvest geese.  Geese have been observed feeding in both corn and soybean fields as of late.

Crop harvest continues to push forward with more crops coming out by the week.  The harvest appears to be ahead of schedule with the drier conditions.

East Central

Conditions are similar to last week although as I type locally heavy rain is falling over portions of the area.  We seem to have lost a fair number of blue winged teal but modest numbers should still provide opportunity for bonus blue winged teal this weekend.  Decent numbers of mallards and pintail were observed this week along with some gadwall, wigeon, and northern shovelers.  As always scouting is key with better success in less disturbed areas.

Canada goose numbers in this area continue to be good, bean harvest is wrapping up and corn harvest is ahead of schedule. 

Problems with the bird banding lab reporting servers last weekend caused issues with reporting bands.  If you harvested a banded bird recently and had difficulty reporting, you band please try again.  This information is crucial to migratory bird management.

Southeast

SE waterfowl hunters had a good opening weekend.  Canada Goose numbers are high and Conservation Officers reported good opening day success.  Conditions will be similar to what they were on the opening weekend.  Hunters are always encouraged to report any violations they see by calling the TIPS Hotline at 1-888-OVERBAG.

Lower River

No change from last report

indication in their profile that they have purchased the stamp and can begin hunting as soon as it is purchased.  The actual stamp will be mailed to them.

Pierre Area

No change from last report

West River

No change from last report

Week of September 20-24

Northeast

With this weekend kicking off the duck opener, hunters should expect to see decent to good numbers of ducks on area wetlands.  There are still fair/good numbers of blue-winged teal around and will provide hunters with fast action.  Some movement of wigeon and gadwall have also been observed moving into the northeast.  Mallards, wood ducks and northern pintail are hitting some sileage fields so there will also be the field hunting options.

Canada goose numbers remain strong providing great opportunities for hunters chasing geese.  

Wetland conditions in the Northeast are decent with some having mudflats between the water and vegetation but overall the water levels have come up with the late summer rains.  Many temporary wetlands remain dry so scouting again is key to having a successful hunt.

Crop harvest is starting in the region with beans coming out along with sileage.  Some corn has been getting combined as well so opportunities exist.

East Central

Hunters should expect lower water levels in wetlands due to summer drought.  The drawdown that occurred this summer is a necessary part of the prairie wetland cycle, releasing nutrients, promoting vegetation growth, and ultimately making wetlands more productive for ducks.  What water remains should help to concentrate birds.  In addition, many wetlands that were too deep to hunt are now several feet lower making them more attractive to ducks and easier for hunters to access.

Local production of ducks appears to have been reasonably good despite a dry summer.  Strong numbers of blue and green wing teal and decent pockets of mallards have been seen in Brookings, Hamlin, Kingsbury, and Lake counties.  With dry conditions west of the James River higher than average northern pintails are also of note.  

Canada goose numbers in this area are good and an expedited harvest of corn should provide ample fields to scout.  The low plains north and middle duck zones open this weekend, good luck and get out scouting!

Southeast

The SE has been obviously been dry this summer.  A many of the regular water holes that people are used to hunting are completely dried up.  This is condensing the ducks and geese.  We have had some good late summer rains that are adding water to some of the dried-up holes and even flooding crops in a few localized areas.  

Duck numbers appear to be lower than this time in years past.  The local ducks that we do have are very concentrated to the existing water.  Youth season had great numbers of blue wing teal around.  There is still good numbers of teal around for hunters for opening weekend.  The local population of big ducks in the SE is down from last year.

Combine the dry summer with less nesting areas for geese and high hunting pressure during August season, the September goose season appeared to be less successful than other years.  The goose hunts over water are harder to come by this year.  Early harvest of crops has provided more opportunity for field hunts though.  We have had a decent push of some new geese come into the general area over the last couple weeks.  

Lower River

While water levels are low, and many small potholes have dried up in the southeast corner of the state there is still good duck hunting opportunity available.  Large concentrations of teal are being observed and opening day success should be good.  Scouting is a must as competition for available wetlands is high 

There are have been reports that hunters are having a hard time locating the Federal Duck Stamp.  This stamp is available for purchase on-line with the SD Game, Fish and Parks.  Hunters will receive an indication in their profile that they have purchased the stamp and can begin hunting as soon as it is purchased.  The actual stamp will be mailed to them.

Pierre Area

I have had a couple of reports early this week from the crew about seeing ducks on several of the lakes in the low plains middle zone in Hyde, Hand and Sully Counties.

No reports from the eastern parts of Potter, Walworth and Campbell County but will assume their duck populations and activity are the same as the other areas mentioned.

The extremely dry conditions have caused a lot of the smaller bodies of water where we typically see the early season ducks on to dry up which has moved the ducks onto the larger bodies of water. 

West River

Extremely dry out here especially in the northern part of the region.  Most ponds are dry.  

Am seeing some birds on available water. Green wing teal, blue winged teal, and Wigeon are the primary birds with a smattering of other puddlers.  No divers to speak of.  Geese are scattered about and feeding in ag fields